GM David Poile and his plucky Nashville Predators bamboozled the league in 2014-15. They were supposed to be an also-ran in hockey’s toughest division but instead enjoyed one of their best seasons in franchise history. They’re stacked in goal and on defense, and a few of their best forward prospects have emerged.
Round 2, pick 55
Round 3, pick 85
Round 4, picks 100, 115
Round 5, pick 145
Round 6, pick 175
Round 7, pick 205
The James Neal trade didn’t give Nashville the elite sniper it needed. Filip Forsberg bloomed, but he’s more of an all-around scorer than pure shooter. The 2015 free agent class lacks a slam-dunk 30-goal man, so Poile will have to search the trade market if he wants one. Also, what if Mike Ribeiro opts not to re-sign? It would leave Nashville without a No. 1 center.
If Ribeiro returns, he’s still just a stopgap at 35. Nashville needs a big, strong, prototypical Western Conference pivot to build around. Austin Watson, 18th overall pick in 2010, isn’t on a trajectory to become that. The Preds need to draft an Anze Kopitar or Ryan Getzlaf, which is doable considering neither went in the top 10.
CAP SITUATION: The Preds’ frenzy of one-year signings last summer leaves a ton of work to do. Nashville has four UFA centers (Ribeiro, Mike Fisher, Matt Cullen, Mike Santorelli), two UFA defensemen (Cody Franson, Anton Volchenkov) and a slew of important RFAs to re-sign, including Colin Wilson and Craig Smith. We could see a vastly different roster next fall depending on how the negotiations play out.
IN THE SYSTEM 2015-16: Gifted, feisty 2014 first-rounder Kevin Fiala jumped from the Swedish League to the AHL seamlessly and even earned himself a brief NHL call-up. He has a real chance to crack the Preds’ top nine next season and follow the footsteps of Forsberg’s breakout campaign.
DID YOU KNOW: Fiala is the second-highest Swiss draft pick in NHL history at 11th overall, trailing only Nino Niederreiter, who went fifth in 2010. Fiala’s parents are actually Czech, and he speaks five languages: English, French, German, Czech and Swedish.