Despite having the fewest selections in franchise history and no first round pick for the first time ever, the Nashville Predators made the most of their five picks at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, using four of them on gritty, physical, two-way forwards to address a need that is always welcome and needed in the organization’s depth chart.
"We've [previously] drafted some skill and some speed and some real tempo with the team we have now," said Predators North American amateur scout Jeff Kealty. "I think these are guys that complement those guys well. When you look at the playoffs this year--how hard the games were and how physical it was--a team like Edmonton just got better and better and harder to play against the longer the series went because they were hard, they were tough and they were difficult to play against. We think that trying to supplement ourselves with those types of guys is going to be good for our depth down the road."
With its first selection, 56th overall, General Manager David Poile and his scouting staff created one of the stories of the summer in Music City, selecting hometown talent Blake Geoffrion.
"Words can't express how good I feel right now about going to Nashville," Geoffrion said after being selected by the Predators.
Geoffrion, who bears one of the most famous names in hockey, will attempt to become a fourth generation NHLer, following in the footsteps of his father Danny, grandfather Bernie “Boom Boom,” and great grandfather Howie Morenz, just a short commute from his boyhood rink.
With the remainder of its picks, Nashville stayed consistent with a trend it started at the 2005 draft, blending North American and Scandinavian talent. The Predators selected one more American in addition to a prospect each from Canada, Sweden, and Finland. Blake Geoffrion, Nashville's first choice, 56th overall (second round).(BLAYK JEHF-ree-ohn) U.S. National Development Team Program
The Predators made the Brentwood native the first NHL draftee from the Nashville Youth Hockey League, selecting him with their first choice. A product of the USA Hockey National
|Blake Geoffion at Predators hockey school |
Development program, Geoffrion was a member of the U.S. U-17 team in 2004-05 and the U.S. U-18 team that captured the gold medal at the 2006 (U-18) World
Championships. Hockey runs deep in the 6-1, 190-pound pivot’s family, as both Blake’s grandfather, Bernie (Boom Boom) and great grandfather Howie Morenz are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. His father, Danny, also spent time in the league as a first round pick (eighth overall) of the Montreal Canadiens. A two-way forward who plays a power game, Geoffrion will hone his skills in 2006-07 at the University of Wisconsin (WCHA).
SCOUTING REPORT: Is a wide-based skater with a powerful stride who has good balance and is hard to knock off his skates… Once in full stride, has deceptive speed and his skating has shown improvement… A power forward who goes hard to the net… Has a quick release on his shot, which is hard and accurate… Protects the puck well in traffic down low… Can be effective cycling the puck… Passes the puck well on the forehand and backhand and is very responsible in the defensive zone… A very good penalty killer… Is excellent in critical face-off situations… Is a highly-competitive player who is aggressive in the corners and in front of the net and will go over opponents to make a play. He finishes his checks with authority and is a punishing hitter.
QUOTEBOOK: “He made great improvements in 2005-06. We liked the type of game he plays, his intensity and he has the intangibles that we look for in a Predators player… It is a bonus for us that he is a homegrown player, but we looked at his game first. He is an excellent two-way player. He was sent out on the ice to shut down the other team’s top line and also to create some chances.” – Paul Fenton, assistant general manager.Niko Snellman, Nashville's second choice, 105th overall (fourth round).(NEE-koh SNEHL-mahn) Ilves Tampere Jr.
With its second choice (105th overall), Nashville selected bruising winger Niko Snellman, a product of Finland’s Ilves Tampere system. The Tampere, Finland native tallied eight points (4g-4a) and 74 penalty minutes in 23 games for Ilves’ junior team in 2005-06, and also represented his nation at the 2006 Viking Cup and posted 32 penalty minutes in four games. Selected 41st overall in the 2006 CHL Entry Draft, Snellman will spend the 2006-07 campaign with the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats.
SCOUTING REPORT: Uses his size well in the corners and makes opponents notice his presence… Loves to hit and shows great character with an honest effort… Has good hands and the ability to find open space when carrying the puck… Plays with an edge and finishes his checks regularly.
