During his final press conference of the 2018-19 season in April, Predators General Manager David Poile indicated there were a few players who could challenge for a spot on the NHL roster in Nashville come October.
On Wednesday, Predators Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Jeff Kealty gave some analysis on a few of those names, all of whom skated for the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals last season. That includes highly-touted prospect Eeli Tolvanen, who scored his first career goal during his second stint of NHL action back in December with the Preds.
Forward Anthony Richard and defenseman Alexandre Carrier, two more players who have already made their NHL debuts with the Predators, remain high on the depth chart, and Yakov Trenin could be ready to take another step as well.
Here are Kealty's takes on some of the best in Nashville's system:
Kealty on Tolvanen, who recorded 15 goals and 35 points with the Admirals last season:
"Eeli Tolvanen was right where he needed to be this year. The expectations based off of what he had done the year before in the KHL were huge, and in some cases, probably not that realistic. Sometimes when a player comes over, you've got to remember that he's still 19 years old. The American Hockey League is a really good league, and it can be really difficult for players to transition and it's exactly where he needed to be. He got better and better as the year went on, learning to play with pace and consistency, learning to fight through the more traffic that the North American game presents here… I think the way you've got to compare him in the big picture is compare him to his peers, and he's right on track. When he came up and played his four games there early in the season when we had some injuries, he scored his first goal and contributed more offensively, contributed more on the power play; I think he looked that much further along than he did the year before when he came over from the KHL, and he just needs to continue that progress. He's played a ton of hockey the last couple of years, and I think this summer will be a really good opportunity for him to just train and really focus on what he needs to do… We're all hoping he learned a ton this year, which I think he did, and that he uses that this summer, trains the right way and comes into camp. You've seen it before where a young player comes in and he's the talk of camp, and that's what we're hoping for with him. You get a young 19, 20-year-old kid on your team that can score goals, that's gold for any organization."
Video: Kealty previews NHL draft, chats Preds prospects
Kealty on Richard, who led the Admirals with 24 goals and made his NHL debut last season:
"He's gotten better every year, he's scored more every year and he has legitimate NHL speed the way he skates. In today's game that's a real asset. His entire game has continued to mature, and he's used in all situations (in Milwaukee). A player like that, you saw a guy like Rocco Grimaldi that came up and just the way he skates alone was a real factor for us up here. I think if you could have a guy like that infused into your lineup, that type of speed, that's what the games all about today. He's a guy that we're looking for to make a big jump."
Kealty on Trenin, who posted 14 goals, 33 points and a team-best +21 rating with the Ads:
"He also had a good year for us there, a second-year pro, and sometimes you forget how young these guys are. He's had some really major injuries the last couple years…so it's kind of the first year he's really been healthy, and he got better and better as the year went on. In the playoffs, he was one of our top players, if not our top player, just with his big body and the way he can drive pucks deep and be a handful for the opponent. He's another guy that's taken a good step, and we're looking for him to continue that next season."
Kealty on Carrier, Milwaukee's leading point getter (5g-32a-37pts) from the back end:
"He had a really solid year for us again. He's on the same track as Anthony Richard, a third-year pro, and he's gotten better each year. He logs huge minutes down there and has a really good ability to just manage the game and play in all situations. He's another guy you want to have a good summer and train and become more explosive. He played a couple games for [the Predators] his first year and hasn't played the last couple years, but we think he's right there and ready to push and hopefully play some games for us next season."