Nashville Predators Rookie Camp will Showcase Loaded Prospect Pool

The annual rookie camp for the Nashville Predators signals that NHL hockey is almost here, and this year there is loads of talent that will be heading down to Estero, Florida on September 15.

The Predators prospects will take on prospects from the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s been a consensus around the league that the Nashville Predators prospect system has been rapidly improving and getting stronger. Draft classes with high grades from scouts have been key over the past few years, as well as some trades to get prospects in return.

“With a top-flight goalie prospect in Yaroslav Askarov, an impact winger in Joakim Kemell and top 2023 picks Matthew Wood and Tanner Molendyk, the Predators are flying high right now.”-Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff

Steven Ellis of Daily Faceoff ranks the Predators prospect pool at No.11, citing Yaroslav Askarov and Joakim Kemell as impact players for the future.

For comparison, Ellis ranks the Hurricanes prospect pool at No.14, and then a pretty big drop-off to the Panthers at No.29 and the Lightning’s prospect pool at No.30.

With that said, the Predators rookie squad should be the favorites to find the most success at this showcase.

The rookie camp roster will feature four prospects who appeared in games for the Predators in 2022-23; Luke Evangelista, Yaroslav Askarov, Egor Afanasyev and Spencer Stastney.

Who will Lead the Way for the Nashville Predators at Rookie Camp?

Well we have to start with Askarov between the pipes. He’s going into his second year playing for the Milwaukee Admirals, and although his first year wasn’t terrible by any means, we’re definitely looking for him to really take charge and show he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL soon.

All eyes are going to be on Askarov’s progression into Year 2 in North America, and since he’s perceived as the eventual backup to Juuse Saros, he needs to make more strides towards that consistency you need from an NHL goalie.

Saros has just two years left on his current contract, and trading Saros isn’t off the table. If you feel super confident in handing it over to Askarov after 2023-24, then Saros becomes a hot commodity to trade.

Luke Evangelista is technically entering his rookie season in the NHL after appearing in 24 games for the Predators and solidifying the notion that he’s ready for full-time duty in the big leagues.

Out of all four teams in the rookie showcase, Evangelista is arguably the most talented player with the highest ceiling for their NHL future.

Kemell has the chance to be the best drafted forward this franchise has ever had. The Predators have always had good fortune on their side when drafting defensemen and goalies, but the impact scoring winger has eluded them for years.

Be on the lookout for Kemell to score some highlight reel goals at this showcase and really take center stage on generating offensive scoring chances.

For a second year in a row Egor Afanasyev will come into rookie camp as the “veteran” of the group. He needs to settle in and show leadership qualities and also showcase a rounded out game to springboard him into Predators training camp where he’ll be looking to earn a starting role on opening night.

Afanasyev made his NHL debut last season and found his way into 17 games while the Predators were going through a rash of injuries with an overhauled roster.

We’ll get our first look at the 2023 first round pick of Matthew Wood, who General Manager Barry Trotz praised as having two very important traits; Size and Scoring.

Wood put up 34 points in 35 games for the University of Connecticut in 2022-23 and will play his second season collegiately with the Huskies this upcoming year.

Predators Prospects that are Flying Under the Radar

Fans are going to be eager to see if Zachary L’Heureux has shown more development in his game. The 2021 first round pick has hit his bumps in the road due to having trouble keeping his emotions in check on the ice, so more stability and leadership will be looked for.

Let’s not forget about Spencer Statsney in all of this. One of just four Predators draft picks from 2018 finally got his first taste of the NHL this past year and looked really comfortable out there.

Stastney comes into rookie camp with NHL aspirations as soon as this upcoming 2023-24 campaign. The Predators do have a logjam of sorts in their defensive core after signing Luke Schenn in free agency, and re-signing Dante Fabbro and Alexandre Carrier.

Only getting eight games of NHL action, Stastney produced two assists and racked up 17:37 of average ice time.

Tanner Molendyk, another 2023 late first round draft pick, got high grades from scouts as a solid pick for the Predators. The smooth skating defenseman will get to showcase his offensive puck moving abilities.

Two other defenseman to be excited about in their continued development is Luke Prokop (2020 3rd Round Pick) and Jack Matier (2021 4th Round Pick). Both players are expected to make their AHL debuts with the Milwaukee Admirals this upcoming season, with Prokop finding success in the WHL and Matier in the OHL.

The list really goes on and on with this Predators prospect pool. From top to bottom you wouldn’t be overdramatic to say this is the deepest it’s been in franchise history.

We’ll get to see this loaded roster of prospects take action beginning against the Tampa Bay Lightning on September 15.

Hockey is almost back, baby.