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One-on-One with Jeff Kealty (Part 2 of 2)

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Predators Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty talked to us about the Preds 2009 Draft Class and how those prospects have developed over the first half of the '09-10 season. Kealty has been a major influence in the Preds recent draft classes, including overseeing the team's 2009 draft board. Back in mid-January Kealty discussed the Preds '08 Draft Class and previewed this summer's 2010 Draft.

How do you think the offensive guys that were picked in 2009 will work out for the team?
With Minnesota freshman forward Zach Budish, he missed all of last year with an injury, but that hasn’t been an issue at all in 2009-10. He looks good and he’s a mountain of a kid, but he’s lean and strong. There are some adjustments with him that still need to be made. Going from not playing his senior year of high school to playing his first year of college was one of them, but we’re happy with the way he’s play this first half. He has a lot of tools in place with his power, strength and ability to make plays

Guelph forward Taylor Beck has been a pretty good, I don’t want to say surprise, but good third-round pick-up. He’s a powerful winger and he is currently fifth in the Ontario Hockey League in scoring. He’s had a terrific year and we’re really excited about his development.

Moncton forward Gabriel Bourque has also had an excellent year. He is another guy that didn’t have much value going into the draft, but he has a great combination of energy, grit and offensive ability. He’s one of those guys that make it hard to play against him. He’ll be entering our system next year and we’re excited to get him in the organization.

Another we got in the late round is Craig Smith – he’s playing on the top line at the University of Wisconsin with Blake Geoffrion. He has really gotten off to a good start in his freshman year. The draft last year we really feel good about the depth in all different areas but especially up front.

Did Gabriel Bourque become more visible because of his performance at the World Junior Championships?
He is one of the guys that benefited from it. He’s playing in Baie Comeau, which is way up north in Quebec, so he’s maybe not as visible as some of the other players. I think that people have taken notice to the strides that he’s made. For those that didn’t – I think that you got a good look at him on the stage at the World Juniors. He’s probably a more known name now but he’s been known by us for a long time. So we were really happy to get him in the fifth round last year.

Can you talk about the development of the defensemen we selected last year, Shawinigan’s Charles-Olivier Roussel and Mattias Ekholm, playing with Mora in Sweden’s second league?
We are very happy with the development of both guys. Roussel is a solid two-way player. He started out last year with a bad leg injury that was really hampering him through the beginning of the year. Once he got through that his game really fell back into place. He’s been very good and has been among the top scorers in the Quebec League (QMJHL) for defensemen. He is still really young kid that barely made the draft last year. With him, he just needs to continue to get bigger, stronger and quicker, but the foundation is certainly in place.

Ekholm was another guy in those mid-rounds last year that we were really happy with. He is a really dependable two-way guy – that makes a good first pass and moves the puck well. He’s 6-4, but he just needs to fill out and get stronger. He just saw him at the 2010 World Juniors in Saskatoon earlier this month, and he performed very well. He is just a really steady guy that will be a good compliment to some of the other guys we have in the system.

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