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Sitting Down With Asst. GM Paul Fenton

Tuesday, 02.01.2011 / 7:18 PM / Features
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators
Predators Assistant General Manager sits down to review Nashville’s top prospects flourishing around the globe

On the Predators collegiate prospects that have impressed him the most…
Did You Know...
Smith was selected 98th overall (fourth round) in the 2009 Entry Draft and is in his sophomore season with the Badgers. Ryan is a senior with the Fighting Irish. The Predators picks him 114th overall (fourth round) in the 2007 Entry Draft.
I would say Craig Smith at the University of Wisconsin. Craig Smith has probably been the most impressive. I think he is in the top four in the nation in scoring. He continues to get better, and play with the urgency that we saw in the draft year. He’s getting closer and closer to being a pro, and we’ve just got to let him now determine where he’s going to be. Ben Ryan at Notre Dame has also played pretty well this year. He’s played both wing and center, so he’s still trying to find his niche as to where he’s going to be. We think going forward here he’s probably going to be what we project a two-way center for us.


On the development of seniors Jeff Foss and Ben Ryan over their four years in college…
Ben Ryan has played the same way that we projected him out to be – as a consistent player night in and night out who can both put points on the board and defend. He is a Predator-type of guy, where everything that he does has purpose and detail to it. And Jeff Foss has just continued to get a little bit better every year on an RPI team that is among the Top 10 in the nation after struggling during his first two seasons there.

On college prospect Zach Budish and his injury…
He had his surgery on his ACL -- the other knee from two years ago. This didn’t happen on the ice. It was a fluke accident off of a scooter. So, the problem with Zach is now he’ll have missed two of his last three years as far as from a hockey development standpoint. So, we’ve got to see how he is come the summertime, but we're hopeful for a full recovery. A couple of our guys had been in to see him early in the season, and he looked like he was playing with the confidence that he probably missed from a year of injury. His freshman year he just got his feet back underneath him, was learning to play through maybe some doubt that you have in your mind sometimes after an injury, and this year -- his sophomore year -- he was on the right path.

On which Junior prospects are turning heads…
Did You Know...
Beck and Latta both play for the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm, and were tabbed within two picks of each other in the third round of the 2009 Draft (70th and 72nd overall). Watson – Nashville’s first choice, 18th overall, in the 2010 Draft – is in his first full season with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes after being traded their last season.
First off, I think Taylor Beck and Mike Latta are almost averaging the exact amount of points per game. Taylor has more of a scoring touch and has done a real good job after he had some disappointment when he did not make Canada’s World Junior Championships team. But, we still see him as being a guy who can make an impact coming in next year to challenge for a job and develop in Milwaukee. Mike Latta has done the same thing. He’s just been a junkyard dog night in and night out. He’ll be a Predator guy that is reckoned with and chased around an awful lot for the type of game he plays. Austin Watson started out very slow but since then has almost got up to a point per game. He’s starting to develop, starting to become a man. He’s becoming a real strong kid; he’s working on his game off the ice to help him get that much stronger to be able to handle the weight and the number of minutes that he’s playing.

On 2009 second round pick Charles-Olivier Roussel
Well, Charlie is going to come out after this season, and he’ll play for us in Milwaukee. He still has some work to do on his skating and his conditioning. We need to be monitoring it so that we can push him and exceed his comfort level. When we do that, we think we’re going to see the real Charlie Roussel -- a top-notch two-way defenseman.

On the play of 2010 fifth-round pick Patrick Cehlin at the 2011 World Junior Championships…
Did You Know...
Cehlin was named one of Sweden’s three best players at the World Junior Championships after tying for the team lead in points (6gp, 4g-2a-6pts), tying for fifth among all skaters in goals and tying for sixth in the tournament in penalty minutes (18).
It was probably a coming out party for the rest of the hockey world, but our guys were really confident that he was going to be able to step up and show what he’s capable of. Predators European Scouts Lucas Bergman (Sweden), Janne Kekalainen (Finland) and Martin Bakula (Czech Republic) are really the guys that really endorsed him, and even though he had gone through the draft once without being picks, they were banging the table to say this is a guy we need – this is a guy that will impact our organization once he comes in. He’s done a great job playing in the Swedish Elite League this season, and we’re going to see if there is a possibility for bringing him over to North America for next year.

He’s a solid two-way guy, but probably has more offense to his game, maybe 60/40 offense/defense. Everything that he touches goes hard to the net. He’s an offensive type of catalyst that really pushes himself to be difficult to hold up.


On the play of another pair of European prospects, defenseman Mattias Ekholm, picked 102nd overall (fourth round) in the 2009 Draft, and Jani Lajunen, picked 201st overall in 2008…

He’s having a terrific season in terms of points in the Swedish Elite League, but the most interesting part for him is that he’s already played for two national teams, and he has a very good chance of playing for Sweden’s World Championship team the spring. And if that’s the case, then obviously his progression has even gone quicker than we could have imagined. He’s really on the right path to becoming a National Hockey League player, and I guess the sooner we can get him over here the better in terms of the organization.

I think that Jani Lajunen, who we plan on having come over to North America next year, has played very well in the Finnish League. He’s put on 15-20 pounds since we drafted him, and he’s just playing a big man’s game. He’s a guy that’s called upon at both special teams, especially the defensive position. We can see him coming over next year and having an impact on both Milwaukee and Nashville.


On which prospects are closest to becoming NHLers…
I would think that defensemen Roman Josi and Jonathon Blum are banging on the door here to become regulars, and I would think that (2009 first-round pick) Ryan Ellis is going to be pushing on that as well. I would say that those three would be the ones.

Among forwards, I could name as many guys as you want. Cehlin, Lajunen and (2010 seventh-round pick) Joonas Rask can come over. Blake Geoffrion could be close next year, as well as (2009 fifth rounder) Gabriel Bourque, Craig Smith and Taylor Beck can be close next year. We have a bunch of guys that are pushing for spots, and that’s the good thing. We have depth all the way through the organization. It’s not just in the defense position. I think we’ve done a really good job of balancing everything out.


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