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
- 2008: Predators Land Future Captain in Josi
The 2009 NHL Draft was one of the best in recent memory as 55.2 percent of the selections reached the NHL. This was especially true of the first round with all but one of the 30 picks playing in at least one NHL game. Of the top 10 selections, all but one played in at least 100 NHL games and produced one Norris Trophy winner, one Stanley Cup winner, and two players with at least 500 points, as of 2019.
Luckily, for Predators fans, Poile and the front office got involved in this action as well with six of their 10 picks having reached the NHL and five having played in at least 100 NHL games. What’s even more remarkable is that three of the picks were still foundational pieces on the 2019-20 team. In general, it was a great draft for the Predators. Let’s look at each of their selections.
Early Rounds (1-2)
Round 1, 11th Overall – Ryan Ellis, D (Windsor Spitfires, OHL)
When the Predators drafted Ryan Ellis with their first-round pick in 2009, they were getting one of the most decorated defensemen in Ontario Hockey League (OHL) history. He was coming off a season in which he scored 22 goals and 89 points in 57 games, won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires, and was named the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman. He also captured gold with Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championship. He followed that up with a second straight Memorial Cup and a silver medal at the World Junior Championship during the 2009-10 season.
Finally, in 2010-11, his final season of junior hockey, he posted 100 points in 58 games, and was named the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) defenseman and player of the year, the first time a player won both awards in the same year since the 1988-89 season. (from ‘Spitfires captain CHL player and defenceman of the year,’ Windsor Star, 05/29/2011)
Ellis turned pro the following season and split time between the Predators and AHL Milwaukee Admirals. He also split time the following season before becoming a full-time NHLer in 2013-14, appearing in 80 games. He partnered with fellow 2009 draft pick Mattias Ekholm his first three seasons before creating a pair with Roman Josi in 2016-17. With Josi as his partner, Ellis had his greatest NHL success, post career highs in goals and points. He was also pivotal in the the Predators reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, with 13 points in 22 postseason games.
In Aug. 2018, he signed an eight-year extension that carries a $6.25 million cap hit, and in 2018-19 he established new career highs with 41 points and 82 games played. As of 2019, he remained a key part of the Predators’ vaunted defense. In 478 regular-season games, he had accumulated 62 goals, 214 points, and 46.7 point shares. He also represented Canada at two World Championships, winning gold in 2016.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 2, 41st Overall – Zach Budish, RW (Edina High, Minnesota High School)
With the Predators’ first second-round pick, Poile drafted right winger Zach Budish from Minnesota’s Edina High where he had 27 points in 15 games his draft season. He spent the next four seasons with the University of Minnesota, accumulating 94 points in 129 games and served as team captain in 2012-13, his senior season. He turned pro at season’s end and joined the Admirals. He played in the Predators system with their AHL and ECHL affiliates through 2015-16 and never reached the NHL before signing with Jokurit in Finland’s Liiga. As of 2019-20 he was still in Finland playing for TPS.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 2, 42nd Overall – Charles-Olivier Roussel, D (Shawinigan Cataractes, QMJHL)
The Predators possessed another second-round pick in 2009, originally the Minnesota Wild’s selection. With this pick, Poile drafted defenseman Charles-Olivier Roussel from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Shawinigan Cataractes where he had 44 points in 68 games his draft season. He played three more seasons in the QMJHL before turning pro in 2012-13. He played two seasons in the Predators system, all in the AHL and ECHL, plus two more seasons in the ECHL, before departing for Slovakia in 2015-16. He also played in two French leagues in 2016-17 and 2017-18 before joining a semi-pro league in Canada for 2018-19.
Missed Opportunity: Reilly Smith, RW – Drafted 69th overall by the Dallas Stars
The Predators should have drafted winger Reilly Smith, whom the Dallas Stars drafted early in the third round. They selected him from St. Michael’s Buzzers, an Ontario Junior Hockey League team. After being drafted, he played three seasons with Miami University of Ohio before turning pro in 2011-12. He played one full season in the Stars system before they traded him to the Boston Bruins in 2013. After two seasons in Boston, including his first 20-goal season, the Bruins traded him to the Florida Panthers where he played two seasons. Ahead of the 2017 Expansion Draft, the Panthers dealt him to the Vegas Golden Knights where he remained as of 2019. In 506 regular-season games, he totaled 117 goals, 300 points, and 34.4 point shares.
Middle Rounds (3-5)
Round 3, 70th Overall – Taylor Beck, RW (Guelph Storm, OHL)
The Predators also had two third-round picks in 2009, with the 70th overall selection coming via the Edmonton Oilers. With that pick, the Predators selected Taylor Beck from the OHL’s Guelph Storm. In his draft season he had 22 goals and 58 points in 67 games. He played two more OHL seasons, posting 93 and 95 points, before turning pro with the Admirals at the end of the 2010-11 season. He reached the NHL in 2012-13, scoring 7 points in 16 games with the Predators. He became an NHL regular in 2014-15 when he played in a career-high 62 games, scoring eight goals and eight assists.
