Recently, I’ve been diving into David Poile’s draft history as general manager of the Nashville Predators. Since he’s been the franchise’s only GM, he’s been at the helm for every draft since 1998. Beginning with that first draft, I’m working forward to the present, with this installment covering the 2004 Draft. For reference, here are the drafts I’ve covered so far:
- 1998: Franchise’s Inaugural Draft
- 1999: Erat Leads to Forsberg
- 2000: Scott Hartnell and Nothing Else
- 2001: Hamhuis and Tootoo
- 2002: What was Poile Thinking?
- 2003: The Suter and Weber Draft
The 2004 Draft was another strong one league-wide. At the top were two Russian prospects, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, who went one-two to the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively. As of 2018-19, 128 of the 291 picks reached the NHL, 11 played in at least 800 games, both Ovechkin and Malkin reached 1,000 points with two more having a chance to join them, and two netminders have won more than 200 games. In total, three players accumulated more than 100 point shares.
For the Predators, what could have been a mediocre draft was saved when Poile used a late pick on certain Finnish netminder. Of the team’s 11 picks, four reached the NHL with three playing in more than 100 games, although only two did so with Nashville. Unfortunately, all of this new-found talent would have to wait a season before reaching the NHL as the 2004-05 season was cancelled due to a lockout. In the Predators’ case that may not have been big deal as the prospects they drafted weren’t ready. Here are the team’s picks from the 2004 Entry Draft, all 11 of them.
Early Rounds (1-3)
Round 1, 15th Overall – Alexander Radulov, RW (THK Tver, Russia2)
After a third-place finish and reaching the postseason for the first time in franchise history in 2003-04, the Predators possessed the 15th-overall pick in the 2004 Draft. They used it on Russian winger Alexander Radulov, drafting him out of Russia’s second-tier league, where he had 15 goals and 31 points in 42 games. He also represented Russia at the 2004 U18 Tournament, posting seven points in six games. He played the next two seasons with the Québec Remparts of the QMJHL, where he was better than a point-per-game player both seasons, including 61 goals and 152 points in 62 games in 2005-06.
He reached the NHL in 2006-07 and posted 18 goals and 37 points in 64 games as a rookie, finishing ninth in Calder Trophy voting. He was even better the next season with 26 goals and 58 points in 81 games. After the 2007-08 season, he signed as a free agent with Ufa of the KHL. He played in the KHL through 2011-12, and with the Predators still owning his rights, he rejoined them for nine games at the end of the 2011-12 season. He once again left for the KHL, this time playing with CSKA Moscow, with whom he played through the 2015-16 season. During the 2016 offseason, Radulov signed with the Montreal Canadiens, ending his Predators tenure with 154 games, 47 goals, 102 points, and 12.8 point shares.
He played one season with Montreal before signing with the Dallas Stars in 2017-18. He remained with them as of 2018-19 and had eclipsed the 25-goal and 70-point marks in both seasons. For his NHL career, he had accumulated 382 games, 121 goals, 300 points, and 35.9 point shares. In addition to representing Russia at the 2004 U18 Tournament, Radulov also represented the nation at two World Junior Championships, two Winter Olympics, and five World Championships.
Missed Opportunity: David Krejci, C – Drafted 63rd overall by the Boston Bruins
Had Radulov not departed the NHL for Russia after two seasons, there wouldn’t be a missed opportunity for this pick. However, he did, and that’s why David Krejci is the missed opportunity. The Bruins drafted the Czech center late in the second round out of HC Kladno’s junior team. He played two seasons in the QMJHL before reaching the NHL in 2006-07. As of 2018-19, he’d played 13 seasons, all with Boston, with 850 games, 194 goals, 643 points, and 69.1 point shares. He won the 2011 Stanley Cup with the Bruins and had represented the Czech Republic at two Winter Olympics and three World Championships.
