With the NHL draft order decided through the 27th pick, draft season is getting closer and closer. With the draft upcoming many mock drafts from fans and projections from both fans and media alike. This article won’t be as eventful or even controversial as a mock draft, but instead, I will be looking at projections for the Nashville Predators‘ 18th pick. Of course, the draft is unpredictable, especially this year with the amount of variance in playing time each prospect got during the weird year. I most likely won’t get the player the Predators choose correct, but I consider it a win if I’m within the range. With that being said, let’s check out some players that they could get with the 18th pick.
A player I’ve seen thrown around to be a mid to late first-round pick is Matthew Coronato. This season with the Chicago Steel in the USHL, he put up a ridiculous 85 points in 51 games that included 48 goals. He was almost unstoppable, as he was rarely held without at least a point every game and had over 25 multi-point games. He’s exceptionally talented offensively, and his shot is deadly accurate with lots of force behind it. The ridiculous shot paired with his well-improved speed has become a lethal combo and something opposing teams have struggled to contain.
For the Predators, a player like Coronato could be a game-changer. While his projection may not be that of a top-line elite player, he could easily be a great contributor to the second line and even chip in on the first every once in a while. If he hits that potential or exceeds it, there is a staple top-line forward. The question that it comes down to is, can they switch it up in time, so he isn’t ruined like many other forward prospects that haven’t panned out under the tenure of general manager David Poile? It’s a tricky question to answer and one that I am a bit scared of, just as most Predators fans are. The amount of forward talent that has been squandered in Nashville is something to behold.
Related: THW 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Either way, if Coronato falls to the 18th selection, I would love to see Poile pick him up. His high-velocity shot and knack for scoring goals in many different scenarios is something the Predators sorely lack. Under Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) head coach Karl Taylor, he could work on his defensive game some more and improve his ability to create space and time.
Draft gurus could consider this one a reach, but it is possible considering how some teams are extraordinarily low on Aatu Räty. He was once viewed as the top pick in this upcoming draft, but an underwhelming and downright embarrassing year for him in the Finnish Liiga bumped his stock down. It also happened because a lot of other players began performing exceptionally well and skyrocketing up rankings. When I say his year was terrible, it was *really* bad. In 35 Liiga games, he posted a paltry six points. He didn’t make the Finnish world junior team either. It was a massive fall from grace for the young Finn.
Räty is an interesting player because he does possess a lot of skill. The Predators have a young and skilled Finnish goal-scoring talent that goes by Eeli Tolvanen, so to see them develop together would be a great way to draw more people into the market. They don’t play the same game but could quickly become prominent in the city, just like the group of Swedes on the Nashville roster. If everything pans out with his development, he could become a robust second-line center behind Philip Tomasino.
It would be interesting to see how far Raty falls in the draft. Some mock drafts have him going outside the top 10, and others have him around the 20th pick. Not only do the Predators have a love for Finns, but Räty could be an interesting case with a high reward. Taylor is an excellent coach who emphasizes a solid two-way game, which most scouts have praised Aatu. If he can work on his discipline and improve his already good puck-handling and play-making, the Predators could have a very solid middle to the top-six contributor.
Chaz Lucius is a player that I would love to see the Predators pick at number 18. Many mock drafts have him going around where the team is selecting, and it would help improve the apparent lack of scoring prowess in the forward core. Lucius is a pure goal scorer by nature. For the US U18 National team, he put up a goal per game with 13 in 13, and in juniors with the US National Development Team Program, he put up the same amount of goals in 12 games. For the 17U team, he put up 31 goals and 50 points in 46 games. However, there are still some things for him to work on with his skating. It’s not optimal, but his ability to score goals doesn’t come around.
With the Predators, they lack a lot of offensive drive. The killer instinct isn’t there. While Lucius hasn’t put up Cole Caufield numbers with the US national program, he still has a fair amount of tallies to his name. His shot is excellent, and a powerplay spot is likely. Scouts have said he could become a 30-plus goal scorer in the NHL with the right development teams on his side both in college and in the AHL.
Out of the three players I listed here, Lucius seems to be the most likely pick. It would be one that I’m sure most fans would be happy about once they come around and see his raw talent with putting the puck in the net. On a team that lacks a lot of scoring, a player like Lucius could be precisely what they need. It would be the first step in the right direction.
The 18th overall pick in this draft is a crapshoot. So many players could rise and fall by draft day, and the opinions of some teams on certain players could be vastly different from others. So many other Predators enjoyers, and I would like to see a high-profile forward getting his name called with the selection. If it’s one of these three, that’s great, and I will bask in the glow of being right. If it’s not one, and it’s someone better or with a different skill set, then I’ll enjoy seeing what they can bring to the table and writing about it. It’s most certainly going to be a fun and very unpredictable draft day.