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 2008 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
- 2004: Predators Get Franchise Goaltender
- 2005: Drafting Hornqvist Last Overall
- 2006: Worst Draft in Franchise History?
- 2007: Nick Spaling Leads to James Neal…Eventually
The 2008 NHL Draft was a strong year for producing NHL talent, with 50.7 percent of drafted prospects reaching the league. The first round was especially good at this, with only four of the 30 picks having not made the NHL. The first round had, through 2018-19, produced three Stanley Cups. From the whole draft, 28 had played at least 500 games, but only two had scored 200-plus goals and two had totaled at least 500 points. For goaltenders, three had made 200 or more appearances, so not a great draft for netminders.
It also wasn’t a great draft for forwards outside of a few players, most notably Steven Stamkos, who was drafted first overall. What it was an excellent draft for was defensemen, with three Norris Trophies from the first round alone. With names like Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, and John Carlson, several teams were able to draft their franchise blueliner in 2008.
For the Predators, it was a fairly productive draft, even if they missed on some key players. They had seven picks, including two first-round picks, but none in rounds 3 and 4. However, only three of the picks reached the NHL, with all playing in at least 100 games. Their draft was highlighted by selecting a future franchise defenseman in the second round.
Early Rounds (1-2)
Before discussing their three picks from the first and second rounds, some backstory has to be provided. The seventh-overall pick was originally the Toronto Maple Leafs’ selection that was owned by the New York Islanders. The Predators acquired this pick by sending the ninth (originally the Florida Panthers) and 40th overall picks to the Islanders. The Predators picked Colin Wilson at seven, while the Islanders selected Josh Bailey at nine and Aaron Ness at 40.
The Predators’ second first-round pick (18th overall) was originally owned by the Ottawa Senators. The Predators acquired it, along with a 2009 third-round pick, in exchange for the 15th-overall pick in 2008. The Predators used their pick on Chet Pickard. The Senators used the 15th pick on a guy by the name of Erik Karlsson. Yikes.
Thankfully, it gets a bit better with their second-round pick (38th overall). They acquired this pick from the Phoenix Coyotes, although it was originally the Maple Leafs’ selection, and sent a second and third-round pick back. The Predators drafted Roman Josi with the pick. Meanwhile, the second-round pick was used on Colby Robak and the third-round pick on Mathieu Brodeur. With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, to the picks.
Round 1, 7th Overall – Colin Wilson, C (Boston University, Hockey East)
As mentioned above, Colin Wilson was the Predators’ first pick in the 2008 Draft. They drafted him seventh overall from Boston University, where he had 12 goals and 35 points in 37 games his draft season. He also had six goals and seven points in six games with Team USA at the 2008 World Junior Championship. He played one more season with the Terriers, representing the United States again at the World Junior Championship.
He turned pro in 2009-10, splitting the season between the Predators and their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. In reaching the NHL, he followed in the footsteps of his father, Carey, who played 10 seasons for three teams. Colin became a regular in the NHL the following season and played eight seasons with the Predators, helping them reach the postseason six times. In 502 regular-season games with Nashville, he scored 95 goals and 237 points, while accumulating 25.7 point shares.
On July 1, 2017, the Predators traded him to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round pick that the Predators still possessed at the time of writing this. After his second season with Colorado he had totaled 623 games, 113 goals, 282 points, and 29.0 point shares for his career. In addition to his NHL career, he won an NCAA Championship and a gold and silver medal at the U18 World Championships.
Missed Opportunity: Erik Karlsson, D – Drafted 15th overall by the Ottawa Senators
Having a missed opportunity here has little to do with Wilson’s career. He’s been a productive NHLer, something not all first-round picks develop into. However, anytime a future Hall-of-Famer like Karlsson was drafted not soon after, it becomes a missed opportunity, especially when he was drafted with what was originally a Predators pick. The Senators drafted him out of Sweden’s SHL, and he remained in that league until 2008-09. He reached the NHL in 2009-10. He had his breakout campaign in 2011-12, winning his first Norris Trophy.