Round 3, 81st Overall – Vaclav Meidl, C (Plymouth Whalers, OHL)
With their third-round pick, the Predators drafted Czech center Vaclav Meidl from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers where he had 14 goals and 42 points in 67 games. He played three more seasons in the OHL, never turned pro in North America, and returned to the Czech Republic in 2006-07. As of 2018-19, he was still playing in the Chance Liga, the country’s second-tier league. He played the majority of his career in the Czech Republic with the only exception being parts of 2016-17 and 2017-18 when he played in Great Britain, Germany, and Poland.
Missed Opportunity: Alexander Edler, D – Drafted 91st overall by the Vancouver Canucks
Ten picks after Meidl was drafted, the Canucks picked defenseman Alexander Edler from MODO’s junior team in Sweden. He played one WHL season and reached the NHL in 2006-07. As of 2018-19, he’d played 13 seasons, all with Vancouver, and had totaled 814 games, 94 goals, 368 points, and 65.9 point shares. He also represented Sweden at one Winter Olympics and three World Championships.
Middle Rounds (4-6)
Round 4, 107th Overall – Nick Fugère, LW (Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL)
The Predators’ fourth-round pick was originally the Anaheim Ducks’ selection and became the Predators via a 2003 trade. The Predators used the pick on winger Nick Fugère out of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques where he had 10 goals and 23 points in 54 games his draft season. He played two more junior seasons, never turned pro and retired after the 2009-10 season, which he spent in the LNAH, a Canadian semi-pro league.
Missed Opportunity: Ryan Callahan, RW – Drafted 127th overall by the New York Rangers
Twenty spots after the Predators drafted Fugère, the New York Rangers drafted Ryan Callahan from the OHL’s Guelph Storm. He reached the NHL in 2006-07 and played for the Rangers until the 2014 Trade Deadline when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he remained as of 2018-19. He had played 13 seasons, including three as the Rangers’ captain, and had totaled 757 games, 186 goals, 386 points, and 41.3 point shares. He also represented the United States at two Winter Olympics and one World Championship.
Round 5, 139th Overall – Kyle Moir, G (Swift Current Broncos, WHL)
The first of two fifth-round picks for the Predators came from the Ducks in the same 2003 trade they acquired the Ducks’ fourth-round pick. They used it on goaltender Kyle Moir from the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos where he had a 2.90 goals-against average (GAA) and an .895 save percentage (SV%) in 46 games his draft season. He played three more seasons in the WHL, never signed with the Predators, and then played four seasons with Canada’s Lakehead University. He also played part of the 2010-11 season with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies and retired after 2011-12, which he spent with Eindhoven Kemphanen in the Netherlands.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 5, 147th Overall – Janne Niskala, D (Lukko, Liiga)
The Predators’ second fifth-round pick was their own and they used it on defenseman Janne Niskala from Lukko in Finland’s Liiga. He had 21 goals and 36 points in 55 games his draft season. He played one more season in the Liiga, and one each in Switzerland and Sweden before joining the Predators’ AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, in 2007-08. During the 2008 offseason, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and again to the Lightning. He reached the NHL with the Lightning in 2008-09, posting one goal and three points in six games. Those were the only NHL games of his career and he was worth 0.5 point shares.
Afterwards, he returned to Europe to play the remainder of the 2008-09 season and all of 2009-10 in Sweden. He later played four seasons in the KHL, and in 2018-19 he returned to Lukko where he served as team captain. He retired at season’s end. He also represented Finland at one Winter Olympics and five World Championships.
Missed Opportunity: Mikhail Grabovski, C – Drafted 150th overall by the Montreal Canadiens
The Predators missed out on center Mikhail Grabovski, selected three picks later by the Canadiens. They drafted him from the Russian Superleague where he had six goals and 17 points in 45 games. He played two more seasons in Russia before joining the Canadiens in 2006-07. They traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs in July 2008. He played five seasons with Toronto and also played for the Capitals and New York Islanders before concussion problems prematurely ended his career. Although still active as of 2018-19, he hadn’t played since 2015-16. For his career, he accumulated 534 games across 10 seasons with 125 goals, 296 points, and 30.7 point shares. He also represented Belarus at eight World Championships.
