The Predators went “all-in” this year for the playoffs and unfortunately did not go as deep as some had hoped or downright factually believed they would go. By doing so, the Predators had to trade some assets, mainly draft picks, for the services of Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad. Gill gave the Predators an excellent penalty-kill defenseman with size and strength. What it cost the Predators was their 2nd round pick in 2012. In the waning minutes of the trade deadline, Poile made a move to get faceoff specialist and hulking centerman Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres. What it cost the Predators was their first round pick.
So without further ado….the Predators are using their first draft pick this year in the 3rd round at pick #66, but since the Predators boast some of the best scouting in the NHL, the deeper the rounds go the better the Predators have fared than most.
To be fair, the Predators have had their share of stinkers to grace the third and fourth rounds. Many did not even play a single game at the NHL level and were lost to mediocrity or to a fringe European/Russian league.
However, the Predators have some up-and-comers that have showed signs of decent play in the last few draft classes in the 3rd and 4th rounds. Names like Taylor Beck (3rd Round 2009), Teemu Laakso (3rd Round 2005), Ryan Thang (3rd Round 2007) and Michael Latta (3rd Round 2009) skate with the Turquoise and Gray up north in the feeder system of the Milwaukee Admirals.
Admirals Stats: 2011-2012
Taylor Beck – 16G, 24A, 40P
Ryan Thang – 18G, 20A, +12
Michael Latta – 14G, 13A, +8, 100PIM
Teemu Laakso – 3G, 17A, 20P
All third rounders and all very serviceable in replacement parts for any injuries that could befall the Nashville Predators. The play of Taylor Beck especially should have him on the radar of the Predators coaching staff when Development Camp begins at the end of June.
This brings us to the meat and potatoes of what players the Predators drafted in the third and fourth rounds (where Nashville has 3 picks this year) that truly made a difference and have seen some decent playing time at the NHL level.
For those who can hearken back to a time when Nashville had the second pick overall in the draft, you may recall a certain forward who was drafted in the third round that year: Denis Arkhipov. Arkhipov was a great pick up for the Predators and in 5 NHL seasons scored 56 goals, 82 assists and had 11 GWG. The downside to his performance was that he also was a -51 in those seasons. In comparison, Legwand who was drafted 2nd overall in ’98 only averaged 11 more points a season more than Arkhipov in the same number of years.
Next is Cody Franson who was drafted in the third round and is now playing in Toronto as part of the Matthew Lombardi trade. Franson played admirable for the Predators and it was a shame to see him leave in that trade. He has posted 19 goals and 52 assists in 3 NHL seasons with a great plus/minus of +24 (+25 with Nashville and -1 with Toronto).
Craig Smith was drafted in 2009 in the fourth round and Nashville may have never found a more talented forward in the fourth round of the draft. Craig Smith wowed coaches and scouts alike in the World Championships with Team USA and he left Wisconsin early to pursue the NHL and stayed with the Predators playing 72 games in the 2011-2012 season. He potted 14 goals (of which 6 were PP markers) and had 22 assists to put him in the upper level of rookie prospects this season. Craig Smith has a ton of potential and with the amount of Nashville free agents this season, he may be a very capable stop-gap for a lineup needing speed and finishing ability.
Finally, the cream of the mid-round selections for the Nashville Predators; fan favorite Jordin Tootoo. This beast of the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings was a firecraker from the get-go and the heart, speed, tenacity and punishing checks that Tootoo dished out made him a working-class hero of Smashville. Drafted in 2001, Tootoo has spent every year since with the Nashville Predators organization and is coming off his best season yet with 6 goals, 20 assists and 30 points, almost doubling his highest output of 18 points in 2007-2008 and 2010-2011. With only 92 PIM, Tootoo has been able to ramp up his game both offensively and without taking penalties but instead drawing them from opponents. Hopefully Tootoo will be able to work something out with the Predators as he is an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Predators certainly don’t want to lose a constant fan draw and worthy 3rd/4th line winger.
So even though the Predators traded away their first 2 rounds of picks, much can be had in the 3rd and 4th rounds if one knows where to look. The scouting staff for the Nashville Predators deserves a huge stick tap for all they have been able to find, especially in even later rounds (i.e. Erat, Lindback, Rinne, Hornqvist).
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