Kealty NSH

The action on the ice may be over, but inside the Nashville Predators’ front office at 501 Broadway, things are only heating up. 

In town for the first of many meetings leading up to the 2024 NHL Draft in late June, Nashville’s amateur and pro scouts hope to exit the week with a clear strategy in place that will satisfy General Manager Barry Trotz’s vision for the franchise’s future and see to a successful trip to Vegas.

“Our guys have scouted and gathered the information all year and this is our first big meeting where we start to put the list in place,” Predators Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Jeff Kealty said. “I always say that you want to build your list and then eventually you put the strategy in place where you apply your picks to the list to really accomplish what you want. So, it's really the beginning of that process and it's been a good couple of days so far.”

With nine selections in the Predators’ pocket at this year’s draft - all of which fall in the first four rounds - there are naturally many prospects to look at and things to consider as the calendar counts down to June 28. 

After all, this year’s draft class is a different beast entirely from the one that gathered in Music City last summer. 

“I think it's probably average, maybe not quite as good or as deep as last year,” Kealty said. “Drafts are always deemed as good or bad or deep, or what have you, but you can go back years later and there's always players in every draft. So, I think you always kind of evaluate as a whole, and you're always talking about those sorts of things. Every year there are good players to be had in every round, and that's really the goal of the group, is to kind of go through that and use the whole draft.”

Assistant GM, Director of Scouting Talks 2024 Draft

While Kealty and Predators Chief Amateur Scout Tom Nolan both mentioned centers and defensemen as positions of particular interest for the Predators this year, a number of contingencies need to be anticipated and planned for as well.

“We’ve just got to put them in the right order and hopefully they fall to us… But sometimes those guys are gone by the time we're picking, so it's hard,” Nolan said. “But there's a gamut of players. There’s some really good, big D-men this year, there are some centers. We’ve just got to put it all together.”

“We have a good opportunity with a lot of picks early on, but you never know what can happen with different trade scenarios. You may end up having picks later in the draft that we need to be ready for. So, it's a long process, but our guys are really thorough and I think we always do a good job.”

Thorough likely doesn’t begin to describe it. 

Watching hundreds of games each over the last eight to 10 months - either in person or virtually - Nolan and his team of amateur scouts enter the annual meetings with mountains of information at their disposal. 

From statistics to off-ice character - and just about everything in between - all of it is noted throughout the year and weighed behind closed doors at Bridgestone Arena in the spring.

“You're always looking for the skill and the talent, and obviously, hockey sense is a big one that we talk about,” Kealty said. “So you’re always looking for those tangible aspects that you can see, but you're also doing a ton of work to gather information and find out about the character of the player, the competitiveness. Because you're drafting the player for what they are now, but you're trying to project what they'll be in the future.”

Predators Chief Amateur Scout Talks 2024 Draft

“You just want to make sure that they have that inner drive, that character, and that when they're 23 or 24 years old, they're going to be good people,” Nolan said. “And I think we've done a good job of that. When you see the Roman Josis, the Pekka Rinnes - they're just good people, good human beings, and that's what we want.”

Of course, this year’s meetings are the first with Trotz fully planted in the general manager’s chair. 

While Kealty, Nolan and Co. have made adjustments for the smaller, more administrative preferences of their new GM - things like information presentation, data reporting, etc. - it’s the less conventional ways Trotz hopes to utilize draft capital that weigh most heavily on the group’s immediate plans.

“We're competitive now, but we're building toward the future as well,” Kealty said. “We understand that the picks are our currency and our assets to not just pick players, but to do lots of different things. Maybe it turns into a younger prospect from another team that we can get that's part of our future. Maybe it turns into a younger pro that's 23 or 24 years old that helps us now and helps us in the future. Those are things that we're going through organizationally altogether. This right now is about the list and the draft and all that, but there's all kinds of different pieces that come into play as we go along here.”

The 2024 NHL Draft presented by Upper Deck runs June 28-29 at The Sphere in Las Vegas and is set to broadcast exclusively on ESPN and ESPN+. 

Click here to buy tickets and see below for a full breakdown of the Predators picks at the 2024 Draft: 

First Round: One Pick (NSH)
Second Round: Three Picks (NSH, TBL via Tanner Jeannot trade in Feb. 2023, WPG via Nino Niederreiter trade in Feb. 2023)
Third Round: Two Picks (NSH, DAL via trade for 2023 third-round pick)
Fourth Round: Three Picks (NSH, CHI via trade with TBL for 2023 fourth-round pick, EDM via Mattias Ekholm trade in Feb. 2023)