You’re going to be hard-pressed to find much to be upset about from the Nashville Predators’ showing at the 2022 Prospect Showcase from Raleigh, North Carolina.
In a three-game event for the Nashville Predators prospects, they went 2-0-1 and finished it off with a resounding 6-1 win over the Florida Panthers prospects. The game was close heading into the 3rd period, but a barrage of four goals spearheaded by Luke Evangelista turned this into a decisive victory.
You can pull out several positives from the three games, but one leading one is the biggest prospects in the system really showed up and produced. There weren’t any “no shows” from the perceived leaders of the squad, and we even saw strong performances from players who were on tryouts.
Just an all-around team effort that the coaches and development staff have to be generally pleased about. There was a lot of structure and committing to the gameplan by a lot of young players who have never played with each other. A credit to the coaches for having this group ready to play really strong hockey each game.
Nashville Predators come out of showcase with a lot to be encouraged by
Speaking of leaders you wanted and expected to see stand out in the showcase, Egor Afanasyev absolutely lived up to that calling. He’s no stranger to the system and his ceiling remains high after being drafted back in 2019.
Players like Afanasyev who are on the cusp of breaking into the NHL are who you expect to show leadership and results during the showcase. Afanasyev left no doubt that he’s a leader of this prospect pool for the Nashville Predators which has shown steady improved over the last four years:
Afanasyev finishes with three goals and was a main driver of the offense each game.
Don’t necessarily count out Afanasyev carrying this over to the preseason and training camp and giving coaches a hard decision to make when setting the NHL roster into the regular season. There’s probably too much of a logjam to get him in initially, but he’s my player who has the best chance to earn it out of these prospects we just watched in the showcase.
Another prospect with plenty of hype surrounding him is of course Yaroslav Askarov. He already opened the showcase on Friday with a strong showing against the Tampa Bay Lightning prospects, but then had two impressive periods against the Panthers before being relieved by Braden Holt.
Askarov is finally getting plenty of in-game reps after not getting much playing time overseas in the KHL and VHL with SKA St. Petersburg. The excitement level is high on what he’ll show with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL this coming season.
The Carolina Hurricanes broadcast crew gave the play-by-play during the showcase, and got an opportunity to speak with Assistant GM Scott Nichol regarding Askarov and his development. One thing that was mentioned that stood out was Nichol saying the “the cupboard is full” regarding the goalie pipeline and to “pump the brakes” in regards to letting Askarov develop.
Clearly these things take time, even with the best goalie prospect in the world. The Predators are obviously good now with Juuse Saros as the franchise goaltender and Vezina Trophy candidate, but eventually Askarov will be pushing for that same role.
Then we have to bring up the showing from Evangelista, who opened things up offensively in the final period to pull away from the Panthers. He scored a goal and also had some pretty set ups to his teammates to generate a lot of offensive chances.
Evangelista is taking that next difficult step in his progression moving into the AHL. It’s usually a very challenging transition into the AHL which is way more competitive defensively, but in this showcase he definitely looked really good.
Others who stood out and have chances to get into training camp
One player that isn’t as well-known as the ones previously mentioned is Markus Nurmi. You heard his name constantly throughout the showcase. He got involved in the action, brought high energy and looks like he fits the system well.
Nurmi was just signed back in June, but was originally drafted back in 2016 as a sixth-round draft pick by the Ottawa Senators. He’s scouted as being a quality defensive forward, but also can be considered a two-way player.
Look for Nurmi to get an invite to Nashville Predators training camp. We need to see more of him before he likely goes to the Admirals for the upcoming season.
The players on tryouts who stood out is led by Cameron Hausinger. He was a main catalyst in the win over the Panthers to close out the showcase by scoring a goal, and he has a good chance now to maybe get a spot at Predators training camp and a preseason game.
I also have to give major props to Braden Holt, another player on a tryout. He came in for Askarov for the 3rd period when the score was just 2-1 in favor of the Predators. A massive act to follow, and he made some key saves to blank the Panthers.
It’s also worth mentioning that Holt when 5-for-5 in the shootout portion, which happens every showcase game regardless of the final score.
Holt played for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL in 2021-22, putting up a .909 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA.
We were already really excited and encouraged by the growth of the Nashville Predators prospect pool, and this showcase will fuel that even more.