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Prospect Pool Overview: Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators have an intriguing prospect pool, featuring one of the best goalie prospects in the world and a few young players that could make impacts quite soon. Tony Ferrari took a deep look at the team's future.
Cody Glass

The Nashville Predators are in the mushy middle of the hockey landscape. 

They’ve been a playoff team in seven of the last eight years, with their loss in the qualifying round of the bubble playoffs being the only season in which they didn't qualify. Since making it to the Cup final in 2017, they've won just one series. They’ve drafted some good players, but they haven’t been in a position to draft from the elite group at the top of the draft that often. 

Goaltender Yaroslav Askarov is the gem of their prospect pool. Arguably the best prospect goalie prospect in the world, the Russian netminder is set to join the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL this year. He's an athletic freak with impressive fluidity in his crease. The 6-foot-4 netminder has excellent reflexes and reactionary speed thanks to his ability to read the ice at a high level. Askarov has had a tendency to get happy feet when things aren’t going well for him, but he has enough of a portfolio to get excited about.

Fellow Russian, Fyodor Svechkov is one of their most interesting forward prospects. The 6-foot-0 center scored at just over a point-per-game rate at the VHL level last year against men while continuing to play an intelligent and stout defensive game. He's a crafty playmaker and a hard-nosed goal scorer offensively which should bode well for his game not only translating to the NHL level but excelling with more structure and skill around him when he arrives. Pairing Svechkov with a physical goal-scoring threat such as Zachary L’Heureux, who was taken a few picks later by the Preds in the same first round, could be a match made in heaven. L’Heureux loves to throw the body and mix it up with his opponents but he has the offensive prowess to warrant playing in your top-six.

Yegor Afanasyev is a big physical winger with a cannon of a shot. but his adjustment to the AHL last season was a bit slow. Luke Evangelista is a perceptive offensive catalyst that understands how to pick apart the opposition. He tore the OHL apart last season with the London Knights, scoring 111 points in just 56 games, and should give the team some scoring help in the future. The additions of Joakim Kemell, a talented Finnish sniper, and USHLer Adam Ingram to the forward pipeline gives them some intriguing offensive depth. They also have Cody Glass, a young center who is being given a reset in the Preds organization after fizzling out a bit in the Vegas organization. His rookie eligibility has been burned but the reset is necessary after spending most of last season in the AHL, scoring 62 points in 66 games.

2022 NHL Draft Class

Round 1 (17 Overall) - Joakim Kemell, RW, JYP Jyvaskyla (Liiga) Round 3 (82 Overall) - Adam Ingram, C, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Round 3 (84 Overall) - Kasper Kulonummi, D, Jokerit (U20 SM-sarja)
Round 4 (114 Overall) - Cole O'Hara, RW, Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Round 5 (146 Overall) - Graham Sward, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Round 7 (210 Overall) - Ben Strinden, C, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

The Preds took advantage of Joakim Kemell’s slow second half, selecting the highly touted Finnish goal-scorer 17th overall. Kemell is an active forechecker who can brings some element of physicality to the game from time to time, throwing a hip check once in a while. Make no mistake about it, his calling card is his shot. Kemell picks corners and scores from all over the offensive zone. He was leading the men’s league in Finland in goal scoring for a not insignificant amount of time early in the year as he got off to a white-hot start with JYP. Shooting 30% into November, the regression was bound to happen but he showcased his scoring throughout the year, staring at the World U18s as well.

Adam Ingram is a hard-working forward who rarely fails to give full effort. The USHL product forechecks hard, making life unbreakable at times for opposing blueliners. He can create offense with his work rate, facilitating from the boards and utilizing his ability to establish body positon. His heavy shot can beat goalies clean as well, which should allow him to find some offensive success as he works towards the pro game.

Kulonummi’s game all stems from his mobility and willingness to adapt to fill the gaps of those around him. He has some puck-moving ability, both with his skating or passing when exiting the zone. The young Finn isn’t going to wow you in any facet of the game, but he plays reliably in all three zones. Graham Sward plays a similar style but will push the pace a bit more, trying to create offensive chances at that end of the ice. His defensive game isn’t quite as consistent, but he is more than capable of using his frame to close out when he wants to.

Strengths

The Predator’s biggest strength is that they have one of the league's best - if not the best - goalie prospects in the world. The uber-athletic Asakrov has all of the tools to be a future Vezina candidate, continuing Nashville’s string of Vezina-level goalies going back to Pekka Rinne before Juuse Saros. If Askarov can stay calm, maintain his mobility and athletics in the crease, and continue to mature, the Predators won’t have to worry about the starting goalie position for the next decade.

Weaknesses

The depth and talent on defense is lacking for the Predators, a reality that hasn’t been traditionally true. In Olsson, Kulonummi, and Prokop, they have a few players who could find roles at the NHL level but they lack a difference-maker at the position on either side of the ice. Nashville has found a way to draft and develop blueliners for years it seems, so maybe they will be able to find a diamond in the rough within their prospect pool but they should also invest in the position going forward.

Next Man Up: C Cody Glass

Although he no longer holds rookie status, Cody Glass is the rare exception to the “rookie rule” that this Prospect Overview series has followed. Acquired by the Nashville Predators last offseason in exchange for Nolan Patrick who they acquired in a trade with Philadelphia earlier in the day. Cody Glass was a top prospect that wasn’t really able to catch on in Vegas because as most young players do, he had some growing pains and with Vegas trying to win right from the hop, Glass wasn’t given the room to make those mistakes.

Glass had a great season in the AHL, approaching a point-per-game and showing the playmaking ability that he was drafted sixth overall for in 2017. He uses his speed to transition the puck and on create havoc on the forecheck. The 6-foot-3 center has done an excellent job of recapturing the confidence that he had coming out of junior. His passing is precise and he knows how to use his linemates to the best of their abilities in the offensive zone. There isn’t an obvious spot for him to take in the lineup, but he will be given an opportunity to work his way into the lineup in training camp.

Prospect Depth Chart Notables

LW: Zachary L’Heureux, Yegor Afanasyev, Juuso Pärssinen,
C: Fyodor Svechkov, Adam Ingram, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine
RW: Joakim Kemell, Luke Evangelista, Simon Knak
LD: Anton Olsson, Adam Wilsby, Graham Sward
RD: Kasper Kulonummi, Ryan Ufko, Luke Prokop
G: Yaroslav Askarov, Tomas Vomacka, Ethan Haider

For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition

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