Names of teenage hockey players are being thrown around this week in a meeting room at Bridgestone Arena, and it won't be long before a few of those are affixed to the back of a Predators jersey.
All of Nashville's amateur scouts have descended upon Music City for the annual meetings held in this first full week of May as the group begins to hammer out a plan before heading to Vancouver for the 2019 NHL Draft in late June.
For the past eight months, nine scouts based all over the world have spent most of their time traversing lonely highways that lead to frozen rinks filled with some of the top young players the game has to offer.
The goal? Find the next star - and a few diamonds in the rough - who will skate for the Predators in the years to come.
At this point, there are no more games to watch, no more reports to log, no more cups of coffee to use for warmth on Friday and Saturday nights. Now, the group has come together in order to ensure their preparedness when they're on the clock in the first round with pick No. 24.
"The communication is there all year long with all of our scouts, but this is really the first really big meeting that you have in the lead up to the draft," Preds Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Jeff Kealty said. "The scouting and all that kind of work is done, but you ask all of our guys to really dig in and hone in on the preparation. We still have a few weeks away until the draft, but guys are working really hard up to that point."
The meetings taking place this week are spirited, with each scout presenting what they've seen over the course of the season in their respective leagues covered. Scouts are passionate about the players they believe will be best for the Preds, and while the discourse may become heated at times, that's exactly what is expected at this time of the year.
"There's passion, and our scouts really want certain guys, and that's what we want," Preds Chief Amateur Scout Tom Nolan said. "We want guys pushing their guys, and that's where we have to step back and make sure we've got the right guys in the right order. That's done by doing interviews with kids, watching video, just listening to our guys and going off our gut."
Those feelings don't always pan out in the end - it's virtually impossible for every player selected in the draft to play in the NHL at some point - but Nashville's staff has consistently found players who have eventually become mainstays on the Predators roster in due time.
Forwards like Viktor Arvidsson, Craig Smith and Colton Sissons, defenseman such as Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro, plus Finnish goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have all been acquired through the draft.
Video: Tom Nolan discusses 2019 NHL Draft prep work
The scouting staff is a veteran group that has seen minimal turnover through the years, and that familiarity with one another allows them to work as a cohesive unit when they come together, especially during draft weekend.
"Our philosophy is to take the best possible player wherever that pick is," Nolan said. "One of the things we're looking for is speed, skill - that's where the game is going right now, so that's our philosophy. That's where we're trying to go, but it's taking the best possible player with that pick."
The Preds will have a chance to do so in the first round this season, something that wasn't available to them last year after the pick was dealt away at the Trade Deadline. Compared to a total of just four picks last June, Nashville currently possesses seven selections right now, a figure that will allow ample opportunity to "restock the cupboard."
"It's certainly not as full as it's been at different times, but I think that's just a product of the competitive state that we've been in," Kealty said of Nashville's prospect pool. "Everybody knows we've traded away picks and prospects and those sorts of things. Last year, we didn't pick until the fourth round… but organizationally, we're all on board with what we're trying to do in terms of winning and winning the Stanley Cup. Everybody understands that. But that being said, you've always got to have young players coming up underneath and pushing to make a team… It's a good opportunity for us to kind of take that step to restock."
June 21 and 22 in Vancouver will serve as the "Super Bowl" for Nashville's scouting staff this summer, the weekend when all of their hard work comes to fruition with a chance to add seven names to the organizational depth chart.
That pick at No. 24 will garner the most attention, and even if it takes a few shouting matches along the way, the Preds are confident there will be plenty of quality options available when their turn arrives.
"You want guys to have passion for players, but I think everybody knows that we're all on the same page and we want to get the best player," Kealty said. "When you have a group that's been together a long time and knows what they're doing and they're all focused on the same goal, I think you usually get good results. We're hoping that's the case again this year."