Nashville Predators: Future is Bright, Evangelista Debuts

A new era is underway for the Nashville Predators and will take full effect starting on July 1. Barry Trotz was named David Poile’s successor and returns to a franchise where he spent the first 15 years of being a head coach in the NHL.

One day after Trotz was introduced the Predators dealt defenseman Mattias Ekholm to the playoff-bound Edmonton Oilers. Ekholm had spent the last 14 years affiliated with the Predators scoring 268 points in 719 games.

Altogether the Predators have acquired nine draft picks while offloading Ekholm, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Tanner Jeannot. This summer at the draft in Nashville the Predators currently have 12 selections.

If the Predators use both first-round picks this offseason it’ll mark the third time in franchise history that’s happened. The other times were the 2008 and 2021 drafts. This summer will also mark the first time Nashville has double-digit picks since 2013.

A Glimpse Into The Nashville Predators’ Future

David Poile said Tuesday on 102.5 The Game “We’re bringing up a younger player tonight that will play in his 1st game.” That player ended up being Luke Evangelista the Predators second pick from the 2020 draft.

Evangelista jumped into professional hockey back during the 2020-21 season after completing his final year with the London Knights in the OHL.

After his first game head coach Karl Taylor told the play-by-play voice Aaron Sims “the great thing is he made all the right decisions out on the ice. He did it a step slow for this level, but he made all the right decisions. Now, he’s going to get used to the speed and make the right decisions.”

“For being a rookie, for being a skill guy he’s also a real glue guy here in Milwaukee. It’s been pretty amazing to see,” Sims said.

What’s getting him to the next level is his hands. He also had a nice play in the 3rd where he shot the puck on the net and met Evgeni Malkin there. Evangelista finished his check putting Malkin on his kiester in a play no one saw coming from the six-foot forward.

Evangelista has 12 multi-point games with the Admirals this season. He’s had 18 points in 19 games since the 2023 calendar year started.

“There hasn’t been a lull in his game,” Sims said. “It’s remarkable because you usually hit a wall. Normally when you see these guys just out of college or juniors the dog days are now. Luke hasn’t had that really this year. Now with this boost to his ego of getting called up and getting the chance to play in the NHL, he’s going to be running on adrenaline until three years from now.”

Sims has been with the Admirals since 2005 and said they’ve not had a lot of forwards that have played a full season like Evangelista has and it’s a unique case for the organization.

Up and Coming

Forward Egor Afanasyev has been down in Milwaukee all season. He was seen on the ‘Behind the Glass’ series saying he wanted to make the Predators out of camp. Since then he’s scored 22 points in 52 games with the Admirals

He’s been good but not great according to Sims. In order to earn the promotion to the Predators the Tver, Russia native will need to “drive the bus.” He has the physical tools and has been spending some time on the penalty kill while in Milwaukee.

“I think we all expected more goals. He had 11 goals last season and has 11 now,” Sims said. “We thought with his skill and with his body and physique if he’s in the American league for a full year he should be at 20-25 [goals] easily. Right now the Admirals are decimated so Egor has to be one of these guys to drive the bus for this team.”