QUOTEBOOK: “He hits extremely hard and extremely well. He’s got great, great passion for the game and determination. He’s got good skills and good hockey sense, too. He didn’t produce a lot this year [2005-06], but I don’t see that as a problem in the future because he can play with good players. He can pass the puck and he makes good decisions.” – Janne Kekalainen, European scout.Mark Dekanich, Nashville's third choice, 146th overall (fifth round).(MAHRK DEH-kuh-nihtch) Colgate University
The Predators added some depth in net with their third pick in the draft (146th overall), adding Colgate’s Mark Dekanich. As just a sophomore in 2005-06, the North Vancouver, B.C. native received the Ken Dryden Award as the ECACHL Goaltender of the Year after starting 36 of the Raiders 39 games. Dekanich’s 2.29 goals against average and league-leading .924 save percentage earned him 2005-06 All-ECACHL First Team honors and he was named the league’s Best Player of the first half (2005-06) by The College Hockey News.
SCOUTING REPORT: A good-sized goaltender with good energy, quickness and battle skills… Loves to challenge the shooter… Moves across the crease well and has good scrambling ability… Controls his rebounds and pucks around his crease well… Needs to control his aggressiveness.
QUOTEBOOK: “He is a terrific, athletic goaltender that has good size. His numbers this past season were terrific in leading his team to the playoffs. We see him as a very solid, athletic goaltender coming out of college in a couple of years.” – Paul Fenton, assistant general manager.Ryan Flynn, Nashville's fourth choice, 176th overall (sixth round).(RIGH-uhn FLIHN) U.S. National Development Team Program
Nashville went back to the USA National Development Program with its fourth choice (176th overall), selecting gritty right wing Ryan Flynn
. The St. Paul, Minn. native notched 63 points (30g-33a) in 115 games for the program the past two seasons, and helped the U.S. U-18 team capture the gold medal at the 2006 (U-18) World Championships. The 6-2, 212-pound winger was also a member of the Team USA that took first place at the 2005 Four Nations Cup in Rochester, N.Y. Flynn will head home for the 2006-07 season, as he is set to attend the University of Minnesota (WCHA).
SCOUTING REPORT: Skating has steadily improved over the course of 2005-06. He gets to where he needs to be and is most effective if he keeps his feet moving… Passes the puck well with accuracy and confidence… Effective in coming out of the corners to make a play or get to the net… Possesses a good shot, which he gets off quickly… Can score coming out of traffic and from scrums in the crease area… Sees the ice well and is an unselfish team player… Competes well and battles hard – very strong and uses his strength well along the walls and in the corners… Very consistent in his physical play which in turn helps open up room for his linemates… Delivers a big hit and can separate opponents from the puck to create turnovers and scoring chances… Stands tough in front of the net and is very hard to move… Has an obvious on-ice physical presence.
QUOTEBOOK: “Flynn had a great season with the under-18 program, winning the World Junior Championships in April. He is heading to a great program in Minnesota, and we see him as a future power forward for us.” – Paul Fenton, assistant general manager.Viktor Sjodin, Nashville's fifth choice, 206th overall (seventh round).(VIHK-tohr sho-DEEN) Vasteras Jr.
Nashville’s final selection (fifth choice, 206th overall) in the 2006 draft kept with the theme of power and grit as it chose Viktor Sjodin of Vasteras (Sweden). The Uppsala, Sweden native potted 12 goals in 31 games for Vasteras’ junior squad in 2005-06 and added 3 points (1g-2a) in six games for his homeland at the 2006 U-18 World Championships. The 6-0, 207-pound left wing will play for Portland of the Western Hockey League after being selected 26th overall by the Winter Hawks in the 2006 CHL Import Draft.
SCOUTING REPORT: Has a good release on his shot and can use his body in front of the net… Is difficult to move in front of the net… Handles the puck well and knows how to use his teammates around him… Strong on his skates and difficult to knock down… Uses his strength well and makes clean, hard hits… Not flashy but hard to play against.
QUOTEBOOK: “He is a big, strong, powerful winger that is known for the physical side of his game and for separating people from the puck with his size. He also has very good hands and an ability to put points on the board.” – Paul Fenton, assistant general manager.