Round 6, 178th Overall – Mike Santorelli, C (Vernon Vipers, BCHL)
With their first sixth-round pick, their own, the Predators drafted center Mike Santorelli from the Vernon Vipers, a Canadian Junior A team. He had 43 goals and 96 points in 60 games his draft season. He followed up his junior career with three seasons at Northern Michigan University where he earned a spot on the conference’s first all-star team his junior season. He turned pro in 2007-08 and played the entire season with the Admirals. The next season he reached the NHL, playing in seven games, and followed that up with 25 NHL games in 2009-10.
In Aug. 2010, the Predators traded him to the Florida Panthers for a fourth-round pick. He played two and a half seasons with Florida before the Winnipeg Jets claimed him off waivers in April 2013. He also played for the Canucks and Maple Leafs before the Predators reacquired him in a Feb. 2015 trade that sent Olli Jokinen the other way. He played 22 games with the Predators the remainder of the 2014-15 season. He signed with the Ducks for the 2015-16 season and left North America at season’s end to play 2016-17 in Switzerland. He retired afterwards. He ended his Predators tenure with 54 games, three goals, seven points, and minus-0.8 point shares. For his NHL career he played in 406 games across eight seasons, scored 64 goals and 138 points, and was worth 11.8 point shares.
Missed Opportunity: Roman Polak, D – Drafted 180th overall by the St. Louis Blues
Just two picks after the Predators drafted Santorelli, the St. Louis Blues took defenseman Roman Polak from HC Vitkovice’s junior team in the Czech Republic. He played the next season in the WHL, returned to the Czech Republic for the 2005-06 season, and reached the NHL in 2006-07. He played eight seasons with the Blues before they dealt him to the Maple Leafs in 2014. He also played for the San Jose Sharks, spent another stint with the Maple Leafs, and as of 2018-19, was playing for the Stars. In 13 NHL seasons, he totaled 765 games, 26 games, 136 points, and 33.3 point shares. He also represented the Czech Republic at one Winter Olympics, one World Cup of Hockey, and two World Championships.
Round 6, 193rd Overall – Kevin Schaeffer, D (Boston University, NCAA)
The Predators’ other sixth-round pick was originally the Lightning’s and they used it on defenseman Kevin Schaeffer. They drafted him from Boston University where he had five goals and 17 points in 38 games his draft season. He played three more seasons with the Terriers, helping them win the Hockey East Conference his junior season. The Predators never signed him and he turned pro with the Boston Bruins’ AHL and ECHL affiliates in 2007-08. He played three more seasons of professional hockey and retired after the 2010-11 season. He never reached the NHL.
Missed Opportunity: Anton Khudobin, G – Drafted 206th overall by the Minnesota Wild
The Predators should have drafted goaltender Anton Khudobin, who the Wild drafted from Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Russian junior league. He played the next season in the WHL, spent 2006-07 with Magnitogorsk, and played in the AHL and ECHL in 2007-08. He reached the NHL in 2009-10, and as of 2018-19, had 10 NHL seasons under his belt, playing for five teams. He had appeared in 188 games with an 83-68-21 record, a .917 SV%, a 2.49 goals-against average, and was worth 33.0 point shares. He had also represented Russia at two World Championships.
Late Rounds (7-9)
Round 7, 209th Overall – Stanislav Balan, C (HC Zlin U20, Czech U20)
With their seventh-round pick, the Predators drafted center Stanislav Balan from the Czech junior league. He had 23 goals and 56 points in 53 games his draft season. He spent another season with HC Zlin and played 2005-06 in the WHL before returning to the Czech Republic. The Predators never signed him and he never played professionally in North America. Instead, he spent his entire career in Europe, and played 2018-19 in the Czech Extraliga.
