The Nashville Predators' brass leaves the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in Newark, New Jersey as a better team. A total of ten players are inserted into the Predators' organization and hopefully help the NHL club in the foreseeable future. Four Canadians, three Fins, two Americans and one Swede were drafted by Nashville. The most surprising number is the amount of Finnish players that were drafted, meaning scouts Janne Kekalainen and Lucas Bergman of Finland and Sweden, respectively, had a lot of say in the decision making.
Predators Draft Class of 2013
Seth Jones - D
What a steal the Nashville Predators made at fourth overall. Seth Jones was projected to go first overall, but the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning foolishly allowed him to slip. Now, he wants to make them pay.
With Jones now in the fold at defense, the Predators' defense core is completely set for the next few years. Although Barry Trotz said immediately after they made the selection that Jones was going to be paired with Shea Weber, he is now having second thoughts since both are right-handed shooters. But that will be decided during and after training camp whether two right-handed defensemen could work.
Last season, the 18 year old played in the Western Hockey League, where he was a dominating force with Preds prospect Brendan Leipsic on the Portland Winterhawks. In 61 games last season, Jones totaled 56 points (14g, 42a) and a +46 rating.
Hockey's Future's analysis on Jones is, "[A] pro-sized defenseman. Very good range and lateral movement. Deceptively fast due to long, effortless stride. Intelligent puck mover."
Jones has voices from every which direction driving him to succeed. His agent and world famous hip-hop artist Jay-Z will not tolerate failure and his father, Popeye, was a NBA player. The Plano, Texas native is ready to work in order to win a Stanley Cup.
Without a doubt Jones is NHL ready. Said Poile, "This is the first time we have actually drafted the number one guy on our draft board."
See our full story on Jones being selected fourth overall here.
Seth can be found on Twitter, @seth_jones3.
Jonathan-Ismael Diaby - D
With the 64th overall pick and their second pick of the draft the Predators selected, well, another defenseman. Possibly the thought process behind this pick as it neutralizing their first pick, who was Seth Jones, an offensive-defenseman. Jonathan-Ismael Diaby is the complete opposite of Jones in that he focuses more on defense and isn't afraid to throw out punishing hits and dropping the gloves. He is a tough guy.
See our full story on Diaby here.
Jonathan can be found on Twitter, @Jonathan_Diaby.
Felix Girard - C
Felix Girard of Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL was selected 95th overall by the Predators. In his interview after being selected, he describe himself as the prototypical Trotz forward--a role player who plays solid defense and can produce offensively. Last season with the Drakkar, Girard posted 61 points (23g, 38a) in 58 games and +18 rating.
"Tough under-6-footer who plays a hard-nosed game for 60 minutes," Bill Placzek of Draftsite.com said. "He is an energy player who has some skill, good feet, and lots of sandpaper. He was named to the Hockey Canada's National Men's Summer Under-18 Team selection camp that will compete at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. "
Girard isn't afraid to stand up for his teammates and drop the gloves. Below is a video of Girard standing up for his teammate after Jonathan Diaby, who is now a teammate of his, charged at him.
Juuse Saros - G
At 99th overall, Nashville selected netminder Juuse Saros. The Finland native is 5'10, something the Predators have not seen in size with their guys between the pipes. Due to his lack of height, Saros has been forced to face adversity, but so far, he has responded well to it in the Jr. SM-liiga. Last year, he was able to give HPK their first championship.
The Predators got a steal with this pick. Saros is ranked first overall amongst European goaltenders by the NHL's Central Scouting Agency. Hopefully, he can be of good use to the Admirals and Predators in the future. Poile said after the draft that he is a tremendous athlete and was apparently up in spirits over the pick.
"Smaller, stocky goaltender playing in the U-20 of Finland with considerable success," said Bill Placzek of Draftsite.com. "Years away from consideration as a possible pro goaltender, but shows excellent skills and upside. He was selected to the roster for the World Junior Under-18 Tournament in April and showed off his lightning quick reflexes, but the fact that he is undersized may see teams passing on him altogether."
See our full story on Saros, here.
