Nashville Predators: First Round Picks Prove New Identity

A general view of the draft board from the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at the NHL Network studios on July 23, 2021 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
A general view of the draft board from the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at the NHL Network studios on July 23, 2021 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

In the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, we received another clear sign of the Nashville Predators’ direction.  They selected not one but two forwards whose strengths suit Nashville for purely aggressive, hard-working hockey.

For the 2019-2020 season and much of the 2020-2021 campaign, one of the main complaints about the Predators was that they had no identity and were unable to play cohesively.

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Selecting two players who should be good fits in the lineup and fill a position need is a great sign for the organization moving forward.

The Newest Predators

The Predators selected Fedor Svechkov with their first pick in the draft, who was one of their main targets from the start.  Every time I watch him play, I am impressed with his all-around skill.

Svechkov is a strong defensive presence adept at driving transition, but there is much more to his game.  He is a great distributor, makes plays happen around the net, and has a knack for finding the puck at the right place at the right time.

Overall, Svechkov is an effective puck carrier who never quits on plays and is a threat in all areas on the ice.

But the fun did not end there. GM David Poile traded the 40th and 51st picks to move up to the 27th spot and selected Zachary L’Heureux of the Halifax Mooseheads.

L’Heureux is the exact player who, if correctly advertised, is going to immediately become a team and fan favorite upon joining the Predators.  While he is talented and possesses the ability to handle the puck well, his main strengths are being physical and gritty, going to the front of the net at all times in the offensive zone, and outworking his opponents at every turn. So this quote from him especially makes me excited.

However, it must be acknowledged that L’Heureux has a history that might make some fans apprehensive about the selection. He was suspended four times last season for the following:

  • Fighting after original fight (4)
  • Unsportsmanlike (flipping off fans – 2)
  • High-sticking + accumulation of issues (3)
  • Fighting after original fight + unsportsmanlike (spitting – 4)

Personally, I would not worry because he will mature with time and experience. Guys like Matthew Tkachuk and Brad Marchand, who L’Heureux compares his game to, have made it in the league despite multiple suspensions in the past.

Players with a certain edge can intimidate and aggravate their opponents, making a team that much harder to play against.  This selection was yet another breath of fresh air, as the Predators have lacked guys like that for years.

The Nashville Predators Have A Clear Plan

If you thought the Predators were a tough team to play against these past playoffs, they should be even tougher if these guys pan out in the future.  And it is not because this should improve the team in any specific area. Instead, these selections should help the team in multiple facets of the game.

With Svechkov’s ability to not only make defensive plays but be such a strong presence with the puck on his stick, he may leave opposing teams scrambled when he is on the ice because he can singlehandedly flip the pace of the game at any point.

If L’Heureux does end up being similar to Tkachuk or Marchand, then enough said.  As much as everyone outside their organizations hates guys like that, there is no denying the tremendous impact they have on their teams. There is no doubt that L’Heureux can do the same.

I am really hoping that L’Heureux can be developed as a center because I am salivating at the thought of a revamped “Herd Line” of him, Yakov Trenin, and Tanner Jeannot.

The Predators seem to be set on defense for the future. With current non-physical but skilled players such as Filip Forsberg, Eeli Tolvanen, Philip Tomasino, and Cody Glass, Nashville now aims for tenacity and a balanced approach to their offense with their newest acquisitions.

The next year or two might be rough for the team, but there are many reasons to look forward to the future.

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