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Preds College Prospect Outlook with Asst GM Paul Fenton

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
In this – part one of a two-part series looking at Nashville’s college prospects – Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton chats about the newcomers to the organization, and those preparing to wind down their collegiate careers in April.

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How are our young prospects handling their first year in college, namely Zach Budish at Minnesota and Craig Smith at Wisconsin?

Paul Fenton: Budish is coming off of major knee surgery, so the college game has been an adjustment for him. It is a much faster game and for a big guy like him; it took some transition time going into the season. His knee is coming around, especially in the second half of this season. He’s started showing more progress, more quickness, and more mobility to his game. We find that a lot of times, the guys who have major knee surgery usually take about a year before you see them in the light that you hoped. That happens with professionals and it happens with everyone. With that said, he seems to be progressing very well from our standpoint.

Craig Smith started out really well. In fact, he’s been playing on a line with (Predators 2006 second round pick) Blake Geoffrion at Wisconsin. They seem to have great chemistry together, which could pay some dividends in the future for us. He has great speed, he’s been putting a lot of points on the board, and his coaches think that he is one of their better forwards. Our scouts that have seen him play this year, and say they are very happy with his development thus far.

Continuing on that topic, can you talk about how Blake Geoffrion has been progressing?
Fenton: A lot of times, when you draft a college player you don’t know what his timetable is going to be. With Blake, he expressed to us that he wanted to finish his senior year and complete his degree at Wisconsin. I think that has been the right move for him – he has had four great years up there, and he’s been among the NCAA leaders in goal scoring all season. His development is right on track. He’ll turn pro after this year and hopefully we can get him to Milwaukee for its playoff run. After that, the plan is for him to start in Milwaukee and gain some experience playing in a much tougher environment. From there, his development is all up to him.

Geoffrion was a former second round pick, has he progressed as well as you’ve hoped?
Fenton: Absolutely, he is the consummate two-way player that we thought he would be. Yes, he has scored goals this year, but from our standpoint he is going to be a very good two-way player. His attention to detail is what attracted us to him in the first place and we’ve continued to see that in his four years at Wisconsin.

Two other senior players, Ryan Thang at Notre Dame and Ryan Flynn at Minnesota, can you talk about them?
Fenton: Ryan Thang just didn’t have the scoring touch that we thought he was going to have early this season. I think he was pressing a little bit going into his senior year, but as of late he has stepped it up. Hopefully that will jump-start him into playing well down the stretch. We would like to get him into Milwaukee at the end of the year to gain some experience, and next season we see him fitting in nicely with the Admirals.

Ryan Flynn is in a very similar situation. He hasn’t really scored at all this year; we expected him to put more goals on the board. With that said, his leadership, his size and his strength are the things that attracted us to him in the beginning. He continues to show that and I think he will continue to do so at the professional level – especially if we can use him in a third or fourth-line “grit”-type role.

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