Nashville Predators general manager David Poile was significantly less active on the phones at the 2015 NHL Draft compared to last year when he made three trades on the draft floor. Two trades with the San Jose Sharks only involved picks, and the other was a blockbuster deal acquiring James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. At this year’s draft, Poile did not make a trade.
If there was one position the Predators needed to address at the draft, it was defense. Instead, the Preds focused on centers, selecting four with its seven picks. Nashville drafted just one defenseman, in addition to two goalies.
Let’s take a look at the newest members of the Preds’ organization.
Iakov Trenin – C (55th overall)
After going ten years without drafting a Russian-born player, the Predators have selected two in consecutive years. The Chelyabinsk, Russia native was a point-per-game player for the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL scoring 67 points (18 goals, 49 assists) in 58 games. Trenin has all the traditional Russian assets of great hands and speed, but he also plays a physical game. At 6-foot-2, 194 pounds he already has the size to be a dominant force in the NHL. The one downside to Trenin’s game is his lack of defensive awareness.
For North Americans, there is always a “Russian factor” at the draft. Some teams stay away from Russians because they can easily be poached by the KHL. In Trenin’s case, he has committed to play in North America.
Predators North American Amateur Scout J-P Glaude said in a press release:
“I would say Trenin’s biggest strength would be his hockey sense. The way he understands the game, the way he puts himself always in the right spot and the way he helps his defensemen and will be on the attack. I really see him as a top-two center in the NHL. He will put points on the board and coaches will love to have him and put him any situation.”
Thomas Novak – C (85th overall)
Last season with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks, Novak ranked second on the team in scoring with 48 points (14 g, 34 a) in 45 games. Establishing himself as a play-maker, Novak’s 34 assists was a team best. The River Falls, Wisconsin native committed to the University of Minnesota for the fall of 2015.
Novak should have no issue finding a buddy at Nashville’s development camp in the next few years. He and defenseman Jack Dougherty, selected in the second round by the Predators in 2014, were teammates at St. Thomas Academy from 2011-13.
From Chris Dilks of SBNCollegeHockey.com:
Novak is an incredible stick-handler and passer. He possesses great hands and elite playmaking skills. He might be among the best in the Draft when it comes to creating scoring opportunities.
The negative on Novak is that he can be too much of a one-way player. He’s not very effective outside of the offensive zone, and there are questions about his size and strength. Also, he’s not as strong of a finisher as he is as a set-up man.
Predators North American Amateur Scout David Westby said in a press release:
“Thomas Novak is a good skating and skilled offensive center. He really sees the ice well and he’s got great offensive instincts; he makes plays and he can also shoot the puck. He is coming from a good program [Waterloo] with a good coach who has been there for many years and he really helps develop kids; I feel very comfortable taking Thomas or any other player from that program.”
Anthony Richard – C (100th overall)
Of the seven players the Preds selected, Richard is the most intriguing. In his third season with the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL last year, the Trois-Rivieres, Quebec native led the team in goals at 43 and tallied 91 points in 66 games. Despite being 5-foot-9, 165-pounds, Richard is gritty. Last season, he racked up 78 penalty minutes. Many scouts compare Richard to the likes of Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins.
Fast skater that seems even quicker due to his constant motion .. dangles in and out of traffic areas, adding pressure that causes opponents to defensive breakdowns .. interprets game quickly in the offensive zone .. excellent puck control at top speeds .. possesses the capacity to corrals passes quickly without losing a step .. controls the puck well at top speeds .. doesn’t have a great shot but releases it so quickly with little warning that it catches opponents off-guard .. undersized forward who will have to improve his overall strength .. hesitant in his decision-making in the defensive zone .. can get in trouble when game is played tight due to his smaller size .. consistency from game to game remains a concern.
Glaude said in a press release:
“You know what you’re looking for right now in the NHL; you need a fast, competitive guy. Richard anticipates a lot; you see good offensive players that do that – having the sense to anticipate when it’s time. He plays with one speed and that’s what we like about him. It doesn’t matter who is in front of him, he just plays.”
