It’s the most important tool the Nashville Predators scouting department has for Sunday’s 2013 NHL draft. It’s been formed, debated, shaped and reshaped over the past six months.
It will take years and the development of the hundreds of players on it to know whether or not they got it right.
This much is certain, though: the list offers no guarantees about which players the Predators — or any other NHL team, for that matter — will get. Only the Colorado Avalanche, who have the first overall pick, can be sure of one choice. All the rest must wait to until the moment arrives.
“I’ve been at drafts where it comes to our player on the list and we’re the next one up and — bang — the team ahead of us takes him,” general manager David Poile said. “I’ve seen that three rounds in a row. But I’ve also seen it where we have players rated say 20-30 and we get our first pick, and in the second, third and fourth round we get them back to back to back, which means we get three or four of the players rated in our top 30 players in the whole draft.
“You’re hoping that the scouts have been bang on and have done the ratings correctly.”
Nashville has 10 picks in this year’s draft. The first — fourth overall — might not yield the best player in this year’s draft class, but Predators’ executives are confident that all of the players at or near the top of their list are special and offer significant long-term promise. That group likely includes defenseman Seth Jones, forwards and teammates in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, and European forward Alexsander Barkov. Two others who could be ranked that high are Russian center Valeri Nichushkin and Swedish forward Elias Lindholm.
“It’s not an easy group to order necessarily but it’s a good problem because we think they’re all elite,” Nashville’s chief amateur scout Jeff Kealty said. “They’re all different, but we think they’re all elite. It’s just a matter of really going through it and determining what we think our order is.”
The same is true of the later rounds, which will provide the bulk of Nashville’s haul this year.
The Predators don’t have a second round choice but have three in the fourth round and two each in the fifth and the sixth.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re thorough all the way through,” Kealty said. “You look at the history of the drafts we’ve had … some of the success we’ve had has come throughout the entire draft. Every year we have an opportunity to take advantage of those picks in the mid to late rounds so we give the entire draft the proper time.”
That time begins in January, when the entire scouting staff comes to Nashville for preseason meetings. That is when the list first starts to take shape. It is further debated and discussed at a similar postseason meeting in May.
Earlier this week everybody went to New Jersey, site of this year’s draft, where discussions will continue and late changes will be made based on new or better understood information.
“The top end of it this year hasn’t moved drastically,” Kealty said. “You’re always adjusting things and then when we get everybody together is when you really start to make more specific moves. It’s always a work in progress.
“[The first round] is obviously the big pick and we’re making sure we give it all the time it needs and being as thorough as we can with that.”
The best-case scenario, of course, is that there is not a wrong choice among those top prospects.
“I think everybody has high expectations,” Poile said. “… There are a lot of people in the hockey industry that think they can all play. I think they can all play, but I want to be sure of that.
“We might get the best player in the draft at No. 4, we don’t know.”
Just like they don’t even know whether they will get the No. 4 player on their list.