In July 2015, the Predators traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, concluding his tenure in Nashville with 85 games played, 11 goals, 23 points, and 1.7 point shares. He never played for the Maple Leafs, and between 2015-16 and 2016-17 he appeared in seven NHL games for the New York Islanders, Oilers, and New York Rangers. After the 2016-17 season he left North America for the KHL, where he joined Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. As of 2019-20 he was still in the KHL with Avangard Omsk. For his NHL career he totaled 92 regular-season games, 11 goals, 23 points, and 1.5 point shares.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 3, 72nd Overall – Michael Latta, C (Guelph Storm, OHL)
With the Predators’ own third-round pick, they drafted Beck’s Storm teammate, Michael Latta. The Storm acquired Latta from the Ottawa 67’s, and between the two teams he had 22 goals and 57 points in 65 games his draft season. He too played two more seasons with the Storm before turning pro with the Admirals at the end of 2010-11. He was a full-time AHLer in 2011-12 and 2012-13 before the Predators traded him to the Washington Capitals in April 2013 as part of the package for Filip Forsberg.
He reached the NHL with the Capitals, debuting in 2013-14 and stayed with them through 2015-16. As of 2019 that was his only NHL experience, as in 2016-17 and 2017-18 he played in the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, and New Jersey Devils systems. He played the 2018-19 season in the KHL with the Kunlun Red Star. For his NHL career he totaled 113 regular-season games, 4 goals, 17 points, and 0.9 point shares.
Missed Opportunity: Cody Eakin, C – Drafted 85th overall by the Washington Capitals
The Predators should have drafted center Cody Eakin, whom the Capitals drafted 13 picks after the Predators drafted Latta. Eakin played his junior hockey with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Swift Current Broncos. He made his NHL debut with the Capitals in 2011-12 and they traded him to the Stars in June 2012. After five seasons in Dallas, the Golden Knights selected him in the 2017 Expansion Draft. As of 2019 he remained a Golden Knight and had accumulated 537 regular-season games, 98 goals, 222 points, and 19.8 point shares.
Round 4, 98th Overall – Craig Smith, RW (Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL)
The Predators also had multiple fourth-round picks in the 2009 Draft. With their first pick, originally the Maple Leafs’ selection, the Predators took Craig Smith, who became a foundational piece for the team. They drafted him from the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League (USHL) where he had 28 goals and 76 points in 54 games his draft season. He then played two seasons with the University of Wisconsin, where he served as team captain his second season, before turning pro in 2011-12.
He immediately joined the Predators, where he scored 36 points in 72 games as a rookie and finished 12th in Calder Trophy voting. He remained a Predator through 2018-19, having signed a five-year extension in June 2015, and was a five-time 20-goal scorer. In 592 regular-season games, he had totaled 144 goals, 299 points, and 35.3 point shares. He also represented the United States at four World Championships, capturing bronze in 2013.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 4, 102nd Overall – Mattias Ekholm, D (Mora IK, Allsvenskan)
The Predators continued their run of drafting future long-term NHLers when the used their second fourth-round pick, their own this time, on defenseman Mattias Ekholm. Drafted from Sweden’s Allsvenskan, the nation’s second-tier league, Ekholm posted 2 goals and 13 points in 38 games his draft season, hardly a standout performance. He stayed in Sweden through 2010-11 and made his NHL debut in 2011-12 before being loaned back to Brynas IF after two games. He made the jump to North America full time in 2012-13 and spent 59 of his 60 games in the AHL. The 2013-14 season was his first as a full-time NHLer, and by 2014-15 he was a top-four blueliner.
In the seasons that followed, he consistently became a better defenseman, honing his defensive game while improving on the offensive side of the puck. In 2018-19, he set a career high with 44 points in 80 games and received Norris votes for the first time in his career, finishing in 10th place. As of 2019, in 470 regular-season games, he had totaled 37 goals, 163 points, and 35.6 point shares. In addition to his NHL success, he also represented Sweden at five World Championships, winning one gold and one bronze, one World Junior Championship where he captured gold, one U18 World Championship, and one World Cup of Hockey.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 4, 110th Overall – Nick Oliver, C (Fargo Force, USHL)
Finally, with their third fourth-round pick, originally a Rangers pick, the Predators drafted center Nick Oliver from the USHL’s Fargo Force. With the Force, Oliver had one goal and one assist in 12 games his draft season. He played two more seasons in Fargo before attending St. Cloud State for four seasons, where he served as captain his senior year. The Predators never signed him and he never turned pro. After his playing career ended in 2014-15, he served as an assistant coach of the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede from 2015-16 through 2017-18. In 2018-19, he was an assistant coach with St. Cloud State, a position he held as of 2019-20.
