The NHL Draft is on the horizon, and the Nashville Predators enter as the host city and one of the most intriguing teams to look out for. Many fans believe soon-to-be general manager Barry Trotz has a few more tricks up his sleeve as he prepares to re-tool his team. He has an abundance of picks, with ten picks in the first four rounds, including two first-round selections. The Predators pick four times in the top 50 of a draft considered one of the deepest, and the chances of landing four standout players are high. Here are three predictions of what could happen on Wednesday night.
Predators Won’t Select in the Top Five
The Predators started their pre-draft preparations with a bang when they traded Ryan Johansen to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Alex Galchenyuk. With plans of letting Galchenyuk off the hook to free agency, the move was a cap dump where they saved $4 million. Nashville now has over $19 million to play with and plenty of time to sign players, but Trotz has gone on record to say he’s working hard to obtain a top-four or top-five pick in this year’s draft. It would mean a potential trade set up with one of the Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks, or Montreal Canadiens.
This year’s first round has the potential to be the deepest in recent memory. Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli are all but guaranteed to go first and second, respectively, while names like Leo Carlsson and Will Smith are top-five considerations. The Predators own the 15th and 24th picks in the first round, but this alone may not be enough to push their way up the draft order. Considering the Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes have a pair of first-round picks with higher value, Trotz will hit the stage on June 28 on two occasions unless something more interesting happens.
Predators Will Draft a Goaltender in the Second Round
Once the dust settles on Day 1 of the draft, the Predators will kick off the second round with the 46th and 47th picks. One position they can consider improving is their goaltender depth, which features star netminder Juuse Saros and their future in Yaroslav Askarov. It also helps that Pekka Rinne is joining the team as a European development coach and scout, which holds heavy implications that they’ll focus on drafting and developing out of Europe. As a former goaltender for the Predators, Rinne is the perfect candidate to help guide current and future goaltending prospects to shine in North America.
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One name that jumps to mind is Michael Hrabal of Czechia, a monster 6-foot-6 goaltender who also happens to be one of the top eligible goaltending prospects. He played with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League (USHL) in 2022-23 and is committed to the University of Massachusetts for next season. His transition to North American hockey received a jump start already, and the mentorship of Rinne could be a difference maker in Hrabal’s graduation to pro. If he is available by the time the Predators select in Round 2, there’s a good chance Hrabal is one of their targets.
Predators Won’t Land Alex DeBrincat
The last time the Predators traded a first-round pick was in 2018 when they acquired Ryan Hartman from the Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, they’ve held on to their draft stock and made calculated decisions on building areas of weakness in their pipeline. Alex DeBrincat’s name is picking up steam as an eventual departure from the Ottawa Senators that could occur on the draft floor. The Predators were among the few teams listed as preferred landing spots for the high-scoring forward, and with multiple picks in the first few rounds, the chances are good for Trotz to land him.
The move would also make sense with the shedding of Johansen’s contract, but the deal will ultimately crumble once the price of acquiring him goes up. Unfortunately for Predators fans, the Red Wings are also pursuing DeBrincat and possess higher-value draft selections and the openness of trading younger players away. Trotz would ultimately have to table an offer of at least one of his first-round selections and one or two mid-to-high-level prospects, making it a high-risk trade. He does play right wing and centre, two positions the Predators need to improve on, but the cost could be too high for Trotz.
Predators fans can expect Trotz to be among the most active general managers on the draft floor this year. With Nashville hosting this year’s draft and Trotz becoming the new head of the table, it could be one of the most exciting years for the team in recent memory.