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Predators 2014 NHL Entry Draft Preview

Tuesday, 06.24.2014 / 8:00 AM CT / News
By Matthew Bontorin
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Predators 2014 NHL Entry Draft Preview

Despite the 2014-15 season still being months away, NHL General Managers will agree that the next few weeks are the busiest of the year. With GM Meetings in New York, the NHL Awards in Las Vegas and the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, team officials will be racking up some frequent-flyer miles as they travel across the country. In the midst of the events, Predators General Manager David Poile returned to Nashville to meet with members of the media to discuss Friday’s NHL Entry Draft.

“It’s going to be a busy time for our entire organization,” Poile said. “Like I say every year, this is the lifeblood of the Predators.”

Poile and his team of advisors will head to Philadelphia for the draft after hiring a new coaching staff earlier this summer. This will be the first time in franchise history that Poile will be filling a roster for someone other than Barry Trotz. Despite the changes that Poile foresees with the hire of new coach Peter Laviolette, he isn’t letting it alter how he manages the draft.

“I think our template is out there regardless of who the coach is,” Poile said. “I have to stay true to what I’ve always said in that you have to take the best player in the draft and shuffle the deck accordingly.”

Despite being comfortable with their spot in the first round, Poile has proven that he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a trade that can land him a proven NHL commodity. Poile enters this year’s draft with both their first and second-round picks, something that hasn’t happened since 2009. Poile sent a second-rounder to Edmonton for Dennis Grebeshkov in 2010, before dealing first-round picks to Ottawa and Buffalo for Mike Fisher and Paul Gaustad in 2011 and 2012.

“I’m always very bullish on the draft and all the possibilities that exist,” Poile said, who has made 27 draft-day deals in the 15 years as the Predators General Manager.

This year, Poile isn’t shy in saying he is looking to acquire a forward that can provide quality offensive production. Whether that be through the draft or via trade remains to be seen.

“If I we’re trading our first-round pick it would be strictly for a top-six forward,” Poile said. “I’m not predicting that it’s going to happen but if someone wanted the 11th pick and they had that type of player I would be very open to discussing it.”

If the Predators were to hang on to their first-round pick they have a number of options that could be available at 11. Forwards Nikolaj Ehlers, Nick Ritchie, Brendan Perlini, Jake Virtanen, Dylan Larkin and Kasperi Kapanen have all been featured on the Predators website in a draft preview series. Each one of these players have fairly different styles of play but all have one thing in common, outstanding offensive production.

“We know certainly in the area of a few players who we’re going to get. There are two outstanding defensemen in this draft (Aaron Ekblad and Hayden Fleury) but we certainly would favor a forward,” Poile said.

Despite missing the playoffs this past year, Poile is optimistic with the direction of the team, particularly the prospects they have acquired in recent drafts.

“I think our scouts have done a real good job of filling up the cupboard again to improve our overall depth,” Poile said. “The depth is getting back to the level to which I think you need to be successful in the National Hockey League. We’ve got some really good young players and another good draft here could put us in really good shape.”

Poile mentioned youngsters Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Austin Watson and Colton Sissons as players who will challenge for roster spots next year.

“In the last two or three drafts we’ve gotten players that can play on our team this year,” Poile said. “Along with the trades we’ve made for Jarnkrok and Forsberg, we have some talented young players.”

With the wealth of youth in the Predators system, Poile may be more inclined to shopping the 11th pick. This would put more emphasis on finding talent in the later rounds.

“If we’re going to be successful we need to find talent in every round,” Poile said. “This is what you dream about; it’s Patric Hornqvist in the seventh round or Pekka Rinne in the eighth round. That’s the stuff that makes your franchise successful.”

The Predators will enter the draft with a total of eight draft picks, with two in the second-round. While reflecting on the GM Meetings in New York, Poile admitted his two second-round picks were drawing more attention than the Predators first-round pick.

“What I’ve been approached about most is the fact that we have two second round picks. Some teams who have later first-round picks have asked whether we had some interest in shopping our two second-round picks for a first.”

Whatever direction Poile decides to go in, he stresses the idea of building a successful team through the draft.

“You look back at the history of our franchise and you look at three or four drafts that stand out way above the others,” Poile said. “A couple years after those drafts the team seemed to take a significant step-up. That’s what we’re trying to achieve with this draft.”

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 58 36 18 4 160 134 76
2 DAL 55 35 15 5 178 147 75
3 STL 57 31 17 9 138 133 71
4 LAK 54 33 18 3 151 128 69
5 COL 58 29 25 4 155 160 62
6 SJS 53 28 20 5 154 143 61
7 ANA 53 26 19 8 120 125 60
8 NSH 55 25 21 9 142 148 59
9 ARI 54 25 23 6 143 164 56
10 MIN 54 23 21 10 133 134 56
11 VAN 54 22 20 12 125 144 56
12 CGY 54 25 26 3 144 160 53
13 WPG 54 24 27 3 139 157 51
14 EDM 56 22 29 5 138 168 49

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Josi 55 11 29 -2 40
F. Forsberg 55 18 18 -7 36
S. Weber 55 14 21 -5 35
M. Ribeiro 55 6 28 3 34
J. Neal 55 20 13 18 33
M. Ekholm 55 6 19 3 25
R. Ellis 54 6 16 2 22
C. Smith 55 11 7 -1 18
C. Jarnkrok 54 9 8 0 17
C. Wilson 38 4 12 -1 16
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 20 18 8 .902 2.57
C. Hutton 5 2 1 .916 2.36