Our preparation for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft rolls on as the Nashville Predators are riding into an offseason without making the playoff first time since 2014, new General Manager Barry Trotz’s final year as head coach of this organization.
Previously, I took a look Ryan Leonard, a draft eligible power winger, that the Nashville Predators should take a look at if given the opportunity. His offensive capabilities could provide even more offensive weapons to an improving prospect pool.
In addition to the Predators first-round pick that they have, they also have a late first-round pick that was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in the Mattias Ekholm trade. Another area that the Nashville Predators should look at shoring up for the long term is on the blue line.
Over the next two seasons, the Predators have three defensemen each season that will either be restricted free agents or unrestricted free agents.
With that being said, the Predators cannot afford to wait until that time comes to look at pieces to fill those gaps. Looking over eligible defensive prospects, there is one that sticks out that would be a strong addition to the pipeline of defensemen.
Should the Nashville Predators Consider Drafting a D-Man in 1st Round?
The Predators should look in the direction of Caden Price. Price is a 17-year-old from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan currently playing in the WHL for the Kelowna Rockets.
Prior to playing for the Rockets, Price played for the Saskatoon Outlaws, Maniacs, and Generals in the SAAHL U15 AA league and the Saskatoon Contacts U18 AAA in the SMAAAHL.
Playing in the U15 league, Price dressed in 62 games over the course of three seasons, playing only one game in his first season. His level of play on the ice was trending upward, going from 16 points in 30 games played during the 2018-19 season to accumulating 55 points in 31 games in the 2019-20 season.
It was at the end of the 2019-2020 season that the COVID-19 pandemic began and not as much junior hockey was being played. After only playing six games in 2020-21, it showed that there was some rust that needed to be knocked off when Price started playing for the Kelowna Rockets.
Price has played in 112 regular season and eight playoff games for the Rockets in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons combined. He played a role in the Rockets making the playoffs in 2021-22, although they were eventually eliminated in the first round.
During his time in Kelowna, Price has put up pretty good numbers for a defenseman. He does not score at the rate of a Roman Josi, Erik Karlsson, or Cale Makar, only having seven goals over the last two seasons, however, he does have 54 assists over that same time.
In the +/- column Price was much better during the 2021-22 season than the 2022-23 season, posting ratings of +24 and -12 respectively. That statistic was in part to the Rockets not being able to find the back of the net as much as they did the previous season.
Price’s level of discipline is impressive as well as he only has 64 penalty minutes in two seasons of play. A young talented defenseman, like Price, could be what the Nashville Predators need to have in their back pocket as changes are made to the roster.
Tony Ferrari – The Hockey News – Dec. 19th: “Price shows some impressive playmaking from the blueline with Kelowna, facilitating for his teammates and putting them in good positions to score. He has a good shot and shows a willingness to push toward the top of the circles before letting it rip.”
Path to the Nashville Predators for Price…
If the Nashville Predators were to be able to draft Price, his 2023-24 season would be spent with the Predators NHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. I could see him spending all season there, possibly getting NHL time if there are injuries to the normal starters on the roster.
Price is considered by many scouts as a project with a high-ceiling. He is projected as a “well-rounded top-four defenseman” by Dobber Prospects.
Depending on what the Nashville Predators decide to do with the free agents that they have coming up, the 2024-25 season could be when Price would get the nod and have his chance at becoming a full-time NHL defenseman.
If it were to work out that way, the Nashville Predators would have a 19-year-old defenseman, with a year of professional experience, in their lineup that could have potential to be with the organization for a significant amount of time.
With the Nashville Predators, I could see Price starting off as a bottom pairing defenseman until he gains the experience that he needs to compete at the NHL level. After that though, Price has potential to be an elite defenseman in the league.
Mock drafts have Price has far back as early in the 2nd Round and maybe even sneaking up to the 1st Round if a team really wants him.