COLUMBUS, OHIO -- The Nashville Predators selected top-ranked North American goaltender Jeremy Smith first among the eight players the club drafted in rounds No. 2-7 of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft Saturday at Nationwide Arena.
With the first (No. 54) of two second-round selections, Nashville selected Smith, a netminder for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. The 18-year-old (4/13/89) ranked second in the Ontario Hockey League in 2006-07 with a .923 save percentage. The Dearborn, Mich. native appeared in 31 games, registering four shutouts and a 2.59 goals-against average. On the Central Scouting Service’s final rankings for 2006-07, Smith ranked first among draft-eligible North American goaltenders.
Four picks later (No. 58), Nashville chose Kitchener Rangers center Nick Spaling. The 18-year-old (9/19/88) ranked third on the Rangers in 2006-07 with 59 points (23g-36a) in 61 games. The 6-0, 180-pound center, who hails from Palmerston, Ont., also competed in the 2007 Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game.
In the third round (No. 81), Nashville picked Notre Dame forward Ryan Thang. The 20-year-old (5/11/87) Chicago native led Notre Dame (CCHA) with 20 goals this past season and finished second on the club with 41 points (20g-21a) in 42 games. The left wing helped the Fighting Irish capture the CCHA championship.
Expected to join Thang at Notre Dame in the fall is Des Moines (USHL) center Ben Ryan, who Nashville selected with the first (No. 114) of two fourth-round selections. The Detroit native, 18 (10/16/88), posted 64 points (22g-42a) in 59 games this past season for the Buccaneers.
With pick No. 119, Nashville selected Chilliwack Bruins (WHL) left wing Mark Santorelli. The 18-year-old (8/6/88) led the Bruins in scoring this past season with 82 points (29g-53a) in 72 games. The Edmonton native is the younger brother of Nashville prospect Mike Santorelli.
Nashville made its first European selection of 2007 with its fifth-round pick (No. 144), Swedish forward Andreas Thuresson. Measuring in at 6-1 and 200-pounds, the 19-year-old (11/18/87) posted 15 points (10g-5a) in 48 games with Malmo (Sweden) in 2006-07.
In the sixth round (No. 174), Nashville selected defenseman Robert Dietrich, who played for Dusseldorf (Germany) in 2006-07. The 20-year-old (7/25/86) from Kaufbeuren, Germany posted 22 points (3g-19a) in 52 games.
Nashville ended its tenth NHL Entry Draft by selecting 19-year-old (2/19/88) Finnish goaltender Atte Engren with the 204th overall selection (seventh round). Engren appeared in 38 games for Lukko (Finland) in 2006-07, registering a 3.03 GAA and a .906 save percentage.
The Predators opened the draft on Friday by choosing defenseman Jon Blum (1/30/89) of the Vancouver Giants (WHL) with the No. 23 pick in the first round. The Long Beach, Calif. native led the WHL with a +37 rating in 2006-07 and led all draft-eligible blueliners with 51 points (8g-43a-51pts) in 72 games. As a teammate of fellow Nashville prospect Cody Franson, Blum helped the Giants capture the 2007 Memorial Cup. He is also the first California-born and raised player to be drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.
Among the Predators’ 2007 draft class are five forwards, two defensemen and two goaltenders. Four selections hail from the United States, two are from Canada and one each hails from Finland, Germany and Sweden. The Predators drafted five 18-year-olds, two 19-year-olds and two 20-year-olds.
Blum will be among the players in attendance at the Predators’ prospect conditioning camp opening Tuesday evening at Nashville’s Centennial Sportsplex.