How would you grade the Predators draft classes these past couple of years?
We are really happy with the last couple of drafts. If you look back to the 2008 Draft, we were really loaded up with the two picks in the first round and the additional pick in the second round. We feel very good about all three of the guys we picked.
With (seventh overall pick) Colin Wilson
, you get a big powerful forward. Goaltender Chet Pickard
(selected 18th overall) has developed well and has started his professional career with some early success in Milwaukee. Also, defenseman Roman Josi
(picked 38th overall) has really developed well. He just played in the World Junior Championships and he also made the Swiss Olympic Team. In 2009, we loaded up with numerous picks through the middle rounds and we feel really good about the guys we took. We really feel good about the depth, the skill, and the different elements that we’ve been able to stock up in both drafts. The two European players we selected in 2008, Finnish center Jani Lajunen and Swedish goalie Anders Lindback. Are they progressing into NHL-caliber players?
We think so. Lajunen is more of a two-way-type of player – a penalty-killer, a third line-type of player that is responsible both offensively and defensively. He has developed well, it’s just a matter of adding strength and explosiveness to his frame at this point. Lindback, we really feel could be a home run for us. People have heard the Pekka Rinne
comparisons before. There are several, starting at his height (6-5), and the fact that he is wiry, athletic, and he was picked later in the draft. He has all sorts of tools and he has progressed well. We will have him over here within the next couple of years. I think he’s going to be a real steal. Fans seem to wonder why Colin Wilson hasn’t played many games with the Predators. Do you have any concerns with his development?
There is no concern at all. He started out very well through training camp and through the first couple weeks of the season. He ran into the injury problem and that has had an effect on several factors. The injury was still an issue for him when he first got to Milwaukee and I think you’re starting to see him starting to get back into form now. The injury was a factor, but the reality is that he is still 20 years old. Every player we’ve had has come through Milwaukee at some point – you can go back as far as 2010 Olympians Ryan Suter
and Shea Weber
– who are now both stars in the NHL.
It is a process. It is not what they’re doing now at 20 years old, it’s what they are doing for the long term. Everyone here understands that and knows it is part of the process. There’s no concern at all – he’s going to develop into a star power forward for us. From that same 2008 draft class, another name we hear a lot about is Roman Josi from Switzerland. Is Josi the type of player that migh be able to make the jump from Europe into the lineup next year?
I think that we’re all optimistic that he’ll come in here and push for a spot. If he did that would be great – if he doesn’t, then it is the same thing we were just talking about with Wilson – there’s not a rush for any of these guys. There is a big adjustment coming over from Europe where the game is played a little bit differently. He may need some time to adjust but he’s a pretty smart kid and I think that he will do so. At the end of the day, it’s a process and that needs to take place for these guys to develop properly. Looking forward to this year’s draft, is there a plan in place for our picks?
We’ve always gone by the philosophy of taking the best player available. We don’t plan to deviate from that this year. A lot of people probably asked how we could take another defenseman in last year’s draft. (Eleventh overall pick) Ryan Ellis
is just a dynamic talent offensively from the back end. It always goes back to taking the best player – if you do that all the way through you’re going to have a lot of assets and a lot of elements to your stable of prospects. That is pretty much the mindset we have right now going into the draft. How does this year’s draft class compare to the last couple of drafts?
At this point, we like the depth of this draft. That was part of our meetings this past week – to kind of size up how the draft is looking. We are really happy with how it looks at this point. There is still a lot to be done in terms of evaluating and dissecting all of it. Right now, we are happy with the players and the depth of it – right now it looks good.