The Nashville Predators’ position at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio – and the complexion of the team that was ultimately put on the ice in October – changed dramatically in the days leading up to the annual late-June event. Four days before the hockey world focused its eyes on Ohio’s capital city, Nashville General Manager David Poile reacquired the club’s first-round selection from Philadelphia for pending unrestricted free agents Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. The pick was originally dealt to the Flyers in mid-February in the deal that brought Peter Forsberg to the Music City.
“We expected both Scott and Kimmo to be among the most sought after at their respective positions when the unrestricted free agent marketplace hit on July 1, and it did not appear as if we were going to be able to sign either player before then,” Poile said at the time. “That being said, we received a first-round pick for the exclusive right to negotiate with two players who ultimately could have hit the market in two weeks.”
Nashville was yet to make its biggest splash on the trade front, though. A mere hours before NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman took the stage to announce the draft’s commencement, Poile moved goaltender Tomas Vokoun to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2007 draft, and the Panthers’ first two selections in the 2008 Entry Draft.
One hundred hours prior to Poile and his staff taking the stage to announce Vancouver Giant’s defenseman Jonathon Blum
with the 23rd overall selection, it appeared the Preds would pick seven times, with none coming before No. 58. In the end, the organization wound up with nine new amateur members.
After a year of seasoning, here is a glance at the Predators’ picks in Columbus, five of which have already signed their first professional contracts:1st round, 23rd overall- Jonathon Blum
, D, Vancouver Giants (Western Hockey League)
The Predators made Blum the first California born and raised player to be selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft when they tabbed them with the pick they reacquired from Philadelphia. He signed his first pro contract with Nashville on Dec. 17, 2007, then played for the U.S. at the 2008 World Junior Championships just a week later.
The Long Beach native ranked second among WHL defensemen in points (63) and assists (45) in 2007-08 despite missing eight games while at World Juniors. He also finished third in goals (18) and sixth in plus/minus rating (+27) among blueliners in addition to tying for ninth among all WHL skaters in power-play assists (26). The 6-0, 168-pounder was also named a 2008 WHL Western Conference Second-Team All-Star. He tied for first on Vancouver in assists, ranked second in points and power-play goals (12) and was tops among club d-men in goals. Also ranked second among club d-men in playoff scoring (3g-4a in 10 games). 2nd round, 54th overall
- Jeremy Smith
, G, Plymouth Whalers (Ontario Hockey League)
The top-ranked North American goaltender in Central Scouting’s final report for the 2007 draft, Smith ranked second in the OHL in save percentage (.921) and tied for fifth in shutouts (3) in addition to finishing in the OHL’s Top 10 in wins (23) and goals-against average (2.86) in his second full season as a starter for the Whalers.
The Dearborn, Mich., native also ranked first among OHL goaltenders in shootout save percentage (.760), stopping 19 of the 25 shots he faced. Smith appeared in all four of the Whalers’ 2008 playoff games and represented the Western Conference in the 2008 OHL All-Star Classic. He was named Boston Pizza OHL Player of the Week for the week ending Nov. 25 after backing the Whalers to three wins with a 1.33 goals against average and .964 save percentage and named ADT CHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending Nov. 11 after posting two wins with a 1.00 goals against average and .971 save percentage in two starts. He kicked the second full month of the season off with shutouts in back-to-back starts Nov. 1-9, stopping all 65 shots he faced.2nd Round, 58th overall - Nick Spaling
, C, Kitchener Rangers (Ontario Hockey League)
Spaling helped the Kitchener Rangers win the 2008 OHL Championship and reach the Memorial Cup Finals. He tied for second in assists (6) and tied for third in points (8) at the 2008 Memorial Cup, which included a five-point game (1g-4a) in the Rangers 9-0 victory over Belleville in the Memorial Cup semifinals.
