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A look at the future

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Predators Assistant GM Paul Fenton recently took some time to talk about some prospects in the system that might bee seen in a Nashville uniform in the near future.
Cody Franson

2006-07 Regular Season Stats: 59 games, 17g-34a-51pts

Captured a gold medal with Canada at the 2007 World Junior Championships.

The 6-4, 205-pound d-man remains one of Nashville’s top prospects and was ranked 27th in this year’s annual future watch issue of The Hockey News. Nashville’s third choice, 79th overall (third round), in 2005, had quite a season in 2006-07. After winning a gold medal with Canada at the 2007 World Junior Championships in January, Franson helped the Vancouver Giants (WHL) capture the Canadian Hockey League’s 2007 Memorial Cup and was named to the tournament All-Star team.
Franson tied for sixth among WHL blueliners in scoring with 51 points (17g-34a) in 2006-07. The Salmon Arm, B.C. native was named the HUSKY WHL Player of the Month for September/October, posting 22 points (6g-16a) to begin the 2006-07 WHL season.
Fenton: “Franson could be the best passer in our organization, and that’s saying a lot. At 6-5, standing straight upright he sees the ice and sees a lot of the lanes guys smaller don’t see because he can look over the traffic. He just has soft touch hands that are so accurate that his best asset is launching the attack with tape-to-tape passes. He has to prove his defensive work and his feet, but he has played very well and we think he’ll be a good addition to us in the future.”
Blake Geoffrion

2006-07 Team: Wisconsin (WCHA)

Regular Season Stats: 36 games, 2g-4a-6pts

Also won a bronze medal with the United States at the 2007 World Junior Championships.

The Predators made the Brentwood native the first NHL draftee from the Nashville Youth Hockey League, selecting him with their first choice in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. A product of the USA Hockey National Development program, Geoffrion went on to post six points (2g-4a) in 36 games as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin last season.
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 captured a bronze medal with the United States at the 2007 World Junior Championships in Sweden.
Fenton: “Blake is a two-way forward that we have high expectations for to come in and play. He has a good work ethic. He’s the type of player that we see as being a two-way second or third line guy for the Predators someday. He’s very responsible and very competitive. Blake is quite enthusiastic about the game and has a great deal of passion for the game. There were a lot of variables with his adjustment in college this year, but we think that we saw the true player that he is and what he is capable of when he went over to the World Junior Championships and he was used in a defensive role. He was a kid that was used primarily to check and be responsible and was actually looked upon to shut people down. He showed that being out there in the last minute of the bronze-medal game as an 18-year-old. That shows quite a confidence from a coaching staff at a young age and we see him flourishing and becoming one of our better players in the future.”
Patric Hornqvist

2006-07 Team: Djurgardens (Swedish Elite League)

Regular Season Stats: 49 games, 23g-11a-34pts

Also represented Sweden at the World Junior Championships and the World Championships.

Hornqvist was named the Swedish Elite League rookie of the year in 2006-07 after leading junior players in the league with 23 goals. The last player to do that was Peter Forsberg. The 5-11, 187-pound center also played for Sweden at both the 2007 World Junior Championships and the 2007 World Championships, where he posted six points (2g-4a) in nine games. The Sollentuna, Sweden native was originally Nashville’s seventh choice, 230th overall (seventh round), in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He will remain in Sweden for the 2007-08 season.

Fenton: “Patric has played extremely well. He’s a guy that kind of flew under the radar from a lot of teams because he had a knee injury his draft year and we were very fortunate to have our Swedish scout have a very good handle on him and we ended up drafting him. He set a record this season for having the most goals scored by a player under 20 years old in the elite league in Sweden. He’s a kid that played in the elite league this year, obviously set records, but he also played in the World Championships and played extremely well. I think he had almost a point a game in the World Championships, which are supposedly the best players in the world for each country with the exception of the guys playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. From our standpoint we’re really happy to have him and we’ll have him coming over after next year.”


2006-07 Team: Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)

Regular Season Stats: 70 games, 5g-15a-20pts

Kevin Klein at 2006 Training Camp

Klein spent two short stints with Nashville this season and playing in just his fourth career NHL game in Chicago on January 26, the 6-1, 195-pound rearguard scored his first career NHL goal. Acquired by Nashville 37th overall (second round), in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Klein is a hard-nosed d-man who ranked third among Milwaukee blueliners in scoring in 2006-07 with 20 points (5g-15a) in 70 games.
Fenton: “Kevin Klein is ready to take the next step to be a regular in the National Hockey League. He’s played three years in Milwaukee, he has won a championship, he has gone to the finals, he just continues to mature as a player and he’s ready to take a step into our lineup next year. We have high expectations for him. He’s a guy even though in stature he’s listed at six feet, we compare him to a much bigger player where he’s able to defend and hard to play against for his size.”
Ville Koistinen

2006-07 Team: Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)

Regular Season Stats: 59 games, 8g-30a-38pts


Finnish defenseman Ville Koistinen, playing in his first season in North America with the Milwaukee Admirals, finished the 2006-07 season tied for eighth among AHL blueliners with 41 points (9g-32) in 59 games. The 5-11, 190-pound native of Oulu, Finland also played in the Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic. Koistinen was signed as a free-agent by Nashville on May 18, 2006.

