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Year of Work for Preds Scouts Set to Culminate at NHL Draft

Nashville Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty and Staff Prepared for Pick No. 30 in Round One

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

Things may be relatively quiet at Nashville's table for the first couple of hours on Friday night.

If the transaction wire remains stagnant, the Predators won't head to the stage until pick No. 30 of the First Round of the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago, the first chance of the weekend to add what could be their next star.

And while the waiting can be the hardest part - as clubs ahead in the order select players who may have been on Nashville's short list of targets - that's the way it goes when you're the Western Conference Champions.

"We know that our team had a good season when you're all the way at the end of the first round, so that's a gratifying aspect of it," Predators Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty said. "Picking at 30 with everything that we've done and all the preparation, we are very comfortable with the pool of players we think we're going to be looking at. We're excited that we're going to get a good player."

The 2017 Draft, which as of Thursday sees the Predators set to make six selections - one in Round One on Friday night, followed by five more on Saturday in Rounds Two through Seven - is essentially a Game Seven for a scout

Kealty and his team, made up of eight other members of Nashville's amateur scouting staff, will see their work over the past 10 months come to fruition. Collectively, they've logged thousands of hours and miles all over the world in search of the next Roman Josi or Viktor Arvidsson.

Most names added to the Predators organization likely won't be expected to directly contribute at the NHL level for at least a season or two, but when the time comes and a player selected turns into a star - it doesn't get more gratifying.

"Generally, we always say if you have a good draft, it takes you four to five years for the players to really come to fruition and start to make impact on your roster," Kealty said. "If you look at us in 2012, we had two picks in the Second Round and we picked Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons. It's now 2017 and you saw those guys just really starting to push through and make the impact that they're capable of in the playoffs."

Kealty says his group is rather content with the current collection in the prospect pool, a good balance at the forward and defense positions. While there are certainly instances where the Preds may be after one position over another, Kealty says it's always a good decision to simply take the player Nashville has rated highest, for a number of reasons.

"I think that the motto that always kind of trumps any is just take the best player," Kealty said. "You don't have to look any further than some of the trades, whether it's the high end like a Seth Jones and then trading for Ryan Johansen. If you put the cart before the horse and you try to draft solely on position, you can go back and look at a number of drafts where a lot of these guys, the fact of the matter is they don't turn out. So if you don't get a player then it's a dead asset, so we always try to stick to that motto, to get the best player.

"Then in the long run, he's going to be an asset for you. You hope they play on your team, but our job really is to get the best players that we can. The draft is our lifeblood, but later on down the road, if you draft well it enables you to trade well if you need to do that later on, so we're always trying to get the best player."

This weekend will mark Kealty's 16th draft with the Predators - and 10th as Chief Amateur Scout - undoubtedly learning a few things along the way. Pundits have marked this year's draft as perhaps weaker than some in recent memory, but as Kealty says, there are always going to be good players each year - it's just a matter of finding them.

No pressure, right? Kealty and his staff have learned to manage it, and they do it well. All one has to do is look at the Nashville roster to see names like Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne.

Perhaps the next dynamic forward or stud defenseman will find himself in Preds Gold before the weekend is out.

"All the work that you put in all year, all the hard miles you put on, the good games that you saw, the bad games that you saw, just the whole year long process - and then it all comes together - it's very rewarding," Kealty said. "I've tried to learn over the years to just enjoy it, too. This is all the work that you put in all year and it plays out over a matter of two days, so you try to enjoy it - without letting your blood pressure go up too much."

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