Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile spent much of the last two weeks scouting the World Championships tournament games in Halifax, Nova Scotia. NashvillePredators.com sat down with the Preds head man to discuss his impressions of the tournament and play of the eight Predators players who participated.
NashvillePredators.com: Obviously this year’s World Championships was a big tournament for the Predators organization this year with eight players/prospects participating. How much can you learn about players from this tournament? Is it a good indicator of future NHL success? David Poile:
I think it’s a good tournament. It’s a supplement if you will, to the NHL playoffs. In our case we were in the playoffs, but to me this is an extension of the playoffs. Whether you are playing in the NHL playoffs or in the World Championships, when you’re playing hockey in May it’s meaningful … and it’s for a championship. When the stakes are that high, I think it brings out the best in players, so I put a lot of value in the World Championships. In past years we’ve scouted such players as Kimmo Timonen, Karlis Skrastins, Vladimir Orszagh. We’ve made decisions to sign players like that right out of the World Championships.
NP.com: Is this tournament more important for the prospects than the established players? At least from a team scouting standpoint? DP:
Definitely. I think with Martin Erat
and Marek Zidlicky, who were two of the best players for the Czech team, I guess I would have been disappointed if that were not the case. But their position on our team is pretty solid; we know what they can contribute. But for a player like Patric Hornqvist
, this was an opportunity to see him at a higher level than the Elite League; playing against such teams as Canada in the semifinals and the fact that he played well and scored six goals in the tournament really puts him in a stronger position. I can convey that to our coaching staff; where I think he may be able to fit-in in terms of opportunity at training camp.
A young prospect’s play at the World Championships certainly either confirms how much we like him or maybe changes what we may do in free agency. If, say we were looking for a top two-line player, well maybe we already have it in a player like Hornqvist. The same can be said of Antti Pihlstrom
who played in Milwaukee this year. We saw him play down there where he scored 27 goals. We really like his energy. He was up in Nashville for a short recall and only played a handful of shifts, and yet he was one of Finland’s best players, playing against some of the top players in the tournament. I watched him play against Canada and the United States, and I’d say his opportunity will increase tremendously in training camp based on how he played at the World Championships.NP.com: Can you talk about your impressions of how each of our players fared in the tournament?DP:
I didn’t see Sweden or Russia or Czech in person. I saw the games on tape, but not in person. Our Pro Scout Nick Beverley was in Quebec City for the games down there while I was in Halifax for the games played up there, so I saw Finland and Canada in person; he saw Czech, Russia, and Sweden.
Of the guys on those teams I saw, starting with Dan Hamhuis. Hammer played with Brent Burns most of the time. Hammer had a great year last season and just continued to be one of the better defensemen there (at the World Championships). He was always used in the shut-down position and killing penalties and was great (throughout the tournament).
On to the guys on Finland. Pihlstrom was a real energy guy. Maybe the surprise of the tournament. Scored goals, made big hits; kind of a cross between a Jordin Tootoo
and a Scott Nichol. Ville Koistinen. Koistinen got better each game. He was used among the most by the Finnish coach in terms of total ice time. He played in all situations, power-play and penalty killing. Janne Niskala dressed in every game, but played somewhat irregularly. He always played on the power-play.NP.com: Pihlstrom, did he play himself in a situation to get a strong look during training camp?DP:
Definitely. He’ll be played on a line that has a chance to play in the National Hockey League and I’d hope that he’d get several preseason games to show our coaches and the other players that he’s an NHL player. He’s a dogged type of player.NP.com: Did any of our players really raise their stock?DP:
A player like Ville Koistinen played for us the whole season and only dressed in 48 games and played irregularly down the stretch. If that was the last time we would have seen him play, we probably wouldn’t be too sure of him for next year. But watching him play during the World Championships, he probably got about as much ice time as any of the Finnish defensemen. He played in power-play and penalty killing and in situations he never played in for Nashville. I was able to bring that home to our coaches; that the player really finished strong and really has maybe more of an upside than we thought.NP.com: Were there any other players who really stood out during the tournament? DP:
You’re always looking for players, either future trades or free agency, so there’s a lot of NHL players who I would say I already knew pretty well. There were a lot of players playing in European leagues that are getting a chance to play in the World Championships and play against NHL players, so that helped me to possibly want to pursue their careers a little further for maybe future acquisition.