The Nashville Predators are a veteran team that is in a win-now stage. Like many teams that believe their window to win a Stanley Cup is open. They have tried to add players at the cost of draft picks and prospects.
Nashville did not have a first-round pick in the 2011, 2012, 2015 or 2018 drafts and had only 4 picks total in ’18, with the earliest being a fourth-round pick.
As a result, it is fair to say they have one of the weaker prospect pools in the NHL. Included this list is Dante Fabbro who while in the NHL, still qualifies as a prospect and certainly brings an elite level prospect to an otherwise rather average pool. While the Predators may lack elite level prospects, it is also fair to say they have good depth in potential players and as always, are heavy on defensemen.
1. Dante Fabbro, D – Nashville Predators (NHL)
Drafted: 17th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Nashville
Easily the top prospect for Nashville is the highly decorated Dante Fabbro. Fabbro has won a NCAA (Hockey East) Championship, World Junior Gold Medal and Silver Medals at the WJC and World Championship and was a Spengler Cup All-Star, all before playing a single game in the NHL. After his junior season as Boston Terrier Captain, Fabbro turned pro last year and made his NHL debut playing in four regular season games, followed by six NHL playoff games. His transition to pro hockey at the NHL was as positive as was expected and now in his first full season with the Predators he has six points and a plus -14 in 24 games as a rookie.
While it is difficult for defensemen to win the Calder, and competing with Cale Makar is a tall order, Fabbro is a good enough player to be given consideration for the award and is the future anchor of the Predators legendary blue line.
2. Eeli Tolvanen, LW – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Drafted: 30th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Nashville
Tolvanen dropped in the 2017 draft as a highly ranked prospect, almost right out of the first round.
After his draft, he had a monster season in the KHL with Jokerit posting 36 points as an 18-year-old in a league where kids see little ice time. Coming that with his dominant performance with Finland at the World Junior with a Gold Medal and more domination at the international level in the Olympics and World Championship. Expectations soared!
Many expected Tolvanen to quickly be inserted to a strong Nashville roster to close the season with a playoff run or at least make the team the following season. Neither happened. Tolvanen had a so-so rookie AHL season with 15 goals and 35 points in 58 games.
His regression has continued as a sophomore in the AHL as his point per game average has dipped to 0.29 giving cause for concern to some. Is Tolvanen the super-star he looked like in the 2017-18 season or were NHL teams right in passing on him until the end of the first round of the draft? Time will tell but do not count out the highly skilled sniper who is still just 20-years-old and has three seasons of pro hockey development and a vast international experience under his belt.
3. David Farrance, D – Boston University (NCAA)
Drafted: 92nd overall in the third round of the 2017 draft by Nashville
After two seasons of playing in the shadow of Fabbro, Farrance is having a breakout year with the Terriers posting 19 points in the first 14 games as a junior. The break from Fabbro will not likely be a long on as Farrance and Fabbro could be reunited as soon as the end of this season.
While Farrance may not have the same offensive upside as Fabbro, he does project well as a excellent skating and transition defenseman that should fill out a top four position as a potential replacement for the aging Dan Hamhuis.
4. Philip Tomasino, C – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Drafted: 24th overall in the first round of the 2019 draft by Nashville
The first pick for the Predators in the ’19 draft is the high octane Philip Tomasino. This kid is a relentless forechecker that can play hockey in a variety of styles.
Tomasino is an above average skater with good acceleration and top speed. He can play a physical bang-and-crash style game, a cycle game, he is very smart and reliable defensively and can play a shut-down role or beat you with his skill. A very versatile player with no real weakness in his game, perhaps being a jack of all trades and a master of none.
Tomasino has another year of junior eligibility where he will play and dominate as a senior in the OHL and compete for a roster spot with Canada at the World Junior. His development time in the AHL may be short, but count on some adjustment as the Predators forward roster is fairly crowded. Nashville will be able to be patient and develop Tomasino into a valuable NHL player.
