Revisiting David Poile’s Drafts – 2012

The David Poile Draft feature began with Kyle Gipe and his coverage of the 1998-2009 drafts. I’m taking over the 2010s decade of Nashville Predators’ drafting, which again only saw one man — David Poile — at the helm. For those that missed it, here are the links to the previous draft recaps:

For the second year in a row, the Predators were without a first-round pick as a result of the deadline deal that brought in Paul Gaustad. The Predators lost in the second round of the playoffs that season but managed to retain the former Sabre, signing him to a four-year extension. He managed 250 games with the Predators and helped them win another playoff round in 2016 before he retired. Mark Jankowski was selected with the first-rounder that the Predators traded, so the Predators didn’t even lose out too much with future value by acquiring Gaustad.

Paul Gaustad
Former Nashville Predators center Paul Gaustad (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

With other deadline deals and draft-floor trades, the Predators were able to stock up and make a total of nine selections in the 2012 Draft. This draft class has put up over 1000 career games, but only 450 with the Predators by the end of the 2021 season.

Early Rounds (1st and 2nd)

Round 2, 37th Overall – Pontus Aberg, LW (Djurgardens IF Stockholm, SEL)

Aberg was drafted about 10 years too early because as a small yet skilled winger, the game hadn’t quite opened up for him yet. At 18 years old, he was regarded as a two-way winger that could develop into a regular scoring threat. The Preds drafted him out of Sweden, and he bounced around their junior and elite leagues for a few years before transitioning to the AHL for the 2014-15 season, where he grew from half a point-per-game to close to a point-per-game over his first three seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals.

At the age of 23, Aberg made his NHL debut with the Predators, playing 15 games in the 2016-17 season, recording one goal and one assist. He played one more season in the Nashville system, playing 37 NHL games and recording eight points before they traded him to the Edmonton Oilers mid-season. He bounced around through a few other NHL franchises until the COVID Pandemic brought his time with the Marlies to a halt, and he moved back overseas to play the 2020-21 season in the KHL. In total, Aberg put up 10 points in 52 games with the Predators, which is a disappointing result for an early second-round pick used on a scoring winger.

Round 2, 50th Overall – Colton Sissons, C (Kelowna Rockets, WHL)

The Predators drafted Sissons after he took a bit of a step back in his second year with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL. His scoring rate went up, but his assists took a hit as he took on more overall responsibility. It was a bit of a development curve, but it paid off with a big breakout the next year as the then 19-year-old Sissons put up over a point-per-game and was an incredible plus-43 in 61 games.

Colton Sissons Predators
Colton Sissons, Nashville Predators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Over the next two seasons, he played mostly in the AHL, with a brief cup of coffee in the NHL when the big club ran into some injury trouble. He played another half of a season in the AHL to simmer for a little bit longer, but he was NHL-ready at that point. He was slowly brought along with bottom-six minutes and thrived in a defensive role. He enjoyed his coming-out party in the 2017 playoffs when injuries thrust him into the top-line centre role, and he scored 12 points in 22 playoff games. He’s still thriving in a depth role with the Predators and is signed at a reasonable cap hit until the summer of 2026.

Middle Rounds (3rd-5th)

Round 3, 66th Overall – Jimmy Vesey, LW (South Shore, EJHL)

Vesey was drafted as a prolific scorer out of the EJHL when he put up over two points per game in his draft-eligible season. He went on to join Harvard in the NCAA, and after finishing his degree, he waited the remaining months necessary to become an unrestricted free agent. After the Predators traded his rights to the Buffalo Sabres, Vesey again held out, and on Aug. 19th, 2016, Vesey signed with the New York Rangers.

Jimmy Vesey Buffalo Sabres
Former Buffalo Sabre, Jimmy Vesey (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vesey topped out at 35 points with the Rangers and was a minus player in all three of his seasons there. He ended up being traded to the Buffalo Sabres again but disappointed to the tune of a 20-point season. After a long layoff through most of 2020, he signed a cheap deal with the Maple Leafs to try and rebuild some value riding the coattails of some of Toronto’s firepower. He was waived in March and is finishing out the 2020-21 season with the Vancouver Canucks.

Round 3, 89th Overall – Brendan Leipsic, LW (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)

With one of the last picks in the third round, the Predators grabbed a second WHL player in Leipsic. As one of the leading scorers for the Winterhawks, the winger was viewed as an excellent scoring prospect who also had a tough side; he finished third on the Winterhawks in PIMs that season as well. He made his pro debut in the AHL with the Admirals in 2014, scoring 35 points in 47 games before being traded in the Olli Jokinen for Cody Franson swap with the Maple Leafs.

Leipsic ‘peaked’ in the 2018-19 season split between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, scoring 23 points. In 2020, the Washington Capitals released him for sending vulgar and misogynistic messages, and soon after, he signed with CSKA Moscow of the KHL.

