This year’s NHL Entry Draft will be held June 25 and 26 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. NashvillePredators.com will be there live to provide exclusive insider access to Preds scouts, coaches, and draftees. Check out NashvillePredators.com and NHL.com leading in to the draft for interviews and insights from the Preds scouts and NHL.com draft insiders.
NashvillePredators.com spoke with NHL.com draft and prospect insider Adam Kimelman to get his take on this year’s draft and who he thinks the Preds will end up picking in the first round.
NashvillePredators.com: The names Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin have dominated the talk about this year’s draft. Beyond those top two, how does this year’s draft look?Adam Kimelman:
The way the draft is going to play itself out this year, there are seemingly six or seven guys locked in at the top and then after that there are 15-20 guys who could go in just about any order. It’s such a deep draft through the first round this year; a deep and talented draft. And a lot of that is because of the US National Team Program which continues to get better and better and seemingly cranks out more high end prospects each year.
NHL.com Mock Draft ResultsNashvillePredators.com: The Preds own the No. 18 pick in the first round. What names could be available in that range?Kimelman:
Scouts Mock Drafts (June 2)
Eastern Conference Scout – Forward Mikael Granlund (Finland)
Western Conference Scout – Forward Emerson Etem (Medicine Hat, WHL)
Granlund is a slightly undersized (5-10, 180 pounds), but highly skilled
offensive forward. Rated as the No. 1 European Skater by Central Scouting,
he spent the past season in the Finnish Elite League, scoring 13 goals and 40
points in 43 games. He followed that up with a strong showing at the World
Under-18 tournament this spring and some scouting services -- like Red Line
Report -- have Granlund rated as high as the No. 3 overall prospect.
Etem is one of the top US-born prospects in this year’s draft, posting 37 goals
and 65 points in his first season in the WHL to earn the No. 8 spot on Central
Scouting’s North American Skater list. There are some questions about his
skating, but his shot – especially his wrister – is viewed as one of the very
best in this year’s draft. Raised in California, Etem has played in more
conventional programs at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and then two seasons with the
US National Development Program before moving to Medicine Hat last season.
Editors Mock Drafts (mid-May)
Kimelman – Forward Teemu Pulkkinen (Finland)
Morreale – Forward Tyler Pitlick (Minnesota State, WCHA)
Holland – Forward Riley Sheahan (Notre Dame, CCHA)
Pulkkinen is an interesting selection. He was highly regarded by scouting
services at this point last season, but suffered through an injury riddled
season which saw his draft stock fall; most scouting services have him in the
second or possibly even third round range. Central Scouting has him listed as
the No. 17 European Skater in its final rankings, however a strong
performance at the World U-18 tournament (named the tournament's top
forward) may have helped put his stock back on the rise. He scored 20
goals and 41 points in 17 games in the Finnish Junior League and then saw
12 games of action in the Finnish Elite League, so he has some experience
against established elite adult players.
Pitlick and Sheahan are a pair of college players, both likely in the late first
round to early second round projection. Pitlick, the No. 18 rated North American
Skater by Central Scouting, is the nephew of former NHLer Lance Pitlick, so he
not only brings a lofty ranking, but a NHL pedigree. At 6-1.5, 194 pounds he has
good NHL size. A regular for US Junior National teams, he scored 11 goals and
19 points in 38 NCAA games this season. His 11 goals were third-most by a
A big strong center, Sheahan opened the season as a projected Top-10 pick, but
struggled through his freshman campaign, scoring six goals and 17 points in 37
games. To be fair, the entire Notre Dame team struggled to live up to expectations
this season. Adding to his struggles, Sheahan also had an off-ice blip on campus
after the season. Ranked as the No. 5 North American Skater in Central Scouting’s
mid-term rankings, he finished at No. 22. The Preds had two prospects on the
Notre Dame roster this past season in Ben Ryan and Ryan Thang, so team scouts
have had ample chances to view Sheahan while keeping up with Ryan and Thang.
And he plays for a well-regarded developmental coach in Jeff Jackson (former
coach of the US National Development Program), so he's likely to be very well
coached during his collegiate career.
--Jay Levin, NashvillePredators.com
Just going through to see who we had in our mock drafts, a kid like Austin Watson
– he might be on the rise, but he could be in that area. Quinton Howden from Moose Jaw, he’s a possibility. In my last mock draft I had a Finnish kid going to Nashville, Teemu Pulkkinen; he had a ridiculous Under-18 tournament (this spring). He had a bad wrist injury that kept him out most of the year and apparently there are some maturity questions; those effected his final rankings in Central Scouting. Nick Bjugstad playing High School in Minnesota – he’s going to need some time, spend time in college – but he’s a big power forward who could hear his name called around that area of the draft. Tyler Pitlick from Minnesota State is a possibility in that range, too.
