In less than one week, 32 teams will finally put months of scouting to use as they select the talent that is expected to push the needle toward success, and the Nashville Predators have two picks in the opening round, thanks to the Mattias Ekholm trade.
After drafting at the 15th overall spot, unless something crazy happens, they’ll select again in the 24th spot. This year’s draft class has so much depth that picking anywhere in the first round could land teams a future NHL regular.
This year marks general manager Barry Trotz’s first draft with the Preds, he took over for David Poile following his retirement announcement, so you know that he’ll want to make this one count. Here are four prospects who could be options for that 24th spot.
Gavin Brindley, RW, University of Michigan (NCAA)
The Predators could use more depth on the right side of their forward crop, and Gavin Brindley is a great name to consider. Sure, he’s 5-foot-9, and some consider him too small to be a regular in the NHL. That’s a shame because dozens of smaller players have become game-changers, from Cole Caufield with the Montreal Canadiens to Brayden Point with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Brindley brings a tenacious work ethic, a fearless attitude in corners, and phenomenal skating. Not only can he produce, but his two-way game could also translate well at the NHL level. On a good team, many think Brindley would fit on the third line to fully maximize his defensive capabilities while giving Nashville a secondary-scoring option. If he’s available at 24, Trotz should consider calling his name.
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For more info, check out Logan Horn’s prospect profile on Brindley.
Ethan Gauthier, RW, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
The trend of smaller-sized forwards with a never-give-up attitude continues, as Ethan Gauthier makes our list of potential candidates at the 24th spot. Son of former NHL great Denis Gauthier, Ethan is an effective 200-foot player who is hard on the puck and mean in the corners. He’s shifty with the puck on his stick and has hands like butter, forcing opposing defenders to lose track of their positioning as he glides from side to side.
Like many players drafted near the end of the first round, Gauthier will need time to develop to push his game to the next level. His skating is not quite there yet, but he showed signs of improvement during the 2022-23 season with the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The top QMJHL prospect is committed to playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs next season, where he’ll receive ample playing time and opportunity to improve his offensive game.
For more info, check out Peter Baracchini’s prospect profile on Gauthier.
Koehn Ziemmer, LW, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
While Koehn Ziemmer isn’t the biggest prospect out there, at 6 feet tall, he uses every inch and pound of his frame to his advantage. The Prince George Cougars forward was excellent in the 2022-23 season, recording 89 points in 68 games, placing him third on the team. Ziemmer uses his frame to protect the puck well and is an aggressive forechecker in the corners.
This kind of attitude is exactly what the Predators need in their farm system. They have a few talented players close to making the big league, and several gifted players are under contract until roughly the end of the decade. Using that second first-round pick on players who work hard and push the team’s puck possession in the right direction is something management needs to consider, and Ziemmer is that guy.
For more info, check out Adam Kierszenblat’s prospect profile on Ziemmer.
The Predators could end up trading the 24th overall pick, depending on which prospects are available or to acquire a player. Alex Debrincat reportedly included the Predators on his list of teams he’d accept a trade to, and considering what he fetched the last time, the 24th pick may be in play. But if Trotz wants to focus on the draft, these three forwards have the tools and the raw talent to make it in Nashville in the future.