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Preds Prospects Playing Around the Globe in 2008-09

Saturday, 10.18.2008 / 5:58 PM / Features
By Kevin Wilson  - Nashville Predators
From the Canadian West Coast to America’s Heartland, to the Swiss Alps and Scandinavia, Nashville Predators prospects are littered across the hockey map in 2008-09. Since 2005-06, NHL teams have relied on their American Hockey League affiliates – in Nashville’s case, the Milwaukee Admirals – to develop prospects more than ever. As a result, the Predators have 11 forwards, four defensemen and two goalies honing their skills with second-year head coach Lane Lambert and the Admirals. Included in that group are six prospects playing their first North American professional seasons: Western Hockey League 2007-08 scoring champ Mark Santorelli, 2007 second-round pick Nick Spaling, free-agent signee Ian McKenzie, Teemu Laakso and Robert Dietrich – each of whom have European professional experience, and Colgate University alum Mark Dekanich.

“We find that time in Milwaukee is a great introduction to professional hockey,” Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton said. “Junior hockey guys like Spaling have been fortunate to play in excess of 80 to 90 games a year, but when you put them in this environment with bigger, stronger men, they really learn the grind of pro hockey and what it takes to get to the next level. College guys on the other hand, who only play 34 to 40 games in a season, have an extended learning time, because they tend to hit the wall and have to resurrect their conditioning and mindset – that is why it is imperative for them to work during summer to be ready to handle the rigors of long season. That is part of their professional education.”

“Europeans are right in the middle of the college and junior players. They can play upwards of 60 games a season in their homelands, but play a different style. Much of the transition for them deals with the life skills of a new environment and the language barrier. We try to integrate them during the summer to enable them to form ties early, because there are fears for some of these guys to overcome.”

Nashville also has seven prospects playing for six different universities in the NCAA ranks. 2008 first-round pick Colin Wilson returns for his sophomore season at Boston University (Hockey East) and he is joined in the northeastern U.S. by the backbone of R.P.I.’s (ECAC) defensive corps, sophomore Jeff Foss. In the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, Notre Dame forwards Ben Ryan and Ryan Thang will be looking to make a return trip to the National Championship Game after reaching college hockey’s penultimate match last April. Ohio State’s Tyler Stefishen joins them in the CCHA after an outstanding year with Langley (BCHL) a season ago. The Predators are also represented in the WCHA by a pair of third-year players in Wisconsin’s Blake Geoffrion (from Brentwood, Tenn.) and Minnesota’s Ryan Flynn.

“We are always looking for the best player, so it is just by coincidence that so many are in the college ranks right now,” Predators Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty said. “Some of the benefits of having these guys playing college hockey though, are that they have more time to develop, instead of just a two-year or sometimes a one-year window that you can run across with some prospects. College guys also get more strength and conditioning training, as all the programs have full-time people devoted to that aspect of development, but at the same time, they don’t get to play as many games.”

The Predators are the thinnest they have been in years when it comes to prospects in the Canadian major junior ranks, with just three. 2007 first-round pick Jonathon Blum will captain the Vancouver Giants in his fourth and final year with the club, and he is joined in the Western Hockey League by another 2008 first rounder – goaltender Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans. Nashville’s other junior hockey player is 2007 second-round pick Jeremy Smith, the Plymouth Whalers backstop in the Ontario Hockey League.

“It is beneficial for both these goalies to be with their respective teams in major junior because they are the go-to guys, playing a lot of hockey and seeing a lot of shots,” Kealty said. “They don’t have as long a time to develop, but have lots of talent, and will get to work with Predators Goaltender Coach Mitch Korn on a day-to-day basis next season as pros.

“Blum is a hockey player, and he flat out knows how to play. The fact that he has played more than 100 games last two seasons with Vancouver is invaluable.”

Though the crop has dwindled over the years with the infusion of young talent to Milwaukee, the Preds still have several prospects overseas, with the most notable being 2008 second-round selection Roman Josi. A blueliner plying his trade with Bern of the Swiss League this season, Nashville traded up in the second round to secure Josi’s services for years to come.

“Josi is an extremely intelligent defenseman that is very mobile and sees the ice extremely well,” Predators European Scout Lucas Bergman said. “I’ve seen him in the Swiss Elite League and seen him run the power-play in the men’s league over there as an 18-year-old. His strength is his hockey sense and he already plays a very smooth and effortless-looking game.”

Though many of them are comfortable with their teams and careers in their homelands, here is a comprehensive list of all players who are currently “property” of the Predators, but are not at the NHL level.