Round 4, 112th Overall – Zachary Stepan, C (Shattuck St. Mary’s, Minn. H.S.)

Stepan was drafted out of high school as a high-risk, high-reward option in the fourth round. After graduating high school, he moved onto the USHL for one season before going to the NCAA for his four-year degree. He played all four years with Minnesota State, peaking in his freshman season with 21 points in 35 games. In 2017-18, he played eight games with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL and scored five points; he hasn’t played professionally since.

Round 4, 118th Overall – Mikko Vainonen, D (HIFK Jrs., Finland)

The Predators drafted the 6-foot-3 defenceman as a solid stay-at-home type who could also make a good first pass. Vainonen crossed the pond to play with the Kingston Frontenacs after being drafted by the Predators and showed some excellent development in his two seasons there. At the end of his second season with Kingston, he played two AHL games with the Admirals and was a quiet minus-1 while putting up no points or penalty minutes. At that point, he stagnated and couldn’t make the Admirals the next year. He went to play for half a season with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL before being loaned back overseas and staying in Europe for the rest of his professional career.

Missed Opportunity: Carolina Hurricanes select Jaccob Slavin, D (Chicago Steel, USHL) – 120th overall

After swinging for a reliable defensive presence with the Predators’ most recent pick, the sting of the hindsight of passing on Jaccob Slavin is heightened. Almost in Nashville’s own backyard, playing for the Chicago Steel, the smooth-skating rearguard led the defence core in scoring as a rookie. Over his next three years in the USHL and NCAA, he also continued to be the highest-producing defenceman while playing a sizeable defensive role at the same time.

Jaccob Slavin Carolina Hurricanes
Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 2015, he left college and jumped to the AHL, where he played all of 14 games before being promoted to the NHL for good. He has scored at a 30+ point pace in each of his last four seasons with the Hurricanes while playing mostly as a minute-muncher and not an offensive specialist. Slavin has rightfully earned recent Norris consideration and has made all 30 teams look silly for letting him fall so low in the draft.

Late Rounds (6th and 7th)

Round 6, 164th Overall – Simon Fernholm, D (Huddinge Jrs., Sweden)

Again selecting a big defensive defenceman, the Predators fell into the trap of swinging with size rather than talent. Fernholm stood at 6-foot-6 once he stopped growing, but he never even made the transition to North America and was not signed to a contract by the Predators. He was a project when drafted, and like most big defencemen drafted in the late rounds, he didn’t pan out as an NHL-level prospect.

Round 6, 172nd Overall – Max Gortz, RW (Farjestads BK Karlstad, SEL)

The Predators must have had a Swedish scout or two really pushing for some of these players, as this is their third selection out of Sweden and their second of the round. Gortz was viewed as someone who could play centre or wing as a big-bodied forward and excelled in a cycle system. More of a depth-style forward than anything, but even if you get a fourth-liner in the sixth round, you come away happy. Unfortunately for the Predators and Gortz, he topped out as an average AHL player. After two seasons with Milwaukee (and a stint with the San Diego Gulls) from 2015 to 2017, Gortz went back to Europe and has been playing in Sweden and Germany ever since.

Round 6, 179th Overall – Marek Mazanec, G (Plzen HC, Czech)

With the token dart throw on a goalie that every team seems to take late in the draft, the Predators actually managed to hit on an NHL-caliber goaltender here. He joined the Admirals for the beginning of the 2013 season but ended up getting called up to the Predators for half of the season due to injuries. He showed well enough, providing some league average goaltending as a backup and helping Milwaukee make the AHL playoffs too.

New York Rangers Marek Mazanec
Former New York Rangers and Nashville Predators goaltender Marek Mazanec (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bill Kostroun)

He showed well over the next few years at the AHL level, but he never got another real chance to play in the NHL. There were only six more NHL games scattered across three years with the Predators franchise. He then moved on to join the Rangers, and after a short KHL loan, he played the next two years in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He was called up to backup for the Rangers on a few occasions but never saw game action. After the 2018-19 season, Mazanec moved back to the Czech league, where he has been since.

Overall Grade: C

The 2012 Draft is one of the weaker ones in recent history, so not having a first-round pick in the draft really compounds the lack of quality. The Predators didn’t end up finding any high-end talents, and nine years later only have Colton Sissons remaining to show from it. Sissons is a valuable part of the current team and makes up the majority of the games played for the Predators franchise. Some better bets could have been made with the later-round picks, but overall, there weren’t a lot of gems to find anyways. We’ll give David Poile an average grade for getting the team a long-serving team member out of a weak class while not being armed with a first-round pick.

Sign up for our free ‘Predators Substack Newsletter‘ for all the latest.