Zachary L'Heureux Surfaces as Player Deserving for Nashville Predators to Call Up

For the most part the Predators have been hesitant to make too many call-ups this season from their red-hot AHL affiliate. Will that change after the trade deadline?

Nashville Predators v Florida Panthers - Game 2
Nashville Predators v Florida Panthers - Game 2 / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages
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Over the past three years or so the Nashville Predators have been gradually building up their prospect pool to be one of the more promising ones in the entire NHL. One player who gets a lot of attention from this group is Zachary L'Heureux.

L'Heureux, known for his hard-hitting and aggressive style of play, was drafted by the Predators 27th overall in the first round of the 2021 draft. He was a draft day trade that allowed the Predators to obtain the opportunity to select L'Heureux after already using their other first round pick on Fedor Svechkov.

Since then, L'Heureux has certainly had his troubles on the ice with discipline issues. A series of suspensions with inexcusable situations where his temper got the best of him. He racks up a heavy load of penalty minutes and is currently in the midst of his first season in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals, who have won 18 straight games.

With that said, it's also fair to give L'Heureux the benefit of the doubt that he's learning how to channel his aggressive style of play in a positive way and maturing in that regard.

Is L'Heureux Ready for an NHL Call-Up from the Predators?

A piece from Steven Ellis of Daily Faceoff has L'Heureux as one of his five most-deserving AHL players who should get a call-up from their NHL club. I have to admit, I'm a little surprised to see this, not because L'Heureux is having a bad first AHL season, because it's actually the opposite, but just because I figured his progression was much further away from being "NHL ready".

Ellis writes in his piece for Daily Faceoff:

"I asked a few AHLers this year which player they’d absolutely hate to go 1-on-1 against the most. Zachary L’Heureux’s name was brought up a few times. The 20-year-old isn’t huge, but he’s strong and downright nasty."

Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff

It's important to note that Ellis also admits that Yaroslav Askarov is the obvious choice from the Predators prospect pool, but he wanted to highlight someone else that's not so obvious, that being L'Heureux.

L'Heureux is third on the Admirals with 34 points, after playing the four previous seasons in the QMJHL, and even putting up 26 points in 20 playoff games last year for the Halifax Mooseheads.

To no one's surprise, L'Heureux leads the Admirals with 117 penalty minutes, with the next closest player to L'Heureux being Egor Afanasyev with 52 PIM. Just an insane, and obviously the main reason for concern on potentially calling up L'Heureux to the NHL. Is he ready to be more disciplined?

The last thing you want is to call up L'Heureux at some point this season and he loses his cool and does something that causes disciplinary action again. Additionally, you can't have a player that has a propensity for taking a lot of penalties disrupting a team that's already very weak on the penalty kill as it is.

Even if L'Heureux does stay on his best behavior during an NHL call-up, you also worry about disrupting the chemistry and positive development he's currently enjoying on an Admirals team that is playing extremely cohesive hockey.

I totally see where Ellis is coming from in his piece because he's not wrong that L'Heureux is deserving and would be must-watch television if he gets into a Predators game this year. But the bigger picture tells me he patience is key here.

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I would actually argue that if we're talking about AHLers for the Predators who are most deserving of their first NHL call-up, I'd go with Svechkov because of his two-way game and more translatable game to the NHL level.

The only way I can see L'Heureux getting called up before the end of 2023-24 is if the Predators have an enormous sell-off similar to last season and just want to give some prospects their first taste of the NHL. That means trading away the likes of Yakov Trenin, Kiefer Sherwood, Denis Gurianov or maybe even Tommy Novak.

L'Heureux seems better off finishing off his current campaign with an outstanding Milwaukee team and then see where his progression is at heading into next season.

Would it be insanely exciting to see L'Heureux skate a few games for the Predators down the stretch? No doubt about it, but my prevailing thoughts are he needs to complete his first full season in the AHL and come fresh for training camp before putting him into the NHL lineup.

Just make sure you supply the mustard if you're Barry Trotz before L'Heureux suits up for his first NHL game.

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