It’s almost time for the 2016 NHL Draft and the Nashville Predators have some decisions to make. The team made forwards the focus of its most recent drafts as Kevin Fiala (2014) and Iakov Trenin (2015) were the first picks that general manager David Poile took with Nashville’s first picks in those years.
However, there might be a call to try to go back to the team’s trademark of adding to the Predators’ stout defensive corps. The 2013 draft was the last time Poile took defense first when he lucked into Seth Jones with the fourth overall selection. Nashville has taken seven blue-liners since 2013, but only took Alexandre Carrier in last year’s draft.
The Predators hold the 17th pick in this year’s draft and select in the opening round for the first time since 2014. (Nashville gave up its 2015 first-rounder to Toronto as part of the deal that landed Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli.) The need for defensive prospects is strong, but there’s always the philosophy to get the best pick.
Nashville does have a muddled goalie situation, so a netminder isn’t on the priority list. However, let’s make the case for each direction the Predators could take if they pick at 17.
The team does have one of the best defenses in the league, but there is concern about Shea Weber’s advancing age. He did struggle in the Game 7 loss to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference semifinal. Could a defensive pick in this slot lay the groundwork for Roman Josi to be the main man in the Music City?
Also having Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis gives the team flexibility in its D-group and that depth might be needed because the team has to worry about the impending expansion draft for the Las Vegas franchise. Nashville will have to expose two forwards, two defensemen and a goalie. The rules might force the Predators to part with an established defender.
So who would Poile take if he goes defense? Both Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek and the On the Forecheck blog think Boston University commitment Dante Fabbro would be a nice fit. He’s drawn comparisons to Colorado’s Tyson Barrie. Fellow THW Predators writer Colin Fitts feels that Logan Stanley would work well with the Predators’ defense. The Windsor Spitfires defender stands a massive 6’7” and can chip in on offense. Both would be solid choices for the Predators.
If Fabbro and Stanley are gone, many think a forward would be the way to go. There have been times where scoring has abandoned Nashville. The top-six got a boost thanks to the deal for Ryan Johansen, but scoring depth is hard to get.
THW writer and Facing Off host Larry Fisher feels Poile ought to take a risk on Vancouver Giants’ forward Tyler Benson. Here’s his analysis.
The Predators seem like a team willing to take a chance on Benson despite his injury-plagued draft year (cyst on tailbone removed, resulting in inflamed pubic bone). Nashville drafts heavily out of the WHL and would have been watching Benson for years already. His skating could use a bit of work, but Benson is a natural centre who could slot in behind Ryan Johansen. Benson will be one of the wild-cards of this draft, once a top-10 prospect but now possibly a second-rounder. This spot would be considered on the high side for Benson right now. The Predators may strongly consider Luke Kunin here too but don’t want another Jimmy Vesey debacle and decide to pass on the NCAA standout.
Top centers are hard to find, and it wouldn’t hurt to go after a guy like him or Kunin.
There really aren’t any outstanding goalie talents that jump out at people. Both the writers and Fisher’s mock drafts didn’t have a goalie go in the first round. The first netminder taken in Fisher’s mock draft was Carter Hart of the Everett Silvertips.
The crowded crease in the Nashville system also might deter Poile from adding to the glut of goalies unless it’s a late-round flier.
Who Should Nashville Draft First in the 2016 NHL Draft?
The Predators should try to go defense in the opening round. Someone like Fabbro would be a great puck-mover, but I’m intrigued by the size and skill of Logan Stanley. The Predators would do a good job to get either one of these players in the first round. What do you think? Leave comments or vote in the poll below.
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.