NHL Draft: Predators' biggest needs, top prospects

The Nashville Predators should look to replenish their defensive prospect pool with their mid first-round selection. (Getty Images)
The Nashville Predators should look to replenish their defensive prospect pool with their mid first-round selection. (Getty Images)

Nashville has never been a team dominated by a singular star. On the ice, the team has always won or lost by committee. When looking at Nashville’s prospect pool, it’s a deep group lacking a superstar, but with several promising players. In other words, it fits the Nashville model. If there is one gaping hole in their prospect pool, it’s the absence of a top defensive prospect. In fact, Nashville has not used a first or second-round pick on a blueliner since 2016. The Predators have a sizeable crop of 25-and-under defenders in the NHL, but as this group matures, there are no reinforcements coming. Perhaps the best prospect who will be looked at to keep the puck out of Nashville’s net is Yaroslav Askarov, who has been described as the top goaltending prospect of the last decade.

Top Prospects

Yaroslav Askarov, G - Athletic, sizeable, positional - all the things you want in a goaltender. Askarov checks all the boxes and having signed with the Predators, all fears of Askarov staying in Russia are gone. He was spectacular in KHL stints over the last three seasons, and will immediately be given the crease in Milwaukee to learn the angles of North American hockey. Expectations are high for Askarov, but with Juuse Saros signed through 2024-2025, the Predators have time to be patient.

Luke Evangelista, F - Putting up 111 points with the OHL’s London Knights this season, Evangelista made his presence known in the prospect discussion. A winger, he’ll jump to the American Hockey League next season to start with Milwaukee, but will likely get an audition with Nashville at some point. Scoring 55 goals this season, Evangelista has pure scoring traits but needs to get stronger to succeed at the NHL level. He is tenacious along the boards and in winning puck battles which lead to scoring chances. When he adds strength, he’ll be a valuable middle-six forward for Nashville.

Fedor Svechkov, F - Chosen 19th overall in 2021, Svechkov plays a balanced game. Offensively, he reads the play with a sense of anticipation that puts him in scoring position before the puck arrives. Defensively, he has been counted on in Russia’s VHL this season to take important faceoffs and kill penalties. It’s this versatility that should see Svechkov step into a third-line role with Nashville sooner than later. He may, however, stay in Russia for another season or two, which could allow Svechkov to develop to the point where he is able to challenge for a second line slot when he arrives in North America.

One To Watch

Making international headlines coming out as the first openly gay NHL prospect, Luke Prokop is a player to watch not only for his impact on the social progress of the sport but for his growing on-ice success. Uses his 6’4” frame effectively, and skates fluidly for his size. Following a trade to Edmonton in the WHL, Prokop blossomed offensively this season and was a force in the postseason. Watching how Juuso Parssinen’s game translates to North America will be another prospect storyline to follow in Nashville. He has the two-way game to fit into Nashville’s bottom-six, and has already played professionally in Finland’s Liiga.

Ready To Step In

Nashville has found a number of young forwards who are currently making an impact in the NHL including Tanner Jeannot, Philip Tomasino, Eeli Tolvanen, and Luke Kunin, and the organization hopes Cody Glass can finally join this group next season. The sixth overall pick of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, Glass’ career has been stunted by trades and injuries, but the consistency he demonstrated this season scoring 62 points in 66 games in the AHL, shows that the two-way center is ready to arrive. Should Filip Forsberg leave via free agency, it will be an open call for prospects and young Predators to step forward. On the blueline, Jeremy Davies is an older prospect who will battle for a full-time bottom-pairing role at camp.

Needs At The Draft

Nashville picks 17th, which is the perfect range to select the defender they need. While the top two blueliners, Simon Nemac and David Jiricek, will already be off the board, at least 1-2 members of the second tier of first-round defenders will still be available here. Names like Pavel Mintyukov, Kevin Korchinski, Owen Pickering, and Denton Mateychuk will be in play for the Predators. Each offers top-four upside and offensive capabilities from the blueline. Beyond adding multiple players to their blueline depth chart, Nashville should focus on a best player available strategy.

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