While the Nashville Predators coaching staff prefers to take things one game at a time on the ice, the club’s scouting staff is always preparing for what’s ahead.
Now that the month of June has arrived, the culmination of the Predators scouts’ year-long preparations are about to be realized at the 2015 NHL Draft, set to be held at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, in just three weeks’ time.
The dozen scouts who work for the Preds travel to the corners of the earth from September to April in search of the next Pekka Rinne or Shea Weber, and on June 26 and 27, months of work is put to the test over a quick-moving 24 hours.
Time will tell if their selections prove to be the Predators next superstar, plus, with no first-round selection in this year’s Draft, at least for the time being, the ability to find hidden talents becomes increasingly necessary and difficult.
At the beginning of May, the scouts came together within the Predators offices at Bridgestone Arena, continuing to prepare for the weekend which their entire season revolves around.
“It’s a year-long process where we’re going out and seeing all the players and filing our reports…but now is when we finally start to put it all together,” Preds Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty said. “We build a list, we start to strategize how the Draft is going to play out, what our picks are and what different scenarios may play out.
“It’s just a continuing process where we build a list from here, but we continue to tweak it and look at it right up until the Draft.”
That tweaking comes along with attempting to pinpoint which players are on Nashville’s radar, and where they may fall when the selections begin. Although they’re without a first-round pick this year, the Predators have picks in the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, as well as two selections in the fourth round.
According to Kealty, it’s the opportunities that arise in later rounds and play into what the team is looking for that are analyzed closely.
“There are certain pressure points on our list,” Kealty said. “Especially when you get into the mid and later rounds, you can really key in on guys that you know you can take in certain areas. When you really focus in on those points and are really thorough in your discussions with those players and your evaluations of those players, that’s when you can really do well in the later rounds of the Draft.”
Players like Weber and defenseman Roman Josi, both selected in the second round in their respective Draft, forward Craig Smith, a fourth-round selection, or Rinne, snagged in the eighth round in 2004, prove that there is plenty to be had once the first 30 are off the board.
“From now until the Draft is when you’re taking that information and trying to build your list to come up with your strategy so you can execute on Draft day,” Kealty said. “It’s one thing to know the players and have them rated the right way, then it’s another step to get them on your picks. Execution is the way to describe it, and I think we do a good job at that.”
The next late-round gem is out there somewhere. It’s up to Kealty and his staff to find him and get him into Preds Gold.
“You do the work all year, and you want to make it pay off in the end,” Kealty said. “It’s very much an in-depth process from here to the Draft, so hopefully we’ll make it all work.”