Nashville Predators Sign Promising Defensive Prospect Ryan Ufko to Entry Level Deal

Ryan Ufko just finished his third season of NCAA hockey with the University of Massachusetts as team captain.

Massachusetts v Massachusetts-Lowell
Massachusetts v Massachusetts-Lowell / Richard T Gagnon/GettyImages

Looking ahead towards the long-term future, the Nashville Predators were able to sign 2021 fourth-round draft pick Ryan Ufko to a three-year, entry level contract

Ufko's stock has steadily risen since the Predators drafted the defenseman in 2021. With him being undersized at 5'10", he has a lot to prove which is why he slid down to the fourth round. It's safe to say that since his drafting by the Predators, Ufko has elevated his game and is getting closer to NHL-ready.

First things first, and that was getting Ufko under contract. With three seasons under his belt at UMass in the college ranks, Ufko has shown leadership as a captain, solid offensive abilities most notably with his passing, and his defensive metrics have also shown noticeable improvement from his draft year.

Ufko Might Not Be All That Far Away from the Big Show

Ufko is praised by many scouts and prospect analysts has being a defender with a high hockey IQ and well-rounded game. He blocks shots, plays a disciplined style of game and is superb at making his linemates around him better.

""He can navigate the blue line in the offensive zone and is effective at getting pucks to the goal. Defensively, he plays with a strong stick and demonstrates a willingness to block shots and stay in shooting lanes. Perhaps his best asset is his vision/IQ, as he often anticipates plays before they unfold. ""

James Iacovone, Dobber Prospects

Having a balanced and effective game is what you need to make the big show of the NHL eventually. How close Ufko is to getting to the top level is up for debate, but getting this ELC from General Manager Barry Trotz certainly suggests he's not all that far away.

When you look at the Predators' current contract situation with some of their current starting defensemen, you first think about Alexandre Carrier. A player who has very similar qualities to his game as Ufko has, but Carrier will be a UFA this summer.

It was a gamble to not trade Carrier at the 2024 trade deadline with the Predators being suddenly in the thick of the playoff hunt on a red hot streak, and Trotz deciding not to impact the roster too much aside from dealing a couple forwards. He didn't mess with the defensive corprs at all.

As for Ufko, you would expect to see him next get some time in the AHL for the Milwaukee Admirals, but that time there could end up being brief considering the positive returns he's getting from scouts. It really hinges on what happens with Carrier, and of course it's widely expected that Tyson Barrie will also be lost in free agency.


Now the Predators aren't depleted in their defensive depth with Spencer Stastney and Marc Del Gaizo already showing they can handle NHL minutes effectively. However, Ufko might end up being an option to call up at some point in 2024-25, but more likely he'll need more time in the AHL first.

The 2021 NHL Entry Draft saw the Predators select Fedor Svechkov in the first round, defenseman Anton Olsson in the third round, Ukfo in the fourth round, defenseman Jack Matier in the fourth round and forward Simon Knak in the sixth round.

Ufko also really took center stage at the 2023 U-20 World Junior Championship for Team USA where he notched 10 points and was tied for the tournament's lead among defensemen. His Team USA squad claimed the Bronze medal.

It's shaping up to be a great value pick that the Predators made by taking Ufko so far back considering the noticeable improvement in many key areas to make him one of the best defensemen in the college ranks.

The Nashville Predators prospect pool has gradually been built back up over the last five years and many scouts have them ranked in the top-10.