In a meeting with his scouts Friday night, Nashville Predators’ general manager David Poile vowed to do everything possible to acquire extra picks for the second day of the NHL draft.
Saturday, he failed to deliver … and it did not necessarily make much of a difference.
“We didn’t have a pick in the second and fourth rounds, but the players we took in the third and fifth rounds we probably would have taken had we been able to move up,” Poile said. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
“In any draft, quality is in the eye of the beholder. We feel like we got a lot of quality, especially where we got those two particular players.”
Nashville drafted U.S. born defenseman Tyler Aronson in the third round (78th overall) and then got Swedish forward Patrick Cehlin in the fifth (126th overall).
The franchise ultimately made three more picks – U.S. defenseman Anthony Biteto and European forwards David Elsner and Joonas Rask – and raised their total to six selections over the two days and seven rounds of the event. It was the second-fewest number of picks ever in a draft.
Two picks were traded away in March in deals for NHL players.
“Eventually, we all have to pay for the moves we make,” Poile said. “Again, I tried to make some deals (Saturday) and to do so we would have had to give up something – either picks in the future or players. I don’t think it could have turned out any better than it did.”
Aronson is one of a group of California-born players who received a lot of attention with this year’s draft in Los Angeles. He had 30 points and 65 penalty minutes in 71 games as a rookie with Portland of the WHL and was ranked 88th among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service.
Poile said he compared favorably with Nashville’s 2007 first-round pick, Jonathon Blum, another defenseman out of California.
Cehlin had a dynamic first season in the Swedish Elite League with 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) and 110 penalty minutes in 36 contests. This past season he had just five goals, six assists and 10 penalty minutes in 54 appearances and entered the draft ranked 25th among European skaters.
“Aronson is the type of player, we think, you need to succeed the way the game is played right now – he’s a high-tempo, skilled kind of guy who can move the puck to the forwards,” Poile said. “… Obviously, our scouts saw something in (Cehlin) that others didn’t.”
Bitetto, at 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, is more of a rugged blue liner, yet still was the fourth-leading scorer among defensemen last season in the United States Hockey League. He plans to play college hockey at Northeastern.
Elsner, a German, and Rask, from Finland, both plan to play at least one more year in Europe. Each, however, also is expected at next week’s prospects conditioning camp in Nashville.