NEWARK, N.J. – The Nashville Predators made 10 selections at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., taking four forwards, four defensemen and two goaltenders. Sweden, the United States and Finland were once again on the Predators draft radar – the franchise has now selected at least one Swede in eight consecutive drafts, at least two U.S.-born players in each of the last eight drafts, and a Finn in 10 of the last 11.
“We are really happy that we were able to select Seth Jones with the fourth overall pick,” Predators Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty said. “He was a guy that we have been following for the past three years and he was the number one guy on our board. After the first round, we were able to address several areas and add depth to key positions. I really like the depth we added at defense and goalie, and we were able to add a lot of different types of players throughout the rounds – we have skill guys, characters guys, Predator-type guys. We definitely had a successful draft today.”
Nashville used its second selection in the 2013 Entry Draft (64th overall) to select defenseman Jonathan-Ismael Diaby from the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 6-4, 220-pound blueliner posted four goals with 22 assists and a +12 rating in 67 games during his second full season with Victoriaville. The Blainville, Que., native added an assist during nine 2013 President’s Cup playoff games. After being ranked 45th among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, Diaby’s strong defensive play in the second-half of the season saw him finish as the 37th ranked skater. The Predators selected back-to-back defensemen with fathers who have played professional sports, as Diaby’s father played professional soccer player in Africa.
“He’s a big body, plays hard, can skate, can move the puck, but he’s going to be a ‘stay at home’ type guy,” Predators North American amateur scout Tom Nolan said. “He’s tough, he’ll fight, play physical. He kind of does it all for a stay at home defenseman. He plays a lot more on special teams in junior. We see him as a shutdown-type of defenseman that’s big and takes up a lot of ice and is hard to play against.”
The Predators moved to offense with their third pick (95th overall) of the 2013 Entry Draft, taking center Felix Girard of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL). Playing in his third season in the QMJHL, Girard captained the Drakkar and was better than a point-per-game player, posting 61 points (23g-38a) in 58 games in 2012-13. Girard’s performance and +18 rating this past season earned him the Guy Carbonneau Trophy as the QMJHL’s Best Defensive Forward. The 5-10, 185-pound forward added four goals and 11 assists and a +13 rating in 19 playoff games. The Levis, Que., native tallied 21 points (6g-15a) in 60 games during his sophomore season in 2011-12, and added one goal in five games en route to earning a bronze medal with Canada at the 2012 World Under-18 Championships.
“He’s an exact Predator-type player,” Nolan said. “He’ll do anything you’d ask. He’ll block shots, take hits and deliver hits. He won best defensive award in the Quebec League this year. He just does it all for your team. He’s the type of guy you want to go to war with, a guy you win with in the playoffs. He’s our type of guy and we’re ecstatic to have him.”
Nashville moved between the pipes with its fourth selection (99th overall) selecting Finnish netminder Juuse Saros. Saros was rated as the top European goaltender by NHL Central Scouting after leading HPK to the 2012-13 Jr. A SM-Liiga Championship – the first in club history. The 5-10, 185-pound goalie was named the League’s top goaltender after posting a 24-13 record with four shutouts, a 1.86 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in 43 games during the regular season. In the 2012-13 postseason, the 18-year-old posted a 9-2 record with a 2.09 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Internationally, he lead Finland a bronze medal at the 2013 World Under-18 Championships, while being named the tournament’s top goaltender.
“He’s an outstanding goalie,” Preds European Scout Janne Kekalainen said. “He had an excellent season. The only thing he lacks is size. I really believe if he was a few inches taller, like all of these modern goalies are, he would be a top-15 pick in the draft. He has great goalie skills. His attitude/mentality is excellent. His coach absolutely raved about his work ethic and how he is as a mental athlete. He’s one of the best he ever coached, and he’s coached a lot. He’s 5-11.5 in height, but he’s 7-0 in mentality for me. It compensates.”
Nashville traded the 112th pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the 203rd pick in this year’s draft and fourth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
With the 203rd pick, the Predators returned to the Jr. A SM-Liiga with the selection of winger Saku Maenalanen from Karpat – the same junior system that produced goaltender Pekka Rinne (selected 258th overall in the 2004 Entry Draft). In 45 games in 2012-13, the 6-3, 176-pound forward tallied 58 points (23g-35a) with a +19 rating, and was named to the league’s All-Star Team. His 35 helpers in 2012-13 led the league in the category. Maenalenen added seven points (5g-2a) in five playoff games for Karpat. The Kemi, Finland native also saw time in three games at the 2013 World Juniors.
“He’s got great speed,” Kekalainen said. “He’s very offensive, the second leading scorer in the Finnish Junior League. Skating is definitely his asset. He can score and make plays. His line was the most productive in the whole league. He’s got a good work ethic. One attractive feature about him is he’s very raw. He’s six-three, but weighs 180 right now. He’s going to get a lot stronger, faster, and more effective when he gains 20 pounds over the next few years. If we want to draft big guys, we have to draft big guys. He’s raw, so he can develop a lot. His coaches had some great things to say about him. I believe he can develop into a top-nine forward at the end of the day.”
Nashville continued to stock-up on defenseman with their sixth pick (140th overall), selecting Teemu Kivihalme from Burnsville High School in Minnesota. During his junior season, Kivihalme posted 30 points (9g-21a) in 25 games. In 77 games for Burnsville, he was nearly a point-per-game player with 73 points (20g-53a) throughout his career. Following his high school season, the 6-0, 160-pound blueliner played four games with the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League in 2012-13, posting one assist. He will return to Fargo for the 2013-14 season, before continuing on to play collegiate hockey at Colorado College.
