Predators thrilled with center, goalie picks

Friday, June 20, 2008 at 11:14pm
Preds goalie Dan Ellis had a good weekend — he signed a new contract and became the de facto starter. File

David Poile is not only happy, he is ecstatic.

For the first time in the history of the Nashville Predators dating back to 1998, the team had two picks in the first round and they made them count.

The Predators did some wheeling and dealing, which appeared to be the theme of the first round Friday night at the NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ontario. Poile and his staff traded up early in the night and picked center Colin Wilson. Later, after another trade, they selected goaltender Chet Pickard.

“Some days it just works out,” said Poile, the Predators president of hockey operations/general manager. “We got a center iceman-forward that we really needed for our depth and a goaltender that also helps our depth.”

The Predators, who made trades on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, traded their No. 9 and No. 40 picks to the New York Islanders to move up to the No. 7 spot in the first round Friday night Wilson, who just completed his freshman year at Boston University .

“Colin was the guy we wanted at the No. 9 spot,” said Poile. “The draft went almost exactly like we had it rated. There were two or three forwards we really liked, but we liked Wilson a little bit better.

‘He is a guy we really think we can win with. We feel strongly about that. We thought it was worth a second-round pick to get the player we really wanted.”

Wilson , whose father was an NHL player with the Calgary Flames, Hartford Whalers and the New York Rangers, played 37 games with 12 goals and 23 assists (35 points). He was the Hockey East Conference Rookie of the Year.

“My father taught me everything I know about hockey,” Wilson said. “What I have learned from him allowed me to get to a higher level quicker and to be an all-around player.”

Wilson is 6-foot-1, 215 pounds was one of the strongest players tested at the NHL Combine. He is projected to be a power forward and a solid two-way player.

“I am known as a two-way player but I take a lot of pride in my offense,” Wilson said. “I am a big guy. I use that to my advantage to get in front of the net.. That is where I score most of my goals. I think the reason people rate me as more of a two-way player is because I take care of the defensive zone.”

The Predators need to bolster the center-forward positions, especially with a player with Wilson ’s physical capabilities.

“Colin is going to be really big and thick,” Poile said. “We think he plays the offensive game very well and he a shut down guy on defense. I can’t tell you how passionate our scouting staff was about this being the guy we wanted.”

Wilson said he is not certain if he will return to Boston University for his sophomore season or become a professional player. But Poile indicated he wants Wilson to stay at Boston University for at least another season.

“We haven’t sat down with him, but we think he is in a good place,” Poile said.

Both Paul Fenton, Predators assistant general manager, and Jeff Kealty, chief amateur scout, are Boston University alumni.

The Predators made their second trade of the first round, sending their No. 15 pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for their No. 18 selection in the first round and a third-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

With the No. 18 pick the Predators chose Pickard, a 6-foot-2, 222-pound goalie. He was rated as the No. 1 defensive goaltender in terms of rankings. He played for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League this past season, the same team that produced Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

“I played with Carey for a couple of years,” Pickard said. “It is an unbelievable compliment to be compared to him. We both try to carry ourselves in goal in a calm, cool and relaxed way.

“I didn’t really know where I would be picked. It’s a great honor. The Predators are a great organization. They have good goaltending and a great goaltending coach in Mitch Korn.”

The move bolsters the Predators goaltending. Pickard, the first goaltender picked, was 46-12-4 last season with a 2.32 goals against and a .918 save percentage.

“Pickard, in our minds, is the best goalie in the draft,” Poile said. “He is a big guy. He has huge hands.

“You don’t know whether it is fair or not but he has been compared to Price. We are really happy with him.”

Wilson and Pickard are long-time friends. Wilson is expected to play for the U.S.A. in the World Juniors and Pickard is expected to play for Canada .

“They have been best friends,” Poile said. “That is pretty intriguing that the two first round picks are best friends.”

Pickard admitted that being picked to play for the same team as his best friend made it even more special.

“I moved to Winnipeg when I was 9 and even though we are separated during the winter we have been best friends,” Pickard said. “Our families are really close. When I heard my named called I hugged my parents and then Colin came over and gave me a huge hug.”

The Predators have been one of the busier teams at the draft at the Scotiabank Center . Thursday afternoon they sent left winger Darcy Hordichuk to the Carolina Hurricanes for a conditional fifth round pick in the 2009 draft.

ELLIS THRILLED: It was truly the icing on the birthday cake for Nashville Predators goaltender Dan Ellis.

Thursday Ellis turned 28 years of age. He celebrated with his family and friends in Omaha, Neb., but his agent had the biggest present of the day.

Ellis has agreed to a two-year deal worth a total of $3.5 million with $1.5 million in 2008-2009 and $2 million for the 2009-2010 season. Ellis, who had appeared in only one NHL game before last season, made $500,000 for the Predators.

“Everything has worked out perfectly,” Ellis said. “To sign a two-year, one-way contract is something that I had never ever signed before. To do it with a team that I accomplished something special with was even better.”

The Predators faced a difficult situation at the goaltender position. They already had Chris Mason locked in for a two-year extension at $3 million a year which starts with the 2008-2009 season.

With the St. Louis Blues agreeing to trade for Mason in exchange for a fourth-round pick in last weekend’s NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa, Ontario, the opportunity to seal a deal with Ellis opened up.

If the Predators had not signed Ellis he would have been an unrestricted free agent again July 1. Poile indicated earlier in the week that he did not expect to sign Ellis before the start of the free agency period.

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By: OneTimer on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Love to hear that the scouts loved Wilson that much. And that we got him.

By: nashbeck on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Hope they all work out very well for us, and the Mason trade works out well for the Predators. Go Predaotrs!!

By: sharko on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Already tired of summer and can't wait for hockey season!

By: Clarksville Predfan on 12/31/69 at 7:00

A little off-topic, however, I get these emails, like the one attached below from the NHL face off panel. This is a place where predator faces can answer surveys and let the NHL know what, we the preds fans, think about issues in the NHL. We, predator fans, need more representation on this panel; anyone can join. Attached is from the NHL:"We apologize for emailing you again on this subject, but the NHL Fan Face Off Team still needs your help in recruiting Nashville Predator Fans. Currently, the Nashville Predators have one of the lower representations on the NHL Fan Panel.Please email your fellow Predator fans and ask them to join the panel. All they have to do is visit www.nhlfanfaceoff.com and click on the join button to see if they quailify to be part of the NHL Fan Panel. Thank you for your continued support of the NHL Fan Face Off Panel.The NHL Fan Face Off Team"Sorry if this bothers anyone, just want to get it out to Predator fans.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Weber's been re-signed to a three year deal. Press conference at 2pm.