He played nine total seasons in Ottawa, winning a second Norris and was twice a runner-up for the award. He was also a four-time first-team All-Star. In Sep. 2018, the Senators traded him to the San Jose Sharks, where he played the 2018-19 season. At season’s end he had totaled 680 games, 129 goals, 563 points, and 87.7 point shares. He had also represented Sweden at one U18 World Championship, one World Junior Championship, two World Championships, one Winter Olympic, and one World Cup of Hockey.
Round 1, 18th Overall – Chet Pickard, G (Tri-City Americans, WHL)
With their second first-round pick, the Predators went back to the goaltender well by drafting Pickard. Drafting goaltenders in the first round is generally not a recipe for success, and this was no different. However, because Pekka Rinne had yet to emerge as a future star, it makes sense why Poile felt the need to draft a netminder with upside.
Pickard played his junior career with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he had a .918 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.32 goals-against average (GAA) in 64 games. His draft season ended with him being named CHL Goaltender of the Year. He played one more season with the Americans and also represented Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championship, where he had a .958 SV% in two games. He appeared to have a bright future in front of him.
However, when he turned pro in 2009-10 with the Admirals, that future quickly clouded. He spent 2009-10 through 2011-12 in the Predators organization, mostly playing in the ECHL, and never had a save percentage above .899. He also never reached the NHL. After a stint in Sweden in 2012-13, he played in the Edmonton Oilers system. In 2014-15, he left North America for good, first playing in Denmark, before finding stability in Germany’s DEL. He played well for Adler Mannheim in 2018-19 and signed a two-year contract with Grizzlys Wolfsburg after the season ended. Chet’s younger brother, Calvin, is also a goaltender who was drafted in the second round of the 2010 Draft.
Missed Opportunity: Jordan Eberle, RW – Drafted 22nd overall by the Edmonton Oilers
Four picks after the Predators drafted Pickard, the Oilers took Jordan Eberle from the WHL’s Regina Pats. He played two more seasons in the WHL before turning pro at the end of the 2009-10 season. He became a full-time NHLer and was part of a young Oilers core that included Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Eberle played seven seasons with Edmonton, tallying five 20-goal seasons, before they traded him to the New York Islanders over the 2017 offseason.
As of the 2018-19 season, he had spent two seasons on Long Island and played a big role in their first-round series sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019. For his career, he had totaled 666 games, 209 goals, 478 points, and 54.0 point shares. He had also represented Canada at one U18 World Championship, two World Junior Championships, and six World Championships, winning gold at each.
Round 2, 38th Overall – Roman Josi, D (SC Bern, NLA)
If there’s one position Poile is great at drafting, it’s defense. And in 2008, he found another future franchise blueliner in Josi. In fact, Josi is one of the Predators’ best picks in franchise history. They drafted him from SC Bern in Switzerland’s NLA, where he had two goals and eight points in 35 games his draft season. He also represented Switzerland at both the U18 World Championship and World Junior Championship for the second straight year.
He stayed in Switzerland for two more seasons, increasing his scoring rate in each, and played at the World Junior Championships both years. He left Switzerland and joined the Admirals in 2010-11, staying the entire season in the AHL. He made his NHL debut the next season, staying up nearly the entire campaign.
Josi had his breakout campaign in 2014-15, his fourth NHL season, when he posted 15 goals and 55 points and finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting. He remained a Predator through the 2018-19 season, serving as captain beginning in 2017-18, and had received Norris votes in four straight seasons. He had accumulated 93 goals, 348 points, and 64.1 point shares in 563 career games and had reached the 50-point mark in four seasons. Outside the NHL, he had represented Switzerland at eight World Championships at the senior level, one Winter Olympic, and played on Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey.
Missed Opportunity: None
Middle Rounds (3-5)
Round 5, 136th Overall – Taylor Stefishen, LW (Langley Chiefs, BCHL)
After not picking in rounds 3 and 4, the Predators used their fifth-round pick on winger Taylor Stefishen. They selected him from the Langley Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League, a Junior A league. He produced 33 goals and 81 points in 57 games his draft season. He spent the next two seasons with Ohio State University before playing 2010-11 in the WHL. From 2011-12 through 2013-14, he played with the University of Calgary. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, he was in the ECHL with the Elmira Jackals before he left mid-season for Italy. For the next three seasons, he played in France, the United Kingdom, the ECHL, and in 2018-19 he was in Ireland. The Predators never signed him and he never reached the NHL.