If they’re looking for pure offense, maybe someone like Tyler Toffoli, he scored 37 goals in the regular season and is a good offensive player. Stanislav Galiev can put the puck in the net. He’s an interesting story from the Russia standpoint. This is his second year in North America, so it’s not a case of a kid just coming over in his draft year; he more than any Russian player that I’ve seen has made a commitment to playing on this side of the Ocean. He played last year with Indiana in the USHL and now this year with Saint John (QMJHL), so I think of any of the Russian born players he’s the least likely to give teams pause. NashvillePredators.com: You mentioned the depth of US National Development Program, who are their top prospects in this year’s draft?Kimelman:
I think the name at the top of the list is Jack Campbell the goaltender. He’s had a year that most kids dream about. Going back a year ago he stepped in for the US at the Under-18 World Tournament and backstopped them to a gold medal. Over the summer he earned a spot on the World Junior team and in January won a gold medal with them at the World Juniors and then back with the Under-18 team this spring and won another gold medal with that team. He’s a big, athletic, very skilled goaltender. I think he’s definitely a first round pick; how high up in the first round I’m not sure. In my latest mock draft I have going in the Top-10. He’s got a winning pedigree and that’s something you can’t coach; this kid, he’s a winner. The US Program is also very strong defensively in this age group. Derek Forbort is one, Stephen Johns, Jonathon Merrill, Jarred Tinordi – very good, very talented, very big defensemen.
Up front, Jason Zucker was a guy who jumped off the page for me. He was the youngest player on the US team at the World Juniors. I remember talking to Dean Blais, who coached that US team, and he said when they got to the camp before they left for the tournament, “I didn’t want him on the team, but he just wouldn’t go away and he forced his way on to our team.” And Dean meant that in a good way. Zucker made it so the coaches couldn’t send him home, he was that good. And as the World Junior tournament went on he kept getting better and better. I had a scout tell me that if you didn’t know he was an American you would have sworn he was a Canadian kid because of the way he went up and down the ice and hit everything that moved and didn’t have any backstep in his game. So he’s going to be a nice pick for somebody.NashvillePredators.com: The Canadian junior leagues recently wrapped up their playoffs and the Memorial Cup Tournament. Which prospects saw their draft stock rise the most during the post-season?Kimelman:
Jeff Skinner from the Kitchener Rangers. He had 50 goals during the regular season and was in the Top-50 of the midterm rankings and rose up to 34th in Central Scouting’s final North American rankings (which come out before the CHL playoffs). Then he had 20 goals in 20 playoff games. I think as teams watched him through the playoffs he made a bigger name for himself. Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin were already top-two picks, so they just cemented their status at the top. I don’t think any of guys from the WHL or QMJHL did anything to hurt themselves. Stanislav Galiev from the Saint John Sea Dogs helped his team to the QMJHL Finals; that might have motivated a couple of teams to move him up a little on their draft boards – maybe into the second half of the first round.NashvillePredators.com: One of the more talked about prospects this season is Russian born forward Kirill Kabanov. Can you update the latest thoughts on Kabanov?Kimelman:
Central Scouting bumped him down to 31 in the final rankings. A lot of that is based on what happened at the end of the season. He had a real bad wrist injury which he brought over (to the QMJHL) from Russia; he’s kind of been an “issue” all season – and I don’t mean issues in a bad way. He wanted to come to Moncton at the start of the season and they had to go through a lot of hoops with the IIHF to clear him from his contract in Russia, so that delayed the start of his season by about a month. Once he played, he played really well and then he re-aggravated a wrist injury he suffered last season. He missed a lot of time in the middle of the season, but came back late and played very well. Something happened in Moncton in the playoffs – or late in the regular season – where he had an issue with the coach or something and he decided he’d leave Moncton to go back to Russia to get ready for the World Under-18 Tournament. Then he got booted off the Russian team for disciplinary reasons. So there are a lot of red flags with this kid off the ice, but on the ice he has Top-10 talent. It’s a question of maturity and commitment with him. NashvillePredators.com: How much has the past experiences with Alexander Radulov and Nikita Filatov had an effect on Kabanov’s draft rankings?Kimelman:
I think there’s something to that, not just with him but with Russian-born players in general. I think the lack of the IIHF transfer agreement will cause teams to look twice at a Russian player, talent for talent. If you have a kid from North America equal talent to a kid from Russia, I think most teams are going to lean away from the Russian kid because of the issues getting him to come out. But some of these prospects coming out of Russia are very talented and there are some good high end Russian prospects in this year’s draft. You just have to weigh the off-ice with what you see talent wise.
I think if there was a transfer agreement in place, I think you’d see a lot of Russians go higher in the draft. There is a lot of talent coming out of Russia this year. Vladimir Tarasenko had an excellent World Juniors for Russia; excellent player, has great hands. Evgeny Kuznetsov is another real good prospect from Russia; a first round talent but without a transfer agreement…. Nikita Zaytsev is a very good stay-at-home defenseman who will probably be a second or third round pick. There are some very good players coming out of Russia this year, so it will be very interesting to see how teams make their decisions about them.