Saku Maenalanen - RW
Saku Maenalanen is surely not a small guy. The 6'3, 183lbs 19-year old was drafted 125th overall by Nashville. After doing well in the Jr. A SM-liiga last year scoring 23 goals and 35 assists in 45 games, Maenalanen is gearing up to play with the adults next season with Karpat in the SM-liiga. He has so far represented Finland ten times and is expected to represent them in the 2014 U20 World Juniors Championship.
"Second year eligible winger with good feet, burst, agility who has caught up with to his growth spurt and has shed the awkwardness that was present earlier," Bill Placzek of Draftsite.com said. "He was selected to the roster for the World Junior Under-18 Tournament in April, and it provided him with platform to show his improvements as a possible NHLer player due to his all around versatility. big body that finishes checks, and plays a robust all-in style combined with some offensive upside. He may not project as a high end guy, and needs to get stronger, but he may eventually be able to slide up & down through the bottom nine."
Teemu Kivihalme - D
Burnsville High School junior Teemu Kivihalme's dreams came true after being selected by Nashville in the 5th round. After being selected, he could not stop smiling during his interview. The Finnish-American ranked first among high school defensemen in the NHL CSS's rankings. Once he graduates in 2014, he will go to Colorado College to continue his hockey career.
In August, Kivihalme will be playing for Team USA in the Ivan Hlinka tournament. In past years, he has trained with Finland's U16 and U17 program. Thanks to his dual citizenship, he can don the red, white and blue.
Said Bill Placzek of Draftsite.com, "His all-around skill set and abilities project him as an excellent long-term developmental defenseman. Not flashy, but all around effective in all phases. He plays with a high compete level and physicality you expect from much bigger defenders. Four direction mobility guy who shows as much aggression on as he does jump in transition. He is a good shooter too. Has excellent speed and mobility and closes gaps very well. Solid in his end, where he will work the wall hard. Has a good wide frame with room to fill it in. His smooth skating combined with good stick-handling and passing ability provide him with the tools to work the transition. Committed to Colorado College. "
Teemu can be found on Twitter, @tkivi_26.
Emil Pettersson - C
One thing Emil Pettersson needs to do is gain weight. He is currently listed at 6'1, 159lbs. Elite Prospects' analysis on Pettersson is: "Technically very skilled player. Good puckhandling and hockey sense. Solid skater. Creative with the puck. Needs to become stronger."
Last season, Pettersson averaged a point per game with Timra Jr. in the SuperElit. Next year, the 19 year old will play in the much better Allsvenskan with Timra.
Emil can be found on Twitter, @epetttersson.
Tommy Veilleux - LW
Victoriaville winger Tommy Veilleux was selected in the 6th round by Nashville. Last season, Veilleux totaled 129 penalty minutes in 66 games in the QMJHL. The newest tough guy compared his game to the likes of Jordin Tootoo, but Tootoo was actually a point producer in the juniors, so it is uncertain to how far Veilleux goes in his career.
One thing he needs to work on is skating. His first stride, which gives a player the power, is weak. If he improves that, there is a chance he can make it to the NHL.
“He’s kind of an Andrew Shaw-type player,” Predators North American amateur scout Tom 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.”
Tommy can be found on Twitter, @17Veilleux.
Wade Murphy - RW
It took until the seventh round before Wade Murphy was selected. Earlier this year he just graduated from high school and will be attending the University of North Dakota this fall. Last season, he played hockey in the BCHL with the Penticton Vees. In 50 games, Murphy totaled 70 points (23g, 47a).
“He’s a 5-11 guy,” Preds North American Amateur Scout Glen Sanders told NashvillePredators.com. “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.”
Janne Juvonen - G
With the Preds' last and final pick of the draft, they elected to select goaltender Janne Juvonen. Janne Kekalainen, Preds' European scout, called this selection his "darkhorse pick", similar to what they did with Pekka Rinne. The 6'1 Finland native will play with the Pelicans next year in the SM-liiga. Just last winter, Juvonen played in five games for Team Finland in the U20 World Juniors Championship posting a 2.47 GAA and .923 save percentage.
“He was kind of hard to scout this year,” Kekalainen told NP.com. “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.”
Janne can be found on Twitter, @Juvis41.
(Photo by: Bill Kostroun/AP)