“I see him more as a two-way defenseman, and I hope that’s what he can be,” Predators North American Amateur Scout David Westby said. “He has decent size, skates really well and has terrific hockey sense. He’s a son of a coach. He knows how to play the game. He makes good puck decisions, first passes, skating out of trouble if needed, and can carry or jump into the play. He can run the power play. He has a good shot from the point. He defends very well. His gaps are good. He eliminates and takes away space. We think he has a big upside. We’re excited about him. “
The Predators returned to the offensive side with the selection of center Emil Pettersson (155th overall) from Timra of the Swedish Junior League. In 44 games in 2012-13, Pettersson was a point-per-game player, posting 13 goals and 31 assists with Timra’s junior squad. The 80th-ranked European skater will return to Timra for the 2013-14 season.
“He’s a traditional centerman,” Preds European Scout Lucas Bergman said. “His strength is definitely skating and puck skills. He’s a puck distributer most of all. He plays in all situations. He kills penalties, runs the powerplay. He’s always been the smallest guy on the block. He’s probably grown 12 inches in the past three years, so obviously there’s some rawness to him..”
With its second sixth-round pick (171st overall), Nashville selected winger Tommy Veilleux from the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL – the second player selected from Victoriaville. The 6-0, 187-pound winger posted 28 points (11g-17a) in his second season with the Tigres, and added three points (1g-2a) in eight President’s Cup Playoff games. Veilleux also hails from the same city (Levis, Quebec) as third-round pick Felix Girard. Veilleux is expected to return to Victoriaville for the 2013-14 season.
“He’s kind of an Andrew Shaw-type player,” Nolan said. “I think he has a little more offense to come as he develops here. He plays 100 percent all the time. He can skate. He’s a thick kid. He hits like Shaw, but a bigger body, so we’re looking for that gritty, speed, hard-to-play-against-type guy. He’s another guy we hope come playoff time he’ll be a third or fourth-line type guy that is hard to play against.”
With their first pick in the seventh round (185th overall), the Predators selected forward Wade Murphy from Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League. The 5-10, 174-pound forward earned a BCHL First Team All-Star Team selection after tallying 70 points (23g-47a) in 50 games in 2012-13. A season prior, Murphy posted 91 points (36g-55a) in 60 games split between Victoria and Penticton. The Victoria, B.C., native will suit up for the University of North Dakota in 2013-14.
“He’s a 5-11 guy,” Preds North American Amateur Scout Glen Sanders said. “He’s very skilled and plays a lot like Tyler Bozak in Toronto. He has the skills to score goals. He’s competitive on the puck. We liked his hockey sense and he’s going to a good program in North Dakota for the next couple of years, so we think highly of him down the road. His year was very good. They had a very good hockey team in Penticton Vees. They went all the way last year and won the BCHL Championship in tier-2 hockey. This year they came back and didn’t quite make it all the way, but he was very successful and scored some big goals. We liked the whole package.”
Nashville rounded out the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with its selection of goaltender Janne Juvonen (203rd overall). Juvonen becomes the second netminder and third selection from Finland’s Jr. A SM-Liiga chosen by the Predators. During the 2012-13 season, the 6-1, 183-pound goalie posted a 2.97 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in 11 games for Lahti’s Jr. A squad, and 3.51 goals-against average and a .884 save percentage in four games with Lahti’s SM-Liiga team in 2012-13. The Kiihtelvsvaara, Finland native played five games for his home country during the 2013 World Juniors, posting a 2.47 goals-against average and a 923 save percentage. Juvonen also shares a birthday (10/3/94) with Nashville’s first-round pick Seth Jones.
“He was kind of hard to scout this year,” Kekalainen said. “He was kind of in-between in many situations. He’s a young kid. He was the third or fourth goalie for his men’s league team. He was too good to play in juniors, but was behind on the national teams. He didn’t get to play a lot. Every time I saw him play, he was excellent. He has a very strong mindset in the net and on the ice. He’s calm, doesn’t get rattled about anything. He’s been in some high-pressure situations and shown great ability to stay calm and excel in tough spots. He’ll get a great chance to play next year and even be a number one goalie on his men’s league team in Finland. I see a lot of talent and ability in him. He needs to become better in practice and there’s still a lot of developing to do, but the talent is there and he needs to mature a little bit. Then, he can be a terrific goalie.”
For more quotes and comments from the Predators Hockey Operations staff regarding players chosen in this weekend’s draft, visit Predators Draft Central at nashvillepredators.com.
The Nashville Predators’ top prospects, including several of this year’s picks, are expected to participate in the club’s 2013 Development Camp, officially opening on Sunday, July 7 at Centennial Sportsplex.
The complete list of Nashville’s 2013 draft selections follows:
Round Overall No. Name Pos. Team
1 4 Seth Jones D Portland (WHL)
3 64 Jonathan-Ismael Diaby D Victoriaville (QMJHL)
4 95 Felix Girard F Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
4 99 Juuse Saros G HPK (Finland Jr.)
5 125 Saku Maenalanen F Karpat (Finland Jr.)
5 140 Teemu Kivihame D Burnsville (HS-MN)
6 155 Emil Pettersson F Timra (Sweden-2)
6 171 Tommy Veilleux F Victoriaville (QMJHL)
7 185 Wade Murphy F Penticton (BCHL)
7 203 Janne Juvonen G Lahti (Finland Jr.)
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