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Preds Past Draft Pick Gems

by Kevin Wilson / Nashville Predators
While the likes of David Legwand, Dan Hamhuis and Ryan Suter were household names in Nashville from the moment they were selected in the first round of their respective drafts, the Preds have snagged plenty of talent in later rounds as well. Here is a look at some of the top picks in franchise history taken in the fourth round or later.

Karlis Skrastins, D, 230th overall (ninth round) in 1998 from TPS Turku (Finland)
A dependable stay-at-home defenseman, Skrastins broke the NHL record for consecutive games played by a defenseman when he appeared in his 487th straight contest on Feb. 8, 2007 with Colorado. The Riga, Latvia started that streak on Feb. 18, 2000 with the Predators, who he played 307 games with from the franchise’s inaugural campaign to the 2002-03 season.

Martin Erat, LW, 191st overall (seventh round) in 1999 from ZPS Zlin Jr. (Czech-Jr.)
He’s currently third on the franchise’s all-time scoring list (253), as well as third in assists (168) and fifth in goals (85) and recently signed a contract that will keep him in Nashville for the next seven seasons. The Trebic, Czech Republic native’s stock fell in his draft year after suffering a badly broken leg causing many teams to write him off. The Preds took a chance on him after watching him play at the World Under-18 Championships and the move paid off.

The best is yet to come with these late-round steals:
Pekka Rinne, G, 258th overall (eighth round) in 2004 from Karpat (Finland)
Rinne is expected to play his first full season with the Predators in 2008-09 after tearing up the American Hockey League with the Milwaukee Admirals the past three seasons. He led AHL in wins (36), appearances (65) and minutes played (3,840) in addition to ranking second in the league in saves (1,563), and shots against (1,721) in 2007-08. He claimed the RBK XPulse Top Goaltender Award at the 2008 CCM All-Star Skills Competition and has played in the AHL All-Star Classic two of the past three seasons (he missed much of the 2006-07 season with a shoulder injury). He also has postseason experience, backstopping the Admirals to the 2006 AHL Calder Cup Finals.

Cal O’Reilly, C, 150th overall (fifth round) in 2005 from Windsor (Ontario Hockey League)
Shifty and quick, O’Reilly ranked third in the AHL in assists (63) and fifth in points (79) this past season, in addition to tying for fourth in the AHL in shorthanded goals (5) and fifth in the league in shorthanded points (7). His best stretch of the 2007-08 season came in February, when he was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Month after leading all AHL scorers with 24 points (5g-19a) in 16 games. The season after being drafted – and his last in the OHL – the playmaker put up 81 assists and 99 points in just 68 games for the Windsor Spitfires.

Patric Hornqvist, LW, 230th overall in 2005 from Vasby (Sweden-3)
The power forward is expected to play his first season in North America in 2008-09, and has come a long way since being the very last pick of the 2005 draft. The Sollentuna, Sweden native born on New Year’s Day 1987 forced the world to take note of his play with a 2006-07 season that saw him named Rookie of the Year in the Swedish Elite League after breaking Peter Forsberg’s record for goals by a junior player with 23. The 5-11, 194-pounder most recently made waves at the 2008 World Championships in May when he led Team Sweden and tied for second in the tournament in goals with six.

Mark Santorelli, C, 119th overall in 2007 from Chilliwack (Western Hockey League)
Santorelli – whose older brother Mike is also in the Predators organization being drafted in 2004 – captured the Bob Clarke Trophy in 2007-08 as the top scorer in the WHL with 101 points in 72 games. He also led the league in assists (74) and power-play assists (45) en route to being named a 2008 WHL Western Conference Second-Team All-Star. The 6-1, 189-pound centerman notched three or more assists in a game on seven occasions in 2007-08, including a five-assist performance in a 7-2 Bruin victory on Oct. 27, 2007.

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