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Preds Draft Q&A with's Adam Kimelman (Part 1)

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
With the NHL’s annual Entry Draft convening in Minnesota later this week, caught up with draft guru Adam Kimelman to discuss this year’s crop of prospects, including some players who might be on Nashville’s radar. Check out Part I of the Q&A today and then check back tomorrow for Part II, including a look at some of the “rising sleepers” in the draft and the role of college hockey in the development process. In your conversations with NHL Central Scouting and with different team scouts, how does the talent in this year’s draft class stack up to the last three-four years?
Adam Kimelman: I heard one scout say this year is about the same level as the 2003 group, and we know how that class has turned out – the caliber and depth of players that have come out of that draft year (Suter and Weber were drafted that year – click here for more on the ’03 draft class). But to me you need at least five years to evaluate the strengths or weaknesses of a draft. To say it was or will be a good draft or bad draft, it’s way too early to say. The kids are so young and have so much growth and development left, you really have to wait a few years to see how they pan out. Except in very rare occurrences it’s tough to look at a 17/18-year old kid and say this guy is going to be an NHL star, but I think there are a lot of players in this year’s draft who could end up with very good NHL careers. Last year there was a lot of talk about the depth of defensemen available in the draft. What are the strengths of this year’s draft class?
Kimelman: I think there is a lot of good offensive talent to be found throughout this draft. When you look at the players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome, Sven Baertschi, there are a lot of very talented offensive forwards. And then you look at a Ryan Murphy or a Nathan Beaulieu, and there are some very talented offensive-minded defensemen. There may not be a Sidney Crosby or a Steven Stamkos in this draft, but there are a lot of players who can develop into very good NHL players for their teams. How does the goaltending crop stack up in this year’s draft?
Kimelman: There’s really one name at the top of the goaltending lists – Gibson – and there are two of them, no relation to each other, vying for the first goalie position. There’s John Gibson of the US Development Program and there’s Christopher Gibson of Chicoutimi in the QMJHL. Those two seem to have moved to the head of the class. And also the top European goalie, Samu Perhonen, a 6-foot-4 Finnish kid who says his idol is Pekka Rinne; those three seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the group. There are a few others who could be good players, but like with the skaters, it takes a few years to see if this will turn out to be a deep goaltending draft – especially with goaltenders it takes a little longer to develop. The U.S. National Development Program has had a strong run at the draft the past handful of years. How is this year’s crop of American prospects?
Kimelman: I think it’s going to be a pretty strong group again this year. I think Tyler Biggs is probably at the top of that list; a big nasty power forward with skill. Rocco Grimaldi; everyone seems to have latched on to him because of his 5-foot-6 size, but he has a chance to be a real good player. The goalie, John Gibson, we talked about earlier and he’ll be one of the first probably two goalies picked in the draft. As we’ve seen the last few years the U.S. National Team Program is producing more and more top level talent. I think you’ll hear the names of U.S. National Team graduates called a lot in the first two/three rounds this year. The past few drafts Sweden has dominated the draft landscape in terms of European-born prospects. Do you see that trend continuing this year?
Kimelman: There are going to be a high number of Swedes taken in the draft again this year. I don’t know if it will be as many early in the draft as the last two years, but throughout the draft you are going to hear a lot of Swedish names called. Some are still playing in the Swedish Elite League, some that have migrated to the Canadian Hockey League. Gabriel Landeskog is probably going to go within the first three-to-five picks in the draft; he played in the OHL this year. Rickard Rakell also came to the OHL, is another who could go in the first round. Adam Larsson is the top rated European skater. He stayed in Sweden, but also is probably going to go in the top-five picks. Oscar Klefbom and Jonas Brodin, they’re defense partners in Farjestad in the Swedish Elite League and are both likely to go in the first or early second round. It’s another really good year for the Swedish development pipeline. It seems more and more they’re putting out really top quality players. Of local interest, Nashville’s first pick this year is at No. 38. Last week David Poile stated a preference for adding some more offensive talent in this year’s draft. If the Preds decide to go for offensive help with that slot, who are some prospects who fit that mold and could be available at the No. 38 slot?
Kimelman: A player like Shane Prince from Ottawa in the OHL; he played in the top prospects game and had a real nice showing there. Matt Puempel from Peterborough in the OHL; he had a hip issue that kind of limited him the second half of the season, but coming into the season he was one of the two or three highest regarded skaters in the OHL. There’s a Peterborough connecting for Nashville with Austin Watson playing there (Nashville’s first round pick last year), so Nashville’s scouts would have paid good attention to Puempel. Seth Ambroz from Omaha in the USHL is another big body forward who skates well and could be attractive there early in the second round. Rocco Grimaldi, who we talked about earlier with the U.S. kids, could be available around then; he impressed people with his work at the combine. Grimaldi is a little smaller kid (listed at 5-6, 163 pounds), but he’s real skilled. Daniel Catenacci from Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL, won the fastest skater competition at the Top Prospects Game and is another guy who could come off the board early in the second round. If Nashville decides to go forward there should be some interesting options for them there at the top of the second round. Talking about Grimaldi’s size, there seems to be a lot of undersized forwards rated highly by Central Scouting and other draft services? Is there a changing draft strategy across the league?
Kimelman: When the rule changes with this new CBA came into effect, defensemen no longer were able to hold or obstruct players in the neutral and offensive zones, so you no longer needed to be 6-3, 200-plus to be able to play in high traffic areas. You can now get away with being 5-10, 5-11, 6-0 with speed and skill – you don’t have to be an oversized guy to get to the hard areas, you just have to want to get there. The example I like to use is Patrick Kane. You go back 15 years ago and Kane – at 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11 – wouldn’t have been the No. 1 pick in his draft year, but because of the change in the rules, a person at his size and skill set can still excel and dominate in the league, so that’s why you’re seeing more guys under 6-foot making their way to the top of the draft boards.

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