The 2016 NHL Draft is over and the Nashville Predators have gotten back to basics. The team went back to its roots and had a defense-heavy weekend. General manager David Poile restocked the defensive pipeline by taking five blueliners.
There was some worry about the shallow prospect pool at the back, but those concerns got addressed in this year’s draft. The crown jewel was 17th overall selection Dante Fabbro, who Poile had rated at that spot on his board.
Nashville’s plan has always been to take the best player available, but the need for defense was a glaring one. The front office seemingly checked off both boxes by taking defenders that have a ton of potential upside.
The Predators’ defensive factory has the potential to crank out some more highly regarded, young defensemen if all goes according to plan.
A Familiar Plan
Nashville going after many defensemen is not a new thing, and the team decided to channel its strategy from 2003. The team also selected five defenders in that draft, and it was very successful as it hit on three of the picks including Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein and Shea Weber.
The team had a very similar draft strategy in 2005, where the first four picks were all blueliners. That year was not as successful as 2003, but Teemu Laasko and Cody Franson did end up playing for the club.
There was concern about the number of defensive prospects that were lost early in the offseason, but this draft will help fill the cupboards. The impending expansion draft may see the Predators lose a defender, so Nashville may have to call upon someone like Fabbro or one of the other young picks to step in right away. That upcoming expansion draft was the impetus for Poile to go heavy on the defense.
What the Experts Are Saying
Nashville executed its draft plan, but what are the critics saying about it? Brian Marron of Bleacher Report gave the team a “B” for its efforts. They would have loved to have seen the Preds address some offensive concerns, but liked the draft overall. Allan Mitchell, also of Bleacher Report, was even kinder by giving Nashville an “A-“ and raved about the selection of Fabbro.
Yahoo Sports also gave a good grade on the team’s stockpiling of defensemen by giving them a solid “B+.” Our THW scouting and prospects guru Dennis Schellenberg was also a fan of this year’s selections in the latest edition of Facing Off.
I also liked what Nashville, New Jersey, Tampa Bay and Toronto did (in the draft). The Leafs rolled the dice a bit with Egor Korshkov (31st overall) that early, but Carl Grundstrom late in the second round could be a nice addition.
There are some concerned about the size of second-round pick Samuel Girard (listed at 5 feet 9 inches), but he was the top-scoring defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Nashville did get good value on him because Girard was rated the 38th-best North American prospect, according to Central Scouting.
Some were also scratching their heads when Nashville took Swedish blueliner Hardy Axtell of Skelleftea’s U18 team with the 108th overall pick. The pick was off the board, but it could be a steal like Pekka Rinne or Patric Hornqvist were.
The Predators also grabbed another QMJHL defenseman in Frederic Allard with the 78th pick. Bowling Green defenseman Adam Smith was the team’s last choice in the seventh round.
The Verdict on Nashville’s Plan at the 2016 NHL Draft
Nashville did a good job of bringing in some fine defensive prospects after only taking one in 2015. Poile did promise that two defensemen would be taken off the board, and he delivered. If this class is anything like the 2003 class, Nashville will have the building blocks for its future defensive group.
The Predators will do everything in their power to make these picks pay off.
Covered hockey since attending SUNY Oswego in Upstate New York in the early 2000s. Has written about college, major junior and professional hockey for the last five years.
Resides in Watertown, NY.