Nearly two months ago, Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile was firm in his resolve on what type of player he’d be selecting first at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
“We’re in a good spot with the No. 11 pick. I can’t say exactly who we’ll take, but I think we all have a pretty good idea of what position we’re drafting. [...] Yeah, we’re going to try and get a forward,” Poile said in May.
Fast forward to the morning of draft day and the GM’s resolve hasn’t changed. Just 10 days prior to today, Poile was again clear on who he thinks his club will pick.
“I think we know in the area of two or three players who we’re going to get. There are two outstanding defensemen in this draft, but we would certainly favor forward,” Poile said Tuesday. “I know you all are looking for me to come out and say we’re going to draft a forward, and that would definitely be our goal.”
The first round of the NHL draft begins at 6 p.m. (CDT) in Philadephia, and rounds 2-7 will take place on Saturday morning (starting at 9 a.m. CDT). The Predators seem poised to add a forward at No. 11, unless their GM can bring a more impactful scorer to his club in a more immediate way.
“There is always the possibility that I would trade the first round pick, I’ve made that open to some people that I have talked with. This would be for a top forward, if we could do that,” Poile said. “I’m not predicting that will happen, I’m just saying that if somebody had that top-six forward, I would certainly consider trading our first-round pick.”
But with the time it usually takes to develop even first-round talent into NHL players, it’s not easy to simply flip a pick for a current top-six forward in the NHL. Poile has been frustrated with the options he’s been presented at filling what he calls: “the Predators biggest need,” and it seems more and more likely that the club will add scoring through free agency (which opens on July 1). So if Nashville does hold on to the 11th selection until they’re on the clock later today, who are they likely to select?
Here are their top three options:
Current Team: KalPa (Finnish Elite League)
Position: Right Wing
Age/Height/Weight: 17 years old; 5-11; 180 pounds
Info: The son of former NHL forward Sami Kapanen, Kasperi Kapanen is rated as the top European skater by several scouting services. A speedy winger with a quick wrist shot, Kapanen has the potential to develop into a second line scorer. Injuries limited him to just 14 points this past season with KalPa, and he may fall to Nashville at No. 11 because of the low numbers this past campaign.
Current Team: Niagra IceDogs (Ontario Hockey League)
Position: Left Wing
Age/Height/Weight: 18 years old; 6-2; 205 pounds
Info: Another offspring of a former NHL player, Brendan Perlini is the huge, power forward Nashville has never really had. He put up gaudy numbers in the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 34 goals and 71 points. Perlini has done a lot to improve his draft stock the past year and may not fall all the way to the Predators, but if he’s there when they’re on the clock, they’ll grab him.
Current Team: Calgary Hitman (Western Hockey League)
Position: Right Wing
Age/Height/Weight: 17 years old; 6-1; 210 pounds
Info: A strong, two-way forward with a nose for the net, Jake Virtanen could boost Nashville’s thin depth at right wing in the next few years. Speedy and responsible defensively, the winger scored 45 goals in the traditionally wide-open play of the Western Hockey League. The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks have shown the benefit of having big bodies up front, and it would probably behoove the Predators to try and follow suit.
Any of these three forward options would bring pretty different dynamics to the Predators. We’ll see if one of them is added to the fold in just over 12 hours.