The top feature right now at Hockey’s Future shines a light on what HF writer David Thicke calls a “balanced group” of Nashville Predators junior hockey prospects. The draft has been the most important weapon in GM David Poile’s arsenal for keeping the team competitive since day one, so Thicke’s profile of the current Nashville Predators junior prospects should definitely be of interest to Preds fans – especially those who are planning to follow the upcoming World Junior Championships.
Two forward prospects in the Western Hockey League are having solid seasons already. Brendan Leipsic, a 5’9” left wing in his third season with the Portland Winterhawks, has racked up 41 points in 26 games, currently good for 5th in the league in scoring. The 18-year-old, described as “offensively skilled” and a “gifted finisher,” could project as a top-six forward – something perpetually in short supply here in Nashville.
Then there’s Colton Sissons, a 6’1” right wing who plays for the Kelowna Rockets. He’s a more defensively minded player in the typical Nashville mold, but is still averaging a point per game this season. As of this afternoon, Sissons has officially been invited to Canada’s WJC camp. If he makes the team he’ll be following in the footsteps of another Kelowna player drafted by Nashville – our homegrown captain Shea Weber, selected with the 49th pick back in 2003.
The Preds’ top junior defense prospects are over in the Ontario Hockey League and both share a lot of qualities. Sweden’s Simon Karlsson and Finnish blueliner Mikko Vainonen both come from hockey-rich countries in Scandinavia. They’re both good-sized (at 6’2” and 6’3”, respectively), both were drafted in the middle rounds (5th and 4th), both are in their first year of North American junior hockey, and both are eligible for this year’s WJC. Vainonen is considered the more polished prospect but both have a lot of work ahead before they can play for the big-league club.
Brent Andrews, a center/left wing who has excelled on the PK and in faceoffs for the QMJHL’s Halifax Moosehead, and Zach Stepan, a center off to a fast start for the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks, are the other junior hockey prospects included in Thicke’s profile. Neither is too flashy, but both could end up playing in Nashville down the line. This is, after all, a team with a long history of turning even lower-round draft picks into gold – just ask Pekka Rinne!