Today’s installment of our continuing look at Nashville Predators prospects shines the spotlight on C Michael Latta.
The Predators selected Michael Latta in the 3rd round (72nd overall) of the 2009 draft. Hailing from St. Clements, Ontario, Latta played four years of junior hockey in the OHL with the Ottawa 67’s and Guelph Storm. (He was teamed up with fellow Predators prospect Taylor Beck in Guelph.) Over the course of 241 career OHL games he racked up 247 points (103G-144A), with another 22 points (7G-15A) in 19 playoff games. The physical young center also compiled 487 PIMs in that same time period.
After Guelph was knocked out of the OHL playoffs in 2009-10, Latta made his pro debut in a playoff game with the Milwaukee Admirals. He played four regular season games and seven more in the playoffs for the Ads after his final year at Guelph in 2010-11. He finally kicked off his first full pro campaign with Milwaukee in 2011-12 and put up 28 points (14G-14A) and 100 PIMs in 51 games.
A broken wrist kept him out from January to the middle of March, and he was unable to contribute much as the Admirals were swept out of the first round of the playoffs. But the 2012-13 season has been a strong one so far for Latta at Milwaukee. He’s already notched 7 goals and added 12 assists in the first 26 games, putting him one point back of Taylor Beck, his old junior hockey teammate, for the team lead in points.
All the evidence I’ve found says that Latta is the kind of guy you’d love to have on your team. He wore the “A” as Guelph’s alternate captain in his last season of junior hockey and was named the team’s co-MVP. He isn’t afraid to throw his weight around – at six feet and 205 pounds he packs a punch. And he also isn’t afraid to get in a scrap. The entire first page of YouTube search results for “Michael Latta” is fight videos, including this one from December 14th against the Rockford IceHogs’ Kyle Beach:
His physical play gets a lot of attention, and deservedly so. But Latta’s career has also been built on being a solid playmaking center going all the way back to juniors. He finds his teammates. The scouting report on him at Hockey’s Future says he “improves his linemates both through skill and by setting an example on how to pay attention to the intangibles that separate winning teams from the mediocre ones.”
And he has personality, too. Dave Boehler, who covers the Admirals for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, wrote this in November: “Secret to keeping yourself entertained on long road trips: sit close to (Michael) Latta. The guy’s battery never runs out! Hilarious.”
Chances are that Michael Latta will be given a few more years to develop at Milwaukee before stepping up to the NHL level full-time. Should the lockout end, though, he’s a prime candidate for call-up if any of the Preds’ centers go down to injury during the season. His physicality will be a valuable asset for Nashville whenever he arrives.