Missed Opportunity: Mike Hoffman, LW – Drafted 130th overall by the Ottawa Senators
Instead of Oliver, the Predators should have drafted Mike Hoffman, taken 20 picks later by the Ottawa Senators. The Senators picked Hoffman from the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs, where he had 52 goals and 94 points in 62 games his draft season. After one more junior season, he turned pro, playing in the AHL and ECHL in 2010-11. He made his NHL debut in 2011-12 and became a full-time NHLer in 2012-13. In June 2018, the Senators traded him to the Panthers by way of the San Jose Sharks. As of 2019-20, he was still a Panther and had five 20-goal seasons, including a career high of 36 in 2018-19. In 424 regular-season games, he had 143 goals, 300 points, and 35.2 point shares.
Round 5, 132nd Overall – Gabriel Bourque, LW (Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL)
In the fifth round, the Predators selected Gabriel Bourque from the QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar. In 60 games his draft season he scored 22 goals and 61 points and served as team captain. He played one more season in the ‘Q’ and was traded to the Moncton Wildcats, whom he helped win a league championship. He also represented Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championships, winning a silver medal. He turned pro in 2010-11, spending the entire season in the AHL, before making his NHL debut in 2011-12. He became an NHL regular in 2013-14 when he played in a career-high 74 games and stayed with the Predators through 2015-16.
At season’s end, he was a restricted free agent and the team chose to not tender him a qualifying offer. As a result, he signed with the Colorado Avalanche, concluding his time in Nashville with 242 games played, 31 goals, 78 points, and 6.1 point shares. He played in Colorado from 2016-17 through 2018-19 and the Winnipeg Jets signed him to a two-way deal during the 2019 offseason. In 361 career regular-season games, he had 38 goals, 97 points and 6.6 point shares.
Missed Opportunity: Anders Lee, C – Drafted 152nd overall by the New York Islanders
Instead of Bourque, the Predators should have taken Anders Lee, who was selected 20 spots later by the Islanders. They drafted him from Edina High in Minnesota where he had 66 points in 25 games his draft season. He played the next season in the USHL and followed it up with three seasons at Notre Dame. He turned pro at the end of the 2012-13 season and became a full-time NHLer in 2014-15. In 2018-19, after the departure of John Tavares, he was named the Islanders captain, and in 2019, as a free agent, the Islanders re-signed him to a seven-year deal. As of 2019, 425 regular-season games, he had 152 goals, 258 points, 32.9 point shares, and was a three-time 25-goal scorer. He had also represented the United States at three World Championships, winning two bronze medals.
Late Rounds (6-7)
Round 7, 192nd Overall – Cam Reid, C (Westside Warriors, BCHL)
With their final pick of the 2009 Draft, the Predators selected center Cam Reid from the British Columbia Hockey League’s (BCHL) Westside Warriors. In 58 games his draft season, he had 12 goals and 40 points. After one more season in the BCHL, he spent two seasons at St. Cloud State and part of the 2011-12 season in the WHL. In 2012, the Predators signed him and he played in the AHL and ECHL in 2012-13. He never reached the NHL, and instead spent time in the AHL, ECHL, the Central Hockey League, and in the second-tier German league. He played 2018-19 in the ECHL with the Wichita Thunder.
Missed Opportunity: Nic Dowd, C – Drafted 198th overall by the Los Angeles Kings
Six spots after the Predators drafted Reid, the Kings drafted Nic Dowd from the Wenatchee Wild of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). In his draft season, he played in 46 games and accumulated 16 goals and 49 points. After one more season in the NAHL, he played four seasons with St. Cloud State before turning pro in 2013-14. He spent the majority of the next two seasons in the AHL, making his NHL debut in 2015-16, before becoming an NHL regular with the Kings in 2016-17. The Kings traded him to the Vancouver Canucks in Dec. 2017 and he spent the 2018-19 season with the Capitals. In 195 regular-season games, he totaled 17 goals, 48 points, and 2.8 point shares.
Overall Grade: A
Anytime you get two top-four defensemen and a middle-six forward out of one draft, it’s a great year. That’s exactly what the Predators did in 2009 with Ellis, Ekholm, and Smith. Even Bourque had a solid tenure with the Predators and Latta was used to land Forsberg, so both were useful picks. The only thing preventing me from giving this an A+ grade is that they missed on Hoffman, a perennial 25-goal scorer, and Smith, who is a consistent 50-point producer.