Missed Opportunity: Cam Atkinson, RW – Drafted 157th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets
The Predators should have drafted Cam Atkinson, whom the Blue Jackets drafted in the sixth round. They drafted him out of high school, and he played three seasons of college hockey before turning pro. He made his NHL debut in 2011-12 and became a full-time NHLer in 2013-14. Through 2018-19, he was still with the Blue Jackets and had totaled 527 games, 186 goals, 342 points, and 43.2 point shares. He had also represented the United States at two World Championships and played at two All-Star Games.
Late Rounds (6-7)
Round 6, 166th Overall – Jeff Foss, D (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ECAC)
In the sixth round, Poile drafted defenseman Jeff Foss from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a college program in New York. He had one goal and four points in 38 games his draft season and played three more seasons with RPI before turning pro with the Admirals in 2010-11. He played two more seasons in the Predators organization, including all of 2012-13 in the ECHL, before leaving North America for Finland in 2013-14. He retired at season’s end.
Missed Opportunity: Jason Demers, D – Drafted 186th overall by the San Jose Sharks
Twenty spots after Foss was drafted, the Sharks drafted defenseman Jason Demers. They selected him out of the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres. He turned pro the following season and made his NHL debut in 2009-10, immediately becoming a regular in the Sharks’ lineup. He played with San Jose until Nov. 2014 when the Sharks traded him to the Dallas Stars. In July 2016, he signed as a free agent with the Florida Panthers, and in Sep. 2017, he was dealt to the Coyotes, where he played in 2018-19. In 608 NHL games, Demers had accumulated 45 goals, 199 points, and 40.2 point shares. He had also represented Canada at one World Championship, winning silver.
Round 7, 201st Overall – Jani Lajunen, C (Espoo Blues, Liiga)
With the first of two seventh-round picks, Poile drafted center Jani Lajunen from the Espoo Blues of Finland’s Liiga. He had four goals and 14 points in 25 games his draft season, mostly in the Finnish junior league. He stayed in Finland through 2010-11 and he joined the Admirals in 2011-12. He also played with Milwaukee in 2012-13 and was dealt to the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate mid-season. At season’s end, he left to play in Sweden.
From 2014-15 through 2018-19, he had played in Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland. He had a contract signed with the NLA’s HC Lugano for 2019-20. Internationally, he represented Finland at one U18 World Championship, two World Junior Championships, three World Championships, and one Winter Olympic, winning a gold and silver at the World Championships.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 7, 207th Overall – Anders Lindbäck, G (Brynäs IF, SHL)
With the Predators’ last pick of the 2008 Draft, they selected another goaltender, this time Swede Anders Lindbäck. Although he was under contract with the SHL’s Brynäs IF, he played the majority of his draft season in the Allsvenskan league, where he had a .905 SV% and 3.08 GAA in 18 appearances. He stayed in Sweden through 2009-10, and in 2010-11 he joined the Predators, making his NHL debut. He played with Nashville through 2011-12, and the Predators traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning in June 2012. He ended his Predators tenure with 38 appearances, a 16-13-2 record, two shutouts, a .914 SV%, a 2.53 GAA, and 5.7 point shares.
He played two seasons with the Lightning, and from 2014-15 through 2016-17, he played for the Stars, Buffalo Sabres, Coyotes, and Los Angeles Kings. In July 2017, the Predators signed him as a free agent, and he played all of 2017-18 in Milwaukee. He played the 2018-19 season in Switzerland and was signed to play 2019-20 in the KHL. For his NHL career, he had made 130 appearances with a 45-58-8 record, three shutouts, a .904 SV%, a 2.87 GAA, and 16.6 point shares.
Missed Opportunity: None
Overall Grade: B
The positives from the 2008 Draft were lengthy for the Predators. They drafted a franchise defenseman in Josi, a productive middle-six winger in Wilson, and a serviceable backup netminder in Lindbäck. That’s a pretty solid haul from one draft class, and it ranks among the best draft classes in franchise history. However, Poile and his front office also missed on some really talented players, including Karlsson. That mistake is one that remains hard to swallow because he’ll forever be linked to the team, having been drafted with their pick.