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Preds Eye Potential From 2011 Draft

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
We're now one month out from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (June 24-25, 2011 in Minnesota). will provide extensive coverage leading up to and through Draft Weekend, with a heavy emphasis on the Preds and Central Division rivals. We'll kick off the coverage with today's draft overview. Check back in the coming weeks for more detailed breakdowns of the top prospects in this year's draft, including some of the best players likely to be available around the Preds picks.

Nashville currently owns eight selections in the 2011 Draft -- six of their own and two acquired via trades. The Preds first pick in the draft is slated for the No. 38 overall pick, a selection early in the second round. Nashville does not currently own a first round pick, having traded that selection to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Mike Fisher trade.

Preds current picks include:
Round 1 - none (Preds pick traded to OTT for Mike Fisher)
Round 2 - two (NJ pick acquired in last summer's Jason Arnott Trade + Preds own pick)
Round 3 - one (Preds own pick)
Round 4 - two (FLA pick acquired in last summer's Mike Santorelli Trade + Preds own pick)
Round 5 - one (Preds own pick)
Round 6 - one (Preds own pick)
Round 7 - one (Preds own pick)

If the Preds do not make a trade to re-acquire a first round pick, this will mark the second time Nashville has not made a selection in the first round of the Draft. However, things turned out well for the Preds the first time -- in the '06 Draft, Nashville moved its first round pick to Washington as part of a trade deadline deal, but in Round Two selected Blake Geoffrion. Geoffrion made his NHL debut this season and was a key contributor down the stretch drive and through the playoffs. Only 23 years old, Geoffrion appears poised to continue to develop into an even larger role with the team heading into next season and beyond.

This Year's Draft Class
The first long-term view of this year's class wasn't overly glowing 11-12 months ago as draft pundits were heading into the 2010 Draft Weekend. However, in the year that has passed, the views on this year's draft eligible prospects have improved considerably. At the top of the draft, there aren't the "instant made superstars" like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, or Steven Stamkos in their draft years. Similarly, there doesn't appear to be the "Taylor vs. Tyler" top-two drama like there was at last year's draft with Taylor Hall (the eventual No. 1 pick) and Tyler Seguin (the eventual No. 2 pick). But there is a solid top grouping and the depth through the first two or three rounds appears to be at very least on par with the past handful of years. This year also appears, in talking with most draft experts, to be a strong year for Sweden and Finland --- both countries the Preds have successfully scouted/drafted in the past. Don't be surprised if the Preds find a "hidden gem" from one of those countries in the fifth/sixth/seventh round again this year --- following the organizational trend with the likes of Pekka Rinne (eighth round, '04), Patric Hornqvist (seventh round, '05), Anders Lindback (seventh round, '08) and prospects Jani Lajunen (seventh round, '08) and Joonas Rask (seventh round, '10) who are both projected to enter training camp next season with a chance to make an impact on the Preds roster.

Click here for NHL Central Scouting Department's final 2011 Draft Rankings
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