We have the 2019 NHL Entry Draft quickly approaching as the Nashville Predators try to reverse course from a disappointing season.
It’s time to move on from the disappointment and grief of how the Nashville Predators finished their 2018-19 campaign. They got prematurely ousted in the first round of the playoffs despite finishing the regular season on a hot streak and claiming the division title. That tells me the Predators, for the most part, have the pieces to remain a top contender. However, depth is a major concern for me going forward.
The 2019 NHL Entry Draft comes to us on June 21st in Vancouver, and the Predators’ first pick comes at No.24. I’m hoping the Predators can replenish the center position with an offensive-minded prospect. It’s the biggest hole on this roster. The defense has its question marks, but still holds its own as one of the better ones in the league. Even if it’s not a center, the Predators have to be thinking skating forwards with high-end puck skills and a natural talent to put pucks on the net.
This is a tricky offseason for GM David Poile and the Nashville Predators. They can get this offseason off to a great start if they can nab one of these following players with their first draft selection.
This may be a case of hoping against hope that a player drops farther than they should, but center Ryan Suzuki from the OHL’s Barrie Colts is one of my favorite prospects when I’m considering the Predators’ biggest needs. He’s a tall and immensely skilled offensive player, which is what the Predators really need on the back end of their roster. The Predators have become a top-heavy offensive team, so it’s time to start prepping new talent for the coming years.
Suzuki is the younger brother of Nick Suzuki, a prospect in the Montreal farm system and a former first-round pick. Ryan Suzuki has been showing off his offensive skills in OHL and for Team Canada in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. His OHL numbers are impressive with 25 goals and 50 points in just 65 games. Obviously the level of talent will drastically increase as he moves up the ladder, but you can’t discount those numbers at any level. His offensive talent and natural abilities to create space and set up other teammates is exactly what the Predators needs more of.
It looks like Suzuki is most likely a top-20 pick, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he slips to the Nashville Predators at No.24. If he’s there, the Predators would be getting a steal and be filling in a big weakness on their current roster. Here’s a highlight reel from Very Barrie Colts:
A more realistic prospect to be available at No.24 is center Connor McMichael, another prospect who has last played in the OHL. As with many of these prospects, he has a lot of developing to do outside of his pure offensive talent. He has excellent speed and shooting skills. I don’t think he’s as well-rounded of a player as you would like, which is why he’s most likely going outside of the top-20, and quite possibly available for the Nashville Predators to take. This is another center with great offensive skills and a solid fit for what the Preds should be looking to add to their system.
Check out McMichael’s open-ice skating ability and how he flips the ice to score quickly and stays with the puck. Video from NHL Prospects:
McMichael really elevated his level of play in his second season in the OHL, going from 16 points to 72 points. That’s something you love to see as you’re scouting players and seeing them improve. It shows he’s quickly learning and developing his game and will hopefully continue on that trend once he’s drafted. McMichael seems like a very likely player that the Predators could take at No.24, and I would be very happy with the selection.
If the Predators choose to go with a winger at No.24, I love the possibility of right winger Samuel Poulin coming here. He plays with physicality, puck control and keeping the play alive in the offensive zone. Much like how Filip Forsberg creates offense for the Predators. We need a power forward that can dominate puck possession and set up offensive zone time. The Predators disappeared from the offensive zone for long stretches of time far too often, especially outside of the top line. In the first-round loss to the Stars, this happened a lot.
Poulin is slated to go late in the first round in a lot of the mock drafts I’ve come across. It’s very likely he’ll be there for the taking if the Nashville Predators Predators want him, or if some of their other top targets are already off the board. Poulin would be a nice consolation prize if some of the centers I value more get taken before the Predators pick at No.24.
What I like most about Poulin is he has strong leadership qualities, has been a consistent scorer at different levels and brings a good level of physicality to his game. Something the Nashville Predators need to start replenishing for the future. To cap it off, I love his resilience that he’s shown after suffering a concussion early in his QMJHL career, but has battled back to be a top prospect in the draft pool.
Poulin isn’t my top choice for the Predators, but I’ll be happy with the pick if the Predators settle with him. I have a high probability that Poulin ends up being the selection for the Predators more so than any other prospect in this draft.