Predators prospects looking good

Monday, May 19, 2008 at 2:10am

The Nashville Predators don’t expect to do a lot of shopping when the free agent market opens July 1.

David Poile, president of hockey operations/general manager, knows the Predators need some additional tweaking after their fourth first round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he thinks what he needs might already be in the organization.

Earlier this month he spent several days in Halifax, Nova Scotia watching the World Championships. Games were also played in Quebec City, Quebec, where pro scout Nick Beverley watched the action.

Poile liked what he personally saw from several Predators prospects.

Left winger Antti Pihlstrom, 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, represented Finland. Poile thinks the forward could be ready for at least a fourth line spot with the Predators.

“Pihlstrom has a lot of speed,” Poile said.” He is a very hard-hitting player. He scored 27 goals in Milwaukee last season. He is a real energy guy. I don’t think anybody knew him from other teams. Scouts were coming up and asking, ‘Who is this guy?’

“He is just another example of another great job by our scouting staff. He was signed in 2007 as an undrafted free agent. I think he has a legitimate chance of making our team next season. “

Defenseman Ville Koistinen spent the 2007-2008 season with the Predators, but saw sporadic playing time due to the depth at that position. He provided a different look playing for Finland.

“Ville got to play a lot for the Finnish team,” Poile said. “I think he really picked up his confidence. That should really help for next year with us especially with his preparation.”

A possible addition to the depth on defense is defenseman Janne Niskala, 5-11, 199 pounds, who also played last season for Milwaukee.

“Janne complicates my life a little bit because he is another defenseman that probably deserves the chance to get a good look at training camp,” Poile said.

Center Patric Hornqvist, 5-11, 194 pounds, has been a sensation in Sweden. He chose to return to the Swedish Elite League last season instead of playing for the Admirals last season.

“Patric is a lot like Marty Erat,” Poile said. “He is a hard-working player with excellent hands. He has very nice penchant for scoring a lot of goals. He was excellent in the tournament. He is a really up-and-coming player.

“From a development standpoint we would have liked for him to have stayed here last season. But I am sure his experiences over there were as good as they would have been at Milwaukee. We are going to look at him on one of the top two lines in training camp. He can really bring the offense.”

For Poile, the process of developing young players is one of the reasons he enjoys his job.

“We need the younger players to come in here and supplement the foundation we are solidifying on a daily basis,” Poile said. “We have a lot of good stories here.”

The NHL Entry Draft is scheduled for June 20 and 21 in Ottawa, Ontario. Poile suggested the Predators might be most active there. They have two first-round picks and two second round picks. They also are deep in defensemen and could possibly be faced with a traffic jam at the goaltender position.

“We will get all of our ideas and thoughts together at the draft,” Poile said. “If a trade is something we want to do, hopefully, we will be able to match up with another team and do that.”

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