The Nashville Predators suddenly are treating their organizational roster as if it’s a restaurant. They’re taking reservations.
In recent weeks they have signed an unusually large number of former draft picks to contracts even though many won’t play for the Predators or even their AHL affiliate at Milwaukee in the coming season.
A total of 13 picks from the last five drafts have agreed to entry-level deals within the past year. The most recent was goalie Atte Engren, a seventh-round choice in 2007. The signees include players at every position and the rounds in which they were selected range from the first all the way to the seventh.
“If at least half of them eventually play for us, that would be great,” general manager David Poile said. “We feel like we have drafted well and have done a good job of developing players in recent years. Hopefully, this will just be a continuation of that.”
A rundown of some of those who have been signed:
• Goalies – Engren and Anders Lindback (seventh round, 2008)
• Defensemen – Ryan Ellis (first round, 2009), Charles-Oliver Roussel (second round, 2009) and Roman Josi (second round, 2008)
• Forwards – Jani Laujunen (seventh round, 2008), Gabriel Bourque (fifth round, 2009), Michael Latta (third round, 2009), Ryan Flynn (sixth round, 2006), Ryan Thang (third round, 2007).
Players such as Ellis and Roussel must play in the NHL next season or be returned to their junior clubs. In both cases, the latter is most likely. Engren and Laujunen have played professionally in Europe and are expected to remain there in the coming seasons.
Their contracts will be deferred until they play professionally in North America.
“The maturity rate of players always is different, whether they’re in Europe or if they’re in college, where they have four years to work on their game,” Poile said. “In the case of someone like Ellis, it’s just taking care of the business.
“Next year there won’t be as many guys signing. Things like this tend to go in cycles.”
One recent draft pick who remains unsigned is Blake Geoffrion, the Predators’ top choice (second round) in 2006 and winner of the 2010 Hobey Baker Award as the best college hockey player in the United States.
Geoffrion played briefly at Milwaukee on a tryout contract following the conclusion of his college career.
The Predators have until Aug. 15 to sign him or they lose his rights.
Poile classified negotiations with Geoffrion as “ongoing.”