The Palmerston, Ont., native ranked third in 2008 OHL playoffs in goals (14) and fifth in points (30) in addition to tying for the 2008 OHL playoff lead in power-play goals (8). He also came through when it was all on the line by scoring the game-winning goal in Game Seven of the OHL Finals series. In the regular season, he ranked second on Kitchener in goals (38) and third in points (72) in 2007-08 despite missing six weeks with mononucleosis. The 6-1, 182-pound forward also ranked second in the league and led the Rangers in power-play goals (25) in 2007-08. He scored a goal for the Eastern Conference at the 2008 OHL All-Star Classic and was named Boston Pizza OHL Player of the Week on Oct. 21, 2007 after recording eight points (6g-2a) in three games the previous week.3rd Round, 81st overall - Ryan Thang
, LW, University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
The Chicago native has yet to miss a game in his first two collegiate seasons at Notre Dame, most recently helping the Fighting Irish become the lowest-seeded team in tournament history to reach the NCAA National Championship game this past April. He led Notre Dame in goals (18), game-winning goals (5) and ranked second on the club in points (32) for the second consecutive season in 2007-08, and was also was tops on the Irish in power-play tallies (7), shots (143) and third in penalty minutes (48). The 5-11, 186-pound forward showed his worth in clutch decisions as well, tying for fourth in the CCHA in game-winning goals and seventh in the league in shorthanded goals (2).4th Round, 114th overall - Ben Ryan
, C, University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
A teammate of Thang’s on the Notre Dame team that reached the 2008 NCAA National Championship game, Ryan ranked ninth in the conference in freshman scoring (10g-16a) in his first collegiate season. The native of Detroit also ranked fourth on the Fighting Irish in points and assists while appearing in all 47 games the team played during his freshman campaign. He was named CCHA Rookie of the Week on Jan. 28 after recording four points (2g-2a) in a weekend sweep on Jan. 25-26.4th Round, 119 overall -
Mark Santorelli, C, Chilliwack Bruins (Western Hockey League)
Possibly the most pleasant surprise of the Class of 2007, Santorelli captured the Bob Clarke Trophy in 2007-08 as the top scorer in the WHL with 101 points in 72 games. He also led the league in assists (74) and power-play assists (45) en route to being named a 2008 WHL Western Conference Second-Team All-Star.
The younger brother of Nashville prospect Mike Santorelli ranked second on Chilliwack in goals (27), and led the Bruins in playoff scoring (1g-4a in five games). The Burnaby, B.C., native was named the Boston Pizza WHL Player of the Week for the week ending Dec. 2 after picking up nine points (7g-2a) in three games. He was also a +4, helping the Bruins to a 3-0 record in that span. The 6-1, 189-pound centerman notched three or more assists in a game on seven occasions in 2007-08, including a five-assist performance in a 7-2 Bruin victory on Oct. 27, 2007. Shortly after Chilliwack’s season ended, he signed his first pro contract with the Preds (April 14).5th Round, 144th overall -
Andreas Thuresson, RW, Milwaukee Admirals (American Hockey League)
The Kristianstad, Sweden native wasted no time inking his name on a pro contract, signing on with Nashville just three weeks after his name was called (July 16). That enabled him to become the youngest player in the American Hockey League in 2007-08. He played 77 games for Milwaukee in his first North American professional season, scoring his first AHL goal in his third career game on Oct. 19, 2007 vs. Iowa. His best stretch came from Jan. 16 to Feb. 6, where he registered more than half his season points total by tallying a point in eight of 10 games (5g-5a). The 6-1, 204-pound winger also appeared in all six of the Admirals 2008 Calder Cup playoff contests.6th Round, 174th overall -
Robert Dietrich, D, DEG Metro Stars (German Elite League)
Like Thuresson, Dietrich signed with the Predators a mere 23 days after his draft date on July 16. He spent the 2007-08 season in his homeland of Germany, but is expected to play for his first season in North America in 2008-09. The 5-10, 172-pound blueliner’s development was set back early in the season by a broken leg, which caused him to miss all but nine games for the DEG (Dusseldorf) Metro Stars. He acquitted himself nicely in the German Elite League playoffs though, playing in all 13 of the Metro Stars’ 2008 postseason games in their run to the conference finals.7th Round, 204th overall - Atte Engren
, G, Lukko (Finland-Junior)/Lukko (Finnish Elite League)
Engren played the majority of the season for Lukko’s junior team in his hometown of Rauma, but also appeared in games for Lukko’s Elite League team and Hokki of Finland’s second division. He ranked 10th in the Finnish Junior League in save percentage in 2007-08 (.907) and is expected to attend Nashville’s prospect conditioning camp for the second consecutive season in July.