Alexandre Carrier – D (115th overall)
There were plenty of excellent defensemen at this year’s draft, but not too many were as complete as Alexandre Carrier. The Quebec City native is as consistent as they come. Though Carrier is only 5-foot-11, 168-pounds, do not worry about his lack of size. Carrier uses the same training program as Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson, who is also small.
Carrier is teammates with Trenin, Nashville’s second round pick, in Gatineau. Last season, Carrier led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 55 points (12 g, 43 a) in 68 games.
Preds Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty said in a press release:
“He is really built as a defenseman for the way the game is played today. He’s a very good skater, he’s great on his edges and he’s got terrific hockey sense. He moves the puck really well, he can get up in the offense and he can play defensively. He plays huge minutes in all situations so we think he’s going to get better and better.”
Karel Vejmelka – G (145th overall)
After a year of not drafting a goaltender, the Predators selected two in 2015. The first goalie selected was Vejmelka, which was surprising given his low ranking entering the draft. Vejmelka was ranked fourteenth among European goalies by NHL Central Scouting. Nonetheless, he continues the trend of large goaltenders in the Preds’ organization standing at 6-foot-3, 203-pounds. Last season, Vejmelka recorded a 2.86 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in seven games for HC Dynamo Pardubice of the Czech Extraliga. He will once again play for Pardubice next season.
Preds European Scout Martin Bakula said in a press release:
“For his size (6-4, 200 pounds), Vejmelka is really mobile and smooth. He’s got lots of upside and his talent is great; I think he’s going to be a good goalie for our goalie coaches to work with. He’s in control of all of his moves and he doesn’t get out of position and controls the rebounds very well. He catches right, so I think that’s an advantage, but I think his biggest advantage is how smooth he is, he’s very mobile and can read the play.”
Tyler Moy – C (175th overall)
Nashville is going to have the smartest team in the NHL in a few years. Moy, a rising junior at Harvard University, is teammates with Preds prospect Jimmy Vesey. In 37 games last season, the San Diego, California native totaled 27 points (12 g, 15 a). According to The Harvard Crimson, which is an excellent read, Moy is a drawer in his spare time.
— Jimmy Vesey (@19Vesey) June 27, 2015
Preds North American Amateur Scout Tom Nolan said in a press release:
“He is very versatile; he’s played defense, he’s played wing, but he most recently was playing center and that’s where we see him going forward. He is a really smart, two-way guy that can skate, moves the puck well and knows how to use his body to shield and protect. You can rely on him in a lot of different situations, which is good, they guy can win draws and can play on the penalty kill and power play.”
Although Moy played wing at times for Harvard this season, his natural position is center. He could potentially blossom into an excellent defensive forward due to his strong defensive side and smart positioning. The size and strength that Moy has added to his 6’1” frame has enhanced those sides of his game, as well. He’s an excellent skater with good speed who transitions remarkably well. While Moy is more of a playmaker, he has shown that he can score goals when opportunities present themselves. He possesses nice hands and can make crisp passes.
Evan Smith – G (205th overall)
The other goalie Nashville drafted was Smith from the NAHL’s Austin Bruins, and he is much larger than Vejmelka. The native of Parker, Colorado is 6-foot-7, 205-pounds. Smith was dominant for the Bruins last season with a 12-1-1 record, 1.73 GAA and .923 save %, earning a spot at the NAHL Top Prospects Game. He will be playing for the WHL’s Victoria Royals next season.
Preds Amateur Scout Ryan Rezmierski said in a press release:
“Smith is an athletic kid; he moves well and covers a lot of the net. He covers a lot of the ice. He’s really competitive, he’s focused and he’s mentally strong. He’s got a really good on-ice coverage, his ice awareness is good, his legs cover, he seals the ice well and moves into pucks well because of his size.”
Subscribe to our Predators stories to get email updates every time a new story is published.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.