FORWARD
Ht
Wt

Place of Birth

DOB
 

2008-09 Team

Jonas Andersson

6-3
204
Stockholm, Sweden
2/24/81
 

Karpat Oulu (Finland)

Stanislav Balan

6-2
161

Hodonin, Czech Rep.

1/30/86
 

RI OKNA Zlin (CzRep)

Matt Ellison

6-0
192
Duncan, B.C.
12/8/83
 

Dynamo Riga (KHL)

Ryan Flynn

6-2
214
St. Paul, MN
3/22/88
 
U. of Minnesota (WCHA)

Blake Geoffrion

6-1
191
Plantation, FL
2/3/88
 
U. of Wisconsin (WCHA)

Konstantin Glazachev

6-0
186
Arkhangelsk, Russia
2/18/85
 

Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL)

Jani Lajunen

6-1
174
Helsinki, Finland
6/16/90
 

Espoo (Finland)/Espoo Jr. (Fin-Jr.)

Ian McKenzie

6-5
222
Weyburn, Sask.
5/23/87
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Ryan Maki

6-2
207
Medford, NJ
4/23/85
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Cal O'Reilly

6-0
187
Toronto, Ont.
9/30/86
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Antti Pihlstrom

5-10
181
Vantaa, Finland
10/22/84
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Denis Platonov

6-3
205
Saratov, Russia
11/6/81
 

Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL)

Alexander Radulov

6-1
188
Nizhny Tagil, Russia
7/5/86
 

Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

Ben Ryan

5-11
190
Detroit, MI
10/16/88
 
U. of Notre Dame (CCHA)

Mark Santorelli

6-1
191
Burnaby, B.C.
8/6/88
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Michael Santorelli

6-0
196
Vancouver, B.C.
12/14/85
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Grigory Shafigulin

6-2
185
Chelyabinsk, Russia
1/13/85
 

Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)

Niko Snellman

6-3
208
Tampere, Finland
3/12/88
 

Ilves (Finland)/Ilves Jr. (Finland-Jr.)

Sergei Soin

6-0
185
Moscow, Russia
3/31/82
 

Severstal Cherepovets (KHL)

Nick Spaling

6-1
185

Palmerston, Ont.

9/19/88
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Taylor Stefishen

5-11
170
North Vancouver, B.C.
8/15/90
 

Ohio State University (CCHA)

Ryan Thang

5-11
190
Chicago, IL
5/11/87
 
U. of Notre Dame (CCHA)

Andreas Thuresson

6-1
208
Kristianstad, Sweden
11/18/87
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Colin Wilson

6-1
213
Greenwich, Conn.
10/20/89
 
Boston University (H-East)

Kelsey Wilson

6-1
218

Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

1/22/86
 
Milwaukee (AHL)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
DEFENSE
Ht
Wt

Place of Birth

DOB
 

2008-09 Team

Jonathon Blum

6-1
177
Long Beach, CA
1/30/89
 

Vancouver (WHL)

Robert Dietrich

5-10
172
Ordzhonikidze, Kazakhstan
7/25/86
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Jeffrey Foss

6-2
208
Fargo, N.D.
12/12/88
 

R.P.I. (ECAC)

Cody Franson

6-5
227

Salmon Arm, B.C.

8/8/87
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Roman Josi

6-1
185
Bern, Switzerland
6/1/90
 
Bern (Switzerland)

Denis Kulyash

6-3
199
Omsk, Russia
5/31/83
 

CSKA Moscow (KHL)

Teemu Laakso

6-1
211
Tuusula, Finland
8/27/87
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Anton Lavrentiev

6-4
196
Kazan, Russia
8/25/83
 

HK Chelny (Russia-3)

Alexander Sulzer

6-1
207
Kaufbeuren, Germany
5/30/84
 
Milwaukee (AHL)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
GOALTENDER
Ht
Wt

Place of Birth

DOB
 
2008-09 Team

Mark Dekanich

6-2
196
North Vancouver, B.C.
5/10/86
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Atte Engren

6-1
194
Rauma, Finland
2/19/88
 

TPS Turku (Finland)

Anders Lindback

6-6
198
Gavle, Sweden
5/3/88
 

Brynas (Sweden)

Drew MacIntyre

6-2
185
Charlottetown, P.E.I.
6/24/83
 
Milwaukee (AHL)

Chet Pickard

6-2
220
Moncton, N.B.
11/29/89
 

Tri-City (WHL)

Jeremy Smith

6-0
168
Dearborn, MI
4/13/89
 
Plymouth (OHL)

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