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2014 NHL Draft Central

Poile prepared for multiple routes at 2014 NHL Draft


Jun 17, 2014

In under ten days in Philadelphia, the Nashville Predators will be arriving upon one of their most important drafts in the past handful of years. With a new coach at the helm and multiple draft selections in the first two rounds of action, the Predators could find themselves building for the future by any number of roads down the forked path.

While this year’s draft isn’t the strongest and most fruitful in recent years, there are definitely a few gems available. Especially for Nashville, who sit with the 11th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

“To me, in watching the games and talking to our scouts, there’s almost a consensus that the first five players could be wrong by one, but I’m pretty sure it’ll go that way. I think we know, in the area of two or three players, of who we’re going to get,” said Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile while speaking to reporters at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday.

For over a decade, Nashville’s luck in drafting talented defenseman and growing them into elite-level talent is known across the league. With Seth Jones and Jonathan-Ismael Diaby in 2013, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm in 2009, Roman Josi in 2008, all the way back to the Predators treasure trove of Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, Shea Weber, and Alexander Sulzer in 2003, Nashville has been blessed with finding and developing defenseman. Yet, with a new regime in charge for the first time in franchise history, the Predators could be taking a more offensive approach.

Could that deter the way Nashville’s order of operations has been for the past 16 years? For Poile, drafting a forward is the ultimate goal. However, he’ll most likely be selecting the best available player when Nashville’s finally on the clock.

“There’s two, to me, outstanding defenseman in this draft. We certainly would favor a forward, I know you all are looking for me to say we’re taking a forward, that’s our goal,” said Poile. “I think I have to stay true to what I’ve always said: you have to take the best player in the draft and you have to allow me to shuffle the deck, if we have to do that.”

This year, though, Nashville’s in a position to move away from their first selection in the draft. Poile was clear that the Predators would be, if trading the 11th overall pick away, searching for a top-six forward in return.

“Sitting at the eleventh pick, I feel real comfortable with where we are. I think there is a very very small chance that we would move up. I think there is a little bit more of a chance that we could move back, based on some of my conversations I’ve had with some of my peers,” said Poile. “What I’ve been approached upon the most at the GM meetings is the fact we have two second round picks and some teams that have later first round picks have asked whether we had some interest based on who might be available at that time to trade two seconds for a first round pick. So those would be something that could be done right at the table.”

“There is always the possibility that I would trade the first round pick, I’ve made that open to some people that have talked. This would be for a top forward, if we could do that. I’m not predicting that that will happen, I’m just saying that if somebody had that top-six forward, I would certainly consider trading our first round pick.”

The Predators have seen their fair share of movement in previous drafts, yet they’ve never dealt for a top-six forward in return for a first round draft selection. While Poile has traded for top forwards around the trade deadline in years past, this could potentially be new ground for him.

Most recently in 2008, Nashville spent their efforts re-arranging their draft picks to have two selections in the first round: seventh and 18th overall, drafting Colin Wilson and Chet Pickard. This year, Nashville has a first and second round pick for the first time since 2009, and it’s not something the team takes lightly.

“The draft is our lifeblood. In the last several years, before the last two years where we haven’t made the playoffs, we’ve given up our first and second picks. So this will be the first time in five years that we have our first and second pick in the draft,” said Poile.

If the Predators decide not to trade away their top draft selections this year and look towards building up their prospect pool, one or two good pieces could put the organization in a solid position for the not-too-distant future.

Nashville’s current roster has had it’s fair share of difficulty finding the back of the net. With young talented players like Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok potentially ready for next season, two players that Poile traded away veteran forwards to acquire them, the organization feels they could be set for the long haul.

“I think that our scouts have done a really good job of filling up the cupboard again in terms of our overall depth,” said Poile. “We’ve got a lot of forwards like Sissons, Salomaki, Austin Watson, Leipsic who will be turning pro this year, Åberg who will be turning pro this year, some guys that have some offensive ability and I believe could actually play games for us this year or challenge at training camp. We got Seth Jones in the draft [last year], who is going to be a top player.”

“We made a couple of trades for younger forwards in Jarnkrok and Forsberg. The cupboard is really getting full; the depth is getting back to the level that you need to be successful in the National Hockey League if you’re going to have the long runs. We’ve got some really good young players. Another good draft [next week] could put us in really good shape.”

Setting all of that aside, has the proverbial “window for success” been re-opened for the Nashville Predators? For all intents and purposes, that window seemed to shut after the Western Conference Semifinals loss to the Phoenix Coyotes two seasons ago, however Nashville has slowly been breathing fresh air into a stale atmosphere.

Poile believes that a good draft next week could put the team in good shape. Depending on how the days surrounding the draft unfold, the Predators could put themselves in excellent shape for this season and many seasons to come.