Fenton: “Ville Koistinen played for us in Milwaukee this year after signing on as a free-agent and coming over from Finland. He has excellent offensive instincts. He has grown into a very good North American player and we see him in a mold as a Kimmo Timonen or a Marek Zidlicky where the offense is his best asset. He has extremely quick feet and has great competitiveness for size. We see him being a good addition to us in the near future here with Nashville.”
2006-07 Team: HIFK Helsinki (Finland)
Regular Season Stats: 50 games, 3g-6a-9pts

Captured a bronze medal with Finland at the 2007 World Junior Championships.

The 6-0, 200-pound defenseman posted nine points (3g-6a) in 50 games during his second full season in the Finish Elite League. Nashville’s second choice, 78th overall (third round), in the 2005 Entry Draft, Laakso also continued his success at the international level, earning a bronze medal with Finland at the World Junior Championships for the second straight year. Laakso ranked fifth in scoring among tournament defensemen in 2007 with five points (3g-2a) in six games.

Fenton: “Teemu Laakso and Cody Franson were drafted 78 and 79 and it was very hard to distinguish which one we would have taken. They are both very good defensively. Teemu is actually a better skater forward than he is backward and he has the same type of competitive combative nature that Kevin Kline has. He makes plays, he can stand up the rush and he has fierce competitiveness to him. He was the captain of the Finnish World Junior Team this year that won a bronze medal and he was by far their best defenseman for their team.”

Cal O’Reilly

2006-07 Team: Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)

Regular Season Stats: 78 games, 18g-47a-65pts

Nashville’s fourth choice, 150th overall (fifth round) in the 2005 Entry Draft led all American Hockey League rookies with an impressive 47 assists this season for the Milwaukee Admirals. The6-0, 193-pound Toronto, Ontario native also finished second on the Admirals in scoring and tied for fifth among AHL rookies with 65 points (18g-47a) in 78 games. The 20-year-old was honored as the Rbk/AHL Rookie of the Month for April after earning nine points (3g-6) and a +5 rating. 
Fenton: “O’Reilly played for us in Milwaukee this year and ended up with 65 points. He’s a very clever playmaker, a student of the game. He’s got innate passing ability that gives him a chance to be a top two-line forward for us. He just has to get bigger and stronger and he did, and he worked at his game the entire year. So from the way we’re looking at it is he’s still a year plus away, but he certainly has a very bright future for us on the offensive side of the game.”

Pekka Rinne

2006-07 Team: Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)

Regular Season Stats: 29 games, 15 wins, 7 loses, 6 shoot-out losses, 3 shutouts, 2.34 goals-against average and a 9.20 save percentage.

After missing the first half of the season with a shoulder injury, the 6-5 netminder returned to the pipes and ranked among AHL leaders in goals-against average (2.34) and save percentage (.920). The Kempele, Finland native went 15-7-6 and posted three shutouts in his second season in North America.

Fenton: “Pekka has played for us the last couple of seasons in Milwaukee. He has shown that he has gotten better and better with each year. Last year he was coming off an injury and only played half a year and still he came back and impressed us so much that we see him as being a very vital and important piece to our future.”
Michael Santorelli

2006-07 Team: Northern Michigan (CCHA)

Regular Season Stats: 41 games, 30g-17a-47pts

The 5-11, 180-pound center finished off his junior year at Northern Michigan (CCHA) by leading the Wildcats and the conference in goals (30). Santorelli, who doubled his goal output from a season ago, has now put up at least 15 goals and 30 points in each of his first three seasons of collegiate hockey. The Vancouver, B.C. native, who was Nashville’s sixth choice, 178th overall (sixth round), in 2004, became one of seven players from the CCHA to be selected to the 2006-07 Rbk Hockey All-American West Team as a second team selection.  

Fenton: “Mike, like Cal O’Reilly, has terrific offensive capabilities, more in the scoring department. Mike might be one of our better prospects along with Patric Hornqvist in the scoring department. He has a nack for the net. He attracts pucks. He can make plays at full peed, but he’s one of these kids when he shoots the puck, he knows that he’s willing the thing to go into the net. He just has that nack about him to not be denied when he has an offensive opportunity.”
Future Watch 2007

The Hockey News’ Future Watch ranking of the top five prospects in Nashville’s system:

1.      Cody Franson, D, Vancouver (WHL)

2.      Kevin Klein, D, Milwaukee (AHL)

3.      Teemu Laakso, D, Helsinki (Finland)

4.      Pekka Rinne, G, Milwaukee (AHL)

5.      Blake Geoffrion, LW, Wisconsin (WCHA)

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