Predators Sign Justin Kirkland to Entry Level Contract

KELOWNA, CANADA - OCTOBER 23: Justin Kirkland #23 of Kelowna Rockets celebrates a goal against the Prince George Cougars on October 23, 2015 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
KELOWNA, CANADA – OCTOBER 23: Justin Kirkland #23 of Kelowna Rockets celebrates a goal against the Prince George Cougars on October 23, 2015 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo Credit: Marissa Baecker // Shoot the Breeze)

The Nashville Predators have announced the signing of Justin Kirkland to a three-year entry level contract. The 19-year old forward becomes the final member of the Predators 2014 NHL Draft Class to punch his ticket for North American pro hockey with the rest of that draft having been with the Milwaukee Admirals or with the Predators by the end of the season: Kevin Fiala, Vladislav Kamenev, Jack Dougherty, Viktor Arvidsson, Joonas Lyytinen, and Aaron Irving. To put it simply, what a shockingly good draft class to be able to say something like that inside of two-years.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (May 16, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Monday that the club has signed 2014 third round selection Justin Kirkland to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Kirkland, 19 (8/2/96), amassed 67 points (31g-36a) in 69 games with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets in 2015-16, his third season with the club. In 2014-15, the 6-foot-3, 183-pound left wing helped the Rockets claim the WHL regular-season and playoff titles and advance to the Memorial Cup Final, tying for sixth among all skaters in points (2g-3a-5pts, 5gp) at the tournament. The Camrose, Alta., native ranked eighth among Western Hockey League rookies in points (17g-31a-48pts) in 2013-14, and for his Kelowna career, has 169 points (71g-98a) in 199 games.

Nashville’s fourth choice, 62nd overall (third round), in the 2014 Entry Draft, Kirkland is on Twitter @Kirkland96.

Considering the Jimmy Vesey route seemingly died out this might not have just been your next best option but your better option if you are Nashville. Kirkland just finished playing his third and most successful full-season with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL in junior hockey where he scored 67 points (31 goals, 36 assists) in 69 games as well as contributing 15 11 4 in 18 WHL Playoff games. In total, Kirkland’s Kelowna career spanned 199 games where he amassed 169 points (71 goals, 98 assists) with 47 WHL Playoff games where he scored 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists).

Kirkland has been a frequent guest with our friends over on Penalty Box Radio. In the most recent story featured on him over there I can’t help but highlight a quote from Kirkland that should set him apart from the likes of Vesey:

“Next year, I want to be able to make that jump to the American [Hockey] League,” Kirkland said. “Everyone wants to prove that they’re ready to play with the pros, so that’s my goal. We just finished up, so whatever was going on in the background, my agent and parents are handling that right now. Hopefully, they can get something done and I can land in Nashville, because who doesn’t want to be a part of that organization? It’s just kind of waiting around right now, but like I said, there are people behind the scenes that are handling that.”

How about having a player call a shot for the AHL over the NHL? Sounds like a perfect player for the Predators organization given the way they love to develop players at their own pace starting in Milwaukee before eventually seeing them gravitate to Nashville.

With Kirkland now bound to become a member of the Admirals for the 2016-17 season they are instantly due to receive yet another big bodied and skilled scoring winger that could instantly make a positive impact. Citing a desire to start in the AHL shows he has a good head on his shoulders. I suspect really great times are going to begin once he suits up for his professional playing debut in the fall.

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