Predators show unprecedented focus on forwards at NHL draft

Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 9:23am

If the 2012 NHL draft works out as planned, the image of the Nashville Predators as a defense-first (sometimes defense-only) team eventually will fade.

The Predators used six of their nine choices, including each of their first five, on forwards Saturday. They even traded a future pick to get an extra third-rounder (89th overall), which was part of that initial forward push.

"It just sort of broke that way," general manager David Poile said. "We didn't vary from our list. Forwards were there for us to take. When it was over we had two defensemen, one goalie and [six] forwards. So we did have some balance. Even in the first three forwards, one was a center, one was a left wing and one was a right wing."

In its previous 14 draft efforts, Nashville never used more than its first three picks up front, and not since 2006 had it picked centers and/or wingers with the first two selections.

There were three times previously that the first three choices were forwards, including the first draft in team history. The most recent was 2004 when the Predators took Alexander Radulov, Vaclav Meidl and Nick Fugere. That group has not exactly made a profound impact on the franchise.

This yer’s run on forwards ended with the selection of Finnish defenseman Mikko Vainonen in the fourth round (118th overall).

Nashville did not have a pick in the first round, which was conducted Friday night.

"It's not good not having a first-round pick," Poile said. "There's no way I can sugarcoat that. ... [Saturday] was a lot more fun for our organization because we got nine players. Sometimes you're in a draft and you're trying to trade off your draft picks at the end. Our scouts wanted to get some more, so I think they were happy right to the end."

A rundown of the Predators’ selections in the 2012 NHL draft:

SECOND ROUND

• 37th overall: Pontus Aberg, LW, 5-11, 194, Djurgarden (Sweden). An illness disrputed his season and caused him to miss the World Junior Championships. Has been a big-time scorer in Sweden’s under-18 and junior ranks.

• 50th overall: Colton Sissons, C, 6-1, 189, Kelowna (WHL). He was the team captain and finished second on his team with 26 goals and half of those came on the power play. He has averaged 41 points and 54 penalty minutes in two seasons with Kelowna.

THIRD ROUND

• 66th overall: Jimmy Vesey, LW, 6-0, 178, South Shore (EJHL). He was the leading scorer in the Eastern Junior Hockey League with 91 points (48 goals, 43 assists) in 45 games. He plans to attend Harvard in the fall.

• 89th overall: Brendan Leipsic, LW, 5-8, 165, Portland (WHL). He is a clutch offensive performer with great speed who has been named one of the 28 players who will compete in this summer’s Canada-Russia Challenge. He had 58 points (28 goals, 30 assists) and 82 penalty minutes in 65 games this season.

FOURTH ROUND

• 112th overall: Zachary Stepan, C, 6-0, 166, Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep (High School). He’s a consistent performer who has produced 64 and 65 points the last two seasons, respectively. His cousin is New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan.

• 118th overall: Mikko Vainonen, D, 6-3, 205, HIFK-Helsinki Jr. (Finland). He did get eight games in Finland’s top league this past season but spent the bulk of his time with the junior club, where he was a solid but unspectacular defenseman.

SIXTH ROUND

• 164th overall: Simon Fernholm, D, 6-4, 187, Huddinge Jr. (Sweden). He has the size needed on the blue line. This season, in the Swedeish junior ranks, he showed some puck-moving ability with 12 assists in 47 games.

• 172nd overall: Max Gortz, RW, 6-2, 196, Farjestad Jr. (Sweden). His size suggests a power forward but he had just six penalty minutes in 28 gmes last season.

• 179th overall: Marec Mazanec, G, 6-4, 187, Plzen (Czech Republic). At 6-foot-4, he’s a little smaller than the typical Predators goalie, but he had seven shutouts in 30 appearances at the junior level in 2010-11.

1 Comment on this post:

By: 4gold on 6/23/12 at 10:59

Who knows what this group will do? Would like to see them recruit bigger guys instead of waiting till playoff time to go out and grab some size to put on the ice because they are too small. Need to bulk some of these guys up.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!