Preds Draft Preview with Excessive Video

With the Memorial Cup behind us, there is little that can drastically change the drafting order for the 2013 Entry Draft, where the Predators hold the 4t​h overall pick (and no second round pick). Jones was predicted first overall going into the tournament, however the international scouting services reversed the top two spots after the final game, giving MacKinnon the predicted first overall selection. The ISS ranked Jones Second and Drouin Third.

It is unlikely that MacKinnon or Jones drop to third overall, yet alone 4t​h. I am (very) cautiously optimistic that Tampa Bay’s GM Steve Yzerman might make a slip up and take someone other than Drouin in the 3rd slot. As such, here are the likely Preds candidates in the 2013 draft.

Jonathan Drouin

Birthplace – Quebec, Canada                                      Age – 18               Size – 176 lb, 5 ft 11 in
Current Team – Halifax Moosehead                        Position – Left Wing                         

I’m going to be frank with you: I want Jonathan Drouin. Playing with the Halifax Moosehead, the kid blossomed alongside the as-highly touted Nathan MacKinnon, to the point of surpassing him in the ISS rankings in January, only to get returned to 3rd overall by mid-March.

His line-mates and awesome team definitely boosted his stats this year, where he scored 41 goals in the QMJHL and had 64 assists (compared to 7 and 29 respectively in 2011-12). However you can tell that Drouin is a total work horse and a greatly skilled individual player. He has great stickhandling, impressive accuracy and my goodness is he quick.  He won two QMJHL awards at the end of the season, for most professional prospect and for QMJHL Personality of the Year. He was also named to the QMJHL first all-star team. Drouin was also named CHL Player of the year.

His ranking jumped in January due to the World Junior Championships, where he played on the 2nd line while MacKinnon centered the fourth (in a roster management decision that many Canadians described as “questionable at best”). Drouin was alongside Ryan Strome (NYI, 2011 5th ovr) and Mark Scheifele (WPG, 2011 7th ovr) for most of the tournament; but he also made a cameo appearance on the top line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from time to time. Although only getting two goals and two assists, the kid showed his speed and ability in the tournament and was great on a high intensity fore-check.

That being said, I don’t believe Drouin is NHL ready with the Preds. He would benefit from another year in Halifax, especially if MacKinnon isn’t there to lift some of the team’s weight. Unfortunately I just don’t see where we would place him in our system next year and his size will be an issue coming into the NHL. A lot of his talent was showcased due to an unbelievable team, and he will need to re-adjust to adversity before joining the NHL

However, in the future, a line winged by Drouin and Forsberg would just be unbelievable.

Valeri Nichuskin

Birthplace – Chelyabinsk, Russia                                                Age – 18       Size – 196 lb, 6 ft 4 In
Current Team – Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)           Position – Left Wing

Currently sitting as the 4th overall pick, if all went according to the ISS ranking, then Nichuskin would be a Preds Prospect next year. Nichuskin spent his past season in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, where his team, Traktor Chelyabinsk, made it to the cup finals before losing in 6 games to Dynamo Minsk. Nichuskin actually played more playoff games with the team than regular season games. He had 25 playoff appearances where he contributed 6 goals and 3 assists to his team’s efforts – a stat line that likely speaks for his move from 5th to 4th place in the most recent rankings.

Nichuskin also won a Bronze Medal with Team Russia at the world juniors, however he was only able to find the back of the net once in his six games with the team. He did, however, manage to get 25 penalty minutes throughout the competition (he had 0 in his playoff run).

At 6’4 Nichuskin is an big winger, and his body presence up front would definitely fit well into the Nashville Predators Mold. Think Gaustad but faster and with more skill. Despite his size, the youngster can motor. When not bouncing off feeble attempts to check him, he is flying around flat footed defenders, creating scoring opportunities for himself.

The Preds may feel more comfortable putting Nichuskin on the NHL roster next year. His playing experience in Russia is impressive and a testament to his ability to compete with the big boys. Playing with the Predators is also the only way to get him into the North American System next year, as he is still too young to play in the AHL.

It’s worth noting that while the ISS have Nichuskin ranked 4th overall, the Central Scouting Study has Barkov ranked higher than Nichuskin in their European list.

Aleksander (Sasha) Barkov Jr.

Birthplace – Tampere Finland     Age – 17               Size – 205 lb, 6 ft 3,
Current Team – Tappara (SM-Liiga Finland)          Position – Center

When the Preds were drawn fourth in the NHL draft lottery, many fans began anticipating the draft of Sasha Barkov. He was ranked fourth at the time according to the ISS, and the skilled winger was considered to be just outside of the top three picks.

A very highly touted Europeean player, he is the youngest player to ever record a point in the SM-Liiga and the second youngest player to ever record a point at the World Junior Championships. In his club play, he had 47 points in 51 games, 21 of which were goals. Barkov also had 7 points in 6 games at this year’s world Junior Championships.

The Predators organization fondness of Finish players makes Barkov a likely draft candidate in 2013. He and recently acquired Filip Forsberg have history together and would complement each other very well. At 17, I wouldn’t expect Barkov to be in North America for another year, maybe two, which could actually deter the Predators from taking him. With so many prospects in the pipeline already, Nashville needs help sooner rather than later.

Darnell Nurse

Birthplace – Ontario, Canada                      Age – 18                               Size – 189 lb, 6 ft 4
Team – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)                                   Position: Defense

If the Preds choose to draft a defenseman with their pick, then it will surely be Darnell Nurse. With Seth Jones out of reach, Nurse is the next highest ranked defensemen. You may remember that I wrote a piece earlier in the year regarding the Predators drafting Nurse with their first round pick. However that was written when the Predators were sitting happily at 23rd in the league and looking at a 7/8th overall draft pick. I stand by many of my arguments from that post – namely that the Predators prospect pool has significant offensive talent (Buddish, Leipsic, Sissons, Forsberg, Watson, Vesey, Beck, Aberg) and lacked defensive expertise (Vainoven, Jarvinen and Ekholm). However, the offensive talent ahead of Nurse in this year’s draft raises a difficult decision for the Predators management.

At best, if they choose Nurse, who had 41 points this season, they should trade their draft pick for a higher one and a bit more. And if they do that they should trade for 8th and take a run at Nikita Zadorov, but I am getting ahead of myself.

For what he is, Nurse is a solid Blue liner. Defensively sound and able to contribute on the scoring end too. He was a good Powerplay quarterback for his junior team this season and also performed admirably on the penalty kill… when he wasn’t serving the penalty. He had 116 penalty minutes in 68 games, many were fighting majors.

He isn’t NHL ready, and while 6'4 is a great size for an NHL defenseman, he still needs to develop positioning skills and his two way sense. He will also learn to be more disciplined in a Barry Trotz system, and will likely be sent back to the Ontario League with instructions to do just that.