Nashville Predators: Young Prospects Electrify at Prospect Scrimmage

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 22: Egor Afanasyev, 45th overall pick of the Nashville Predators, is greeted at the draft table by general manager David Poile a the team draft table during Rounds 2-7 of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 22: Egor Afanasyev, 45th overall pick of the Nashville Predators, is greeted at the draft table by general manager David Poile a the team draft table during Rounds 2-7 of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) /

A blockbuster free agency period has commenced for the Nashville Predators, after locking up Matt Duchene, but we also should be optimistic after the showing at the Future Stars Game.

Free agency is upon us, and the Nashville Predators figure to be major players for some big names on the market. With that said, the Predators also have to stay focused on developing their own talent. A major contributor to why the Predators have been so good for so many years is they’ve developed talent in their pipeline.

Earlier this month in the NHL Entry Draft the Predators took Philip Tomasino with their first-round pick at No.24. A smart pick that I could easily see being considered a major steal when we look back a few years from now. The Predators needed a offensive-minded center, and that’s what they got in Tomasino. Love the pick.

The Predators have an interesting second-round pick in Egor Afanasyev, another large-framed center that might very well end up being considered a steal. These first two selections by the Predators in the draft fulfilled their biggest need and sets them up for the future. Now the developing has to begin. The Future Stars Game gives us a chance to see these prospects in action following their development camp. We have to be encouraged by what we saw.

Young prospects shine offensively

Even with the loss of P.K. Subban through a trade to New Jersey, I’m still pleased and confident with where the Predators are defensively. I love the continued growth from Dante Fabbro, which lessens the string of losing Subban. However, offensively my concern level remains higher than I’d like. The Predators need to start stacking their centers and wingers for the future, which is why I love what they did in the draft.

Let’s start with Tomasino and how he looked in the prospect scrimmage. He naturally has the most eyeballs on him as the first-round pick, and he didn’t disappoint. He put up two goals and led his squad to the victory. You can’t draw hasty conclusions from just one game, but it’s great to see him start off on a great note and show off his offensive abilities. Tomasino was also impressed with the level of energy surrounding the game, per Brooks Bratten of the Predators official website:

"It was a fun, and it was a lot louder than I expected as well. It amped the mood up a bit, and it was a fun game to play in. It was awesome, and it’s a nice way to end the week."

I never expected Tomasino to slip to the Predators at No.24. Now that he’s officially a Predator and off to a solid start is a great thing to see. We probably won’t see Tomasino at the NHL level anytime in the near future, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he steadily climbs his way up and raises some eyebrows towards the end of the regular season. He’s so naturally gifted offensively that the Predators might decide to bring him up early. This game reaffirms that for me.

Afanasyev also had a productive showing and a highlight-reel goal in the game. This guy is another player with a great offensive shot that should benefit exactly what the Predators are looking for to rebuild their depth in the coming years. Check out our prospect profile of him from Jake Evans earlier this month.

It was a strong showing from all of the newcomers in this game, per Bratten:

I’m particularly more excited about Afanasyev’s potential than I am Tomasino’s, so this is a great find in the second round in my eyes. His raw offensive skills were showed off in the Future Stars Game, and I believe he has a high probability of climbing the ranks quickly with his combination of size, power and ability to find space in scoring areas to put the puck in the net. Something the Predators have sorely missed for much of their existence. Here’s a clip of his goal in his first game wearing a Predators uniform, from Thoas Willis of the Predators website:

Favorite part about this goal is how he takes this nearly the length of the ice, makes a wicked move to free himself up for an excellent scoring opportunity while also finishing off that opportunity with a goal.  Here’s to hoping that’s the first of many times we’ll see Afanasyev do this in a Predators uniform.

Other notable prospects

We’re still waiting on Eeli Tolvanen to burst onto the NHL scene. He’s had his opportunities, but has needed more development before being NHL ready. He’s another electric offensively-minded winger who the Predators really need to make an impact this year. Seeing more development in power play scenarios would really be nice to see.

In the Future Stars Game, Tolvanen did show how dangerous he can be in shootout situations with a beautiful goal. Check it out here courtesy of Abby Miles of Penalty Box Radio:

We know Tolvanen has a lethal shot that can be beneficial in power play situations. Now we need to see his game round out so that he can make an impact on the everyday roster. I’m fully expecting him to make a return to the starting lineup this upcoming season.

Finally we have Dante Fabbro, who essentially makes the Subban trade a little easier to swallow. I guess you can call him the veteran from the Future Stars Game. All accounts say he’s fully ready for the NHL and to make an immediate impact on opening night. You can’t help but be excited about his potential and what he’s already showing us. It won’t be a surprise at all if he makes a statement this upcoming season and helps us forget all about Subban. Take that to the bank.

dark. Next. Full Scoop on the 2019-20 Nashville Predators Schedule

You can’t get overly optimistic from an offseason scrimmage, but there are a lot of encouraging signs to draw from the development camp and what the Predators have in the pipeline. Could that mean we’re in store for a bit of a rebuilding period in the next season or two? Possibly, but I do have a firm belief that the Predators are doing this the right way by building their pipeline and setting themselves up to be Stanley Cup contenders again in quick fashion. Maybe not next season, but quickly enough. I’m coming out of the development camp feeling more confident than I was pre-draft about the long-term future of this team.