Firstly, I would like to thank Jason Karnosky for his work keeping the Roundtable rolling as I ventured out to California on vacation the past two weeks. I had a blast out there. And I also managed to keep an eye out during the NHL Draft and Free Agent Frenzy days whilst out there thanks to the likes of Jason and our friends of the Nashville media on Twitter. Cheers for all of you guys keeping me in tune even whilst in R&R mode!
~Nashville’s 2014 NHL Draft Selections~
Despite some speculation coming into the NHL Draft over whether or not Nashville would move from the eleventh overall selection – things appeared to go right to plan the way the Predators’ draft unfolded. In fact, SB Nation gave their Draft grade an A+ for the selections and acquisition of James Neal. While the Neal trade is a discussion all its own – let’s keep the Draft focus where it belongs with the newly selected prospects of the Nashville Predators.
Kevin Fiala (LW/RW), 1st Round (11th Overall)
Vladislav Kamenev (C/LW), 2nd Round (42nd Overall)
Jack Dougherty (D), 2nd Round (51st Overall)
Justin Kirkland (LW/RW), 3rd Round (62nd Overall)
Viktor Arvidsson (LW/RW), 4th Round (112th Overall)
Joonas Lyytinen (D), 5th Round (132nd Overall)
Aaron Irving (D), 6th Round (162nd Overall)
I know exactly what you are thinking. How exciting is it to get a Finnish player named Joonas back into the system? Right? Only me? I digress. Anywho, the thing to really look at with this 2014 Draft Class for the Predators is that four of the first five selections were forwards. I think it provides some insight into the future of a Peter Laviolette led team when you consider what he is stepping into.
Last year’s NHL Draft really didn’t provide much in the way of an impact forward. The 2012 Draft prior to that – we’ll see in-person plenty of what that class has to offer when Pontus Aberg and Brendan Leipsic hit Milwaukee later this year. Max Gortz, of the same draft class, is expected to play with Frolunda of the SHL for the 2014-15 season. Yet, of the past two-years in the Draft, only Colton Sissons has made an NHL impact of some sort for the Predators and I feel that goes into the decision making behind drafting forwards early and often in the recent NHL Draft for the Predators.
What will be worth looking into for the new Draft Class is its age. Only two of the seven newly drafted players were born prior to 1996. The oldest of the class is the Swedish winger Arvidsson who is 21-years old. The next oldest player: Finnish defenseman Lyytinen at 19-years old. The rest are 18-years old or younger. When you think about this Draft Class and any potential ETA to the NHL – you may want to wait a tick.
The top two of the class, Fiala and Kamenev, are both European products who look set for another tenure of hockey overseas. Fiala split last season between the professional and Junior-20 teams of the SHL’s HV71. Kamenev played last season with the KHL team that drafted him in 2013, Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In addition to getting drafted in the KHL and NHL – it is worth noting that Kamenev was also selected second-overall by the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL in the 2013 CHL Import Draft.
I strongly expect both to put in more time outside of the system prior to making their professional North American debuts. We’ve seen a perfect example of the Predators developing players this way over the years with Aberg, Gortz, as well as Miikka Salomaki and Joonas Rask. It’s all a matter of the rate of development as to when we see the likes of Fiala or Kamenev make the leap in my eyes. It could be one-season. It could be two-seasons. The fact that the Predators are starting to stock up on young forward talent though is what makes me the most excited about the entire draft process this season.
~The Real Deal James Neal~
Those that know me understand that I am a Pittsburgh Penguins fan. So it came to my shock to see my two favorite teams pull off a massive trade on draft day. James Neal has been a revelation playing alongside Evgeni Malkin since the Penguins first acquired him from the Dallas Stars (in a trade that also saw them gain Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski… geez did Dallas get hosed). Neal has produced 20-or-more goals in every single season of his NHL playing career. In 2011-12 he scored 81 points (40 goals, 41 assists) in 80 games. Since, he has cooled off somewhat but cooling off while scoring 20+ goals a season still sounds mouthwatering when you think about the Predators offense over the last few years.
The top goal scorers for the Predators: 2013-14, Craig Smith – 24 goals… 2012-13, David Legwand – 12 goals… 2011-12, Patric Hornqvist – 27 goals… 2010-11, Sergei Kostitsyn – 23 goals… 2009-10, Patric Hornqvist – 30 goals… 2008-09, Jason Arnott – 33 goals… 2007-08, J.P. Dumont – 29 goals…
It has been tough sledding in the offensive department. It really always has been. Enter the Laviolette era and the hopes to combine the great defensive core of the Predators with some offense. Neal, whether you wag the finger at Malkin or not, provides the Predators with goal scoring numbers and ability that they have lacked for years.
The real question you may end up asking is: was it worth losing the skill of Hornqvist and all-around ability of Nick Spaling to gain Neal’s services? In my book, as a fan of both teams involved in this specific trade, absolutely. Neal will give Nashville its proven goal scorer. Hornqvist and Spaling finally give Pittsburgh depth on the wing.
The talks of Predators GM David Poile going into free agency were that of signing a top-line center. All of those on came and went. What he ended up getting is Mr. Waffles himself, Olli Jokinen. Perhaps not what you would have hoped for with someone like Paul Stastny on the market but I feel it adds a proven, durable, and experienced player into the Predators system that should really fit well. Also, if someone can inform him of the nearest McDonald’s it may come in handy. Read more on the Jokinen signing via the Roundtable’s post on July 2.
It would seem the next approach for Poile and the Preds would be to look elsewhere for a center via trade. The name that has been floating around quite often has been Vincent Lecavalier. His contract is ridiculous and, at 34-years of age and counting, I question whether his best days are well behind him. Other options could include free agent Derek Roy or possibly trading for Joe Thornton.
Looking at next year’s free agent class also can provide small hints of who is a possible trade asset that may be available if a deal is right: David Krejci, Carl Soderberg, and Vladimir Sobotka. It isn’t the greatest market right now. Combine that with the crazy spending that went down during day-one of free agency and it leaves lots of questions for Poile as to getting the pieces needed for a playoff contending team with so many strong Western Conference teams getting stronger this off-season. Sit and wait mode might not be the worst place to be from Nashville’s perspective.
~Admiral Free Agent Updater~
It has been awhile since we’ve taken a look into who went where out of Milwaukee Admirals camp. Here is the update on the latest:
Taylor Beck – RFA
Anthony Bitetto – RFA
Paul Crowder – UFA
Scott Darling – Rockford IceHogs – (1-Year; NHL Two-Way Contract)
Scott Ford – UFA
Joonas Jarvinen – Sochinskiye Leopardy – (Full Details Unknown; KHL)
Mike Liambas – Milwaukee Admirals – (1-Year; AHL Contract)
Simon Moser – RFA
Joe Pendenza – Milwaukee Admirals – (1-Year; AHL Contract)
Braden Pimm – UFA
Joe Piskula – Nashville Predators – (1-Year; NHL Two-Way Contract)
Joonas Rask – HIFK – (1-Year Contract; Finland)
Bryan Rodney – UFA
Charles-Olivier Roussel – UFA
Vinny Saponari – UFA
Mathieu Tousignant – Adirondack Flames (1-Year; AHL contract)
Scott Valentine – RFA
Francis Wathier – UFA
What are you thoughts on the NHL Draft, James Neal trade, and free agency? Has David Poile done the right thing by not over-spending in free agency? What trades could be in the cards for the Predators and what players should be considered off-limits for the team?