Missed Opportunity: Troy Brouwer, RW – Drafted 214th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks
Five picks after the Predators drafted Balan, the Chicago Blackhawks drafted future Stanley Cup winner Troy Brouwer. They drafted him out of the WHL and he reached the NHL in 2006-07. He played five seasons in Chicago, winning the 2010 Stanley Cup with them, and also played for the Capitals, Blues, and Calgary Flames. He spent the 2018-19 season with the Panthers. In his 13 NHL seasons, he played in 838 games, scored 181 goals and 362 points, and was worth 34.8 point shares. He represented Canada at the 2014 World Championship.
Round 8, 243rd Overall – Denis Kulyash, D (CSKA Moscow, Russia Superleague)
In the eighth round, Poile took defenseman Denis Kulyash from CSKA Moscow of Russia’s Superleague. He played in 10 games and registered one point his draft season. The Predators never signed him and he stayed in Russia through 2017-18. In 2018-19, he split the season between the KHL and the Asia League. He represented Russia at one World Championship.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 8, 258th Overall – Pekka Rinne, G (Kärpät, Liiga)
That’s right, the Predators drafted their long-time franchise netminder in a round that no longer exists. Better yet, they didn’t even use their own pick on him, instead using a Lightning pick. The Predators drafted Pekka Rinne from Kärpät out of Finland’s Liiga where he had an .897 SV% and a 2.99 GAA in 14 appearances his draft season. Neither stat indicated the future success he’d have. He played one more season in the Liiga before leaving for North America, and he made his NHL debut in 2005-06, although he spent the majority of the season in the AHL.
He became a full-time NHL goaltender in 2008-09, making 52 appearances. He remained with the Predators through 2018-19 and was the franchise leader in point shares, wins, losses, goals-against average, shutouts, saves, and goals saved above average. After becoming Nashville’s starting goaltender, he made at least 50 starts in all but two seasons and won at least 40 games three times.
He finished as a Vezina Trophy finalist four times, winning the award in 2018, and was a two-time all-star. He also finished top-five in Hart Trophy voting once. The only thing missing from his mantle is a Stanley Cup, which he nearly earned in 2017 when he backstopped the Predators to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Internationally, he had represented Finland at four World Championships and one World Cup of Hockey.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 9, 275th Overall – Craig Switzer, D (Salmon Arm Silverbacks, BCHL)
With the Predators’ last pick of the 2004 Draft, Poile selected defenseman Craig Switzer from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, a Canadian Junior A team. He played four seasons with the University of New Hampshire and was named to the conference’s second all-star team as a senior. The Predators never signed him, but he turned pro in the ECHL in 2008-09. He played professionally in the AHL and ECHL through 2010-11 before leaving for Europe in 2011-12. He played in Denmark, Austria, and Japan before retiring after the 2014-15 season. He never reached the NHL.
Missed Opportunity: Jannik Hansen, LW – Drafted 287th overall by the Vancouver Canucks
Instead of drafting Switzer, the Predators should have used their last pick on Dane Jannik Hansen, drafted by the Canucks. They drafted Hansen out of the Danish league and he made his NHL debut in 2007-08. He played 10 seasons with the Canucks before they traded him to the Sharks at the 2017-18 deadline. He last played in the NHL in 2017-18 with the Sharks and accumulated 626 games, 109 goals, 256 points, and 26.9 point shares in his career. He played the 2018-19 season with CSKA Moscow of the KHL and retired after the season ended.
Overall Grade: B+
The Predators’ 2004 Draft on the whole wasn’t great. Just over one-third of the picks reaching the NHL isn’t exactly a success. However, anytime an eighth-round pick goes on to become a franchise legend, it erases any lack of success. Had Rinne not been picked, this could have been Poile’s worst draft. Instead, he did pick Rinne, which is why the Predators’ 2004 Draft gets a B-plus, and the team’s European scouts deserve a ton of credit.