The Fang Faction writers have three different prospects they want the Nashville Predators to select with their fourth overall pick. Unfortunately, the Predators can only select one. Ray Harris has been a homer for Jonathan Drouin since he is knowledgeable of the QMJHL. Fang Finger is huge on Valeri Nichushkin and Ryan Shannon stands up for Aleksander Barkov.
Ray Harris – So, for the first time since 1998 the Preds have a top 5 draft pick – and what a year to have it. I think MacKinnon and Jones will go top two (I just can't see Florida saying no to a defensive prospect). After that it's a tossup, but I'm really hoping that Drouin falls to fourth so that the Predators can sweep him up. How anyone can say no to 35 points in 17 playoff games is beyond me.
The 18 year old is responsible for much of MacKinnon's success and acts as a playmaker and a sniper. He is everything offensive that the Predators need while still being able to get molded into the defense first system.
Fang Finger – Certainly Drouin would be an excellent pick for the Predators, but I have to think Valeri Nichushkin is the better option if Drouin has already been selected. Nichushkin is the type of player the Predators' organization has never seen before. The Russian forward has an excellent feel for the puck and isn't afraid to drive to the net to generate offense. Scouts say he is the next Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Rick Nash. This 6'4 monster is NHL ready and will immediately become the Preds' number one forward.
Ryan Shannon – Drouin and Nichushkin could potentially be great picks for the Predators. But these types of picks don't come around too often. What Nashville needs is a strong center with offensive upside. They would get that in Aleksander Barkov. He succeeded in tough Finnish leagues as well as the World Juniors. The Preds need a point per game guy like Barkov. All that being said, I wouldn't be upset seeing Nichushkin or certainly Drouin in a Nashville uniform.
Ray Harris – Yes, they are all great picks. But many times a European or Russian player fails to transfer his skills to North American Hockey. Nichuskin especially will be questionable in Nashville. Will he play in the AHL? Will he return if he goes to the KHL? Nashville doesn't have Russian players and it may not be the best environment for introducing a new young one. Plus, neither of these guys will fit into a Trotz system. Defense first will swallow their production ability. Drouin can play at both ends of the ice.
Fang Finger – People shouldn't worry about Nichushkin adapting to the North American environment. If people worry about every Russian/European player transferring their International style to North American, there would hardly be any Europeans in the game. That is outdated thinking. An Alexander Radulov situation is rare and shouldn't be worried by the Preds' organization. Russian kids idolize players in the NHL and want to be there some day.
Ryan Shannon – I agree. Busts and bad attitudes come from every part of the world. No matter whom the Predators pick, they shouldn't let stereotypes factor into it. Individual interviews should carry much more weight.
Ray Harris – Well what about the transition? Surely playing in North America gives Drouin the advantage.
Ryan Shannon – Sure Drouin is experienced on North American ice but you have to factor in his size as well as the fact that he played alongside the likely number one forward in this draft, Nathan MacKinnon. Until he was with MacKinnon this past season, he was a relatively unknown prospect. How will he fair when not playing with another superstar? Plus, he doesn't have the experience of playing in a "grown men" league that Barkov and Nichushkin have.
Fang Finger – Certainly Drouin's size comes into factor. He was successful in the juniors, but could he still have the same effect in the NHL with bigger, better and bad-er defensemen? Also, Drouin is yet to be NHL-ready.
Ray Harris – While I agree that Drouin may be less NHL ready that the other two, he will have more long-term success. We could put him on a line with Forsberg and center it with a youngster or even Legwand or Gaustad for some leadership.
Fang Finger – Certainly adding another center like Barkov would be beneficial to the Preds, but I agree with Ray and that is we are unsure what his full potential could be. No doubt Barkov is a safe pick, but how much reward will come from him? Along with Drouin, Barkov is not yet NHL-ready. Give them both another year, and we'll see where things go.
Ryan Shannon – The Predators' Scandinavian scouts are some of the best in the organization. We will know what we're getting in Aleksander Barkov if he is indeed the Preds' selection. With his size and two-way game, he is very likely NHL ready, though some time in Milwaukee after recovering from his injury would not hurt. So maybe he'll never be the offensive powerhouse like MacKinnon and Drouin could be, but it is far from a weakness in his game. Aside from Seth Jones, he is probably the most sure thing to make it in the NHL.
Ray Harris – Hopefully the staff can come to an agreement because we certainly can't. It will be fun to watch any new addition come training camp, and hopefully we will be able to work someone into the lineup to play alongside Forsberg. For now, I guess we are waiting for draft day.