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2014 NHL Draft Central

My thoughts concluding the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia

What started out with a fantastic first day for the Nashville Predators ended as such as the organization concluded rounds two through seven at day two of the 2014 NHL Draft. Here are just some flowing thoughts after all was said and done:

  • Trading for James Neal and drafting Kevin Fiala last night, the Predators rounded out their draft with three defenseman [Dougherty (2nd round), Lyytinen (5th round), Irving (6th round)] and three forwards [Kamenev (2nd round), Kirkland (3rd round), Arvidsson (4th round)]. Overall it may have been one of the strongest drafts for Nashville in the past decade
  • I was a tad shocked to see the Predators select a Russian forward with their first choice in the second round. It’s not a head-scratcher of a pick for Nashville to select Vladislav Kamenev, but if he develops well he could be a dynamic and prized prospect in the organization.
  • Speaking of Kamenev, he’s the first Russian that Nashville has drafted since Denis Kulyash and Alexander Radulov were selected in the 2004 draft. When asked about if there was any reason he had waited ten years to select another Russian forward, Poile was very candid about it:

    “Well we kind of fell off the wagon there for a little bit. As you know things have really changed in terms of their development and in terms of the KHL situation. Your ability to get these players or not get these players, it seems like it’s getting to be a better situation where they’re coming over and playing Juniors in some cases. Even players, when you go back to the Washington situation where they got Kuznetzov late in the first round, a player that arguably could have gone a lot higher. Some people said he’d never come over. I think they all want to play in the best league in the world.”

    “Whether they start somewhere else, I think they’ll eventually all come over here. Again, a lot of investigation which is our job from our scouts. I talked to Mike Keenan, who was the coach of his team that won the championship there, about the player and his thought process. Whether he comes over here and plays in junior hockey or he stays over there and plays for Mike Keenan, I’m fine. I think development would be good. If we can just try to get on the same page with each other. We’re dealing with 18 year old kids, it doesn’t have to be today. Hopefully in the next two or three years we get the right development, we’ll get there. I know he’s a real good player, I’m certainly looking forward to having him playing for us. I’d be disappointed if that didn’t happen one day, because I know he has the talent to play for us.”
  • Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty was very high on Aaron Irving of the Edmonton Oil Kings:

    “In the sixth round, we had the Irving kid who we liked all year long. I think that he fell in the draft a little bit just because his ice time got cut down the stretch with a verteran Edmonton team. If you had the draft in maybe February, he would have gone a bit higher in this draft. So we feel like, value-wise, that could be a very good pick for us.”

    That being said, Irving had 30 points (9g, 21a) for a stacked Oil Kings team. If the Predators got a steal in the sixth round of the draft, it wouldn’t be an unusual surprise. Marek Mazanec (2012), Anthony Bitetto (2010), and Mike Santorelli (2004) were all quality picks for Nashville in the sixth round.
  • Poile continued to talk up his need for a top line center after the draft on Sunday. While I thought Nashville could have traded for a center by the end of the draft, it looks like they’ll have to work to find one via a post-draft trade or through free agency starting next week. Granted, Jason Spezza had the potential to be traded to the Predators, however he shot down that deal on Saturday. That ultimately led to the acquisition of James Neal.
  • That’s also not to say that Spezza won’t eventually accept a trade to Nashville, however he may have to pick up the phone on his own and call Poile based on what he said during his post-draft availability:

    “He said he didn’t want to come here. I’m not going to pitch somebody if they don’t want to play for us. You have to be committed,” said Poile. “Doesn’t this work both ways? Someone can actually call me if they want to play for us.”
  • Free Agency begins at 11am on this upcoming Tuesday. With the trade for James Neal, Nashville will most likely push hard for their elusive top line center to compliment Neal. While Stastny will obviously be one name to look at, I’d also take a crack at Brad Richards. Neal has a previous playing history with him and it could provide Richards with the chance to prove he still has a bit left in the tank. In the same regard, it would allow players like Colin Wilson and Calle Jarnkrok to acclimate themselves to Peter Laviolette’s system and continue to develop.
  • Jack Dougherty and Justin Kirkland were two of the three NHL prospects that were here to hear their names called for the draft. However, they were the only two that spoke fluent English. My first impressions of the two is that they were both quite excited to be drafted by Nashville. In the case of Dougherty, it has a lot to do with Nashville’s history with the University of Wisconsin. In Kirkland, the same with the Kelowna Rockets. Both should do exceedingly well in Nashville’s pipeline along their current path.

This year’s draft couldn’t have gone better for the Nashville Predators. With Free Agency starting next week and Nashville’s rookie development camp next weekend, things are heating up in the summer months for the Predators.