5. Jeremy Davies, D – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Drafted: 192nd overall in the 7th round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey Devils
Acquired from the Devils in the P.K. Subban trade as one of the key pieces, the Predators add to their already impressive defensive depth. As a freshman at Northeastern University he produced an impressive 23 points in 38 games. As a sophomore and junior, he was one point shy of 1.0 points per game in each season.
After his junior year, Davies has foregone his senior season and turned pro. In his AHL rookie season he has a very respectable seven points and is a plus 9 in 20 games.
Davies is a strong skating transition defenseman that tends to carry the puck a lot. He has shown the ability to play well without the puck as well as he excels at puck recovery, breaking down offensive rushes and preventing zone entries. There is a log jam on the Predators blue line but Davies will be a NHL defender in a year or two.
6. Rem Pitlick, C – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Drafted: 76th overall in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft by Nashville
Pitlick is a tank of a player, only 5-11 in height but he is strong enough physically and on his skates to drive through defenders to the goal. After three very successful seasons with the University of Minnesota, Pitlick has turned pro and is cutting his teeth as a rookie in the AHL.
Son of former NHL player Lance Pitlick, who played a hard as nails style of game, Rem is a far more skilled player but does bring that same toughness as well. In his first 21 games he has seven goals and 13 points with the Admirals, which ranks seventh among rookie league scorers.
Pitlick made his NHL debut playing in one game at the end of last season playing in 9:33 but was held pointless. He will play the year in the AHL barring significant injuries where he will see plenty of ice-time and development before competing for a roster position next year out of camp.
7. Patrick Harper, C – Boston University (NCAA)
Drafted: 138th overall in the 5th round of the 2016 draft by Nashville
Nashville seems to appreciate players from the Boston Terriers, and why not. In his senior year Harper had a great freshman season with 37 points in 36 games, followed by 21 points in 20 games in an injury shortened sophomore year. As a junior he regressed to 20 points in 38 games, but the Terriers struggled last year. Now in his senior season, and as an Assistant Captain, he is having his best year with 16 points out of the first 12 games.
A two-time member of Team USA at the World Junior including Gold and Bronze Medal finish and four points in seven games in his second tournament. The skilled but undersized forward will need to bulk up for when he makes the jump to the pro game next year. As a senior, Nashville will need to sign Harper or risk losing his as a free agent come August 15th.
8. Yakov Trenin, C/LW – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Drafted: 55th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Nashville
“Tank” has been a slow but steady developing prospect in the AHL, is in his third season as a pro and is on the brink of playing in the NHL. Trenin has seen his production steadily rise from 16 points as a rookie, to 33 and has 21 points in 16 games this year. His development has earned him a NHL recall and he played in his first career NHL game on October 19th against Florida Panthers.
While Trenin may have a limited offensive upside at the NHL level, he is dominant on draws, plays a reliable two-way game and can be a highly effective shutdown player. Trenin should be in line for more NHL games this year as injuries occur and will need to make the roster full time soon or start slipping back down the depth chart.
9. Alex Carrier, D – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Drafted: 115th overall in the 4th round of the 2015 draft by Nashville
After losing the “A” off his jersey, Carrier is having his best offensive production season in the AHL in his third season with 0.76 points per game after the first 21. Carrier is a versatile player that can play in all situations analog good minutes.
His skating is not excellent but not bad. His offensive outburst this year bodes well for his chances of making the jump to the NHL and has kept him above Frederic Allard on the depth chart. Given the Predators depth on defense, Seattle expansion may be what allows him a NHL look in the future.
10. Yegor Afanasyev, LW/RW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Drafted: 45th overall in the second round of the 2019 draft by Nashville
The key part of a trade that sent goaltender Michael DiPietro to Ottawa last year, Afanasyev has made an impactful OHL debut in Windsor with 22 points in 21 games. The big Russian winger had played two seasons in the USHL, so he is already well adjusted to life in North America.
He will provide the Spitfires with another year of play before he goes to the pro level for some development in the AHL with the Admirals. Afanasyev has an impressive package of size, skill and speed that makes him a handful to defend at the OHL level, and that should translate to pro hockey as well.