The Predators may no longer be a Stanley Cup contender, but they are resisting embracing the full rebuild as well.
In the offseason, they moved out Ryan Ellis in return for defenseman Philippe Myers and prospect Cody Glass. The move may have had some salary cap motivation behind it, but it was also a move for the future.
The Predators remain a competitive team with a solid core of Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm anchoring the defense. Jussi Saros has assumed the number one role in net, with veterans Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansson and Filip Forsberg leading the offence. The roster is also complimented with under 25-year -old players in Eeli Tolvanen, Dante Fabbro, Yakov Trenin, and Alex Carrier as recent graduates from the prospect pool.
The prospect pool has gotten better despite recent graduates. The Preds have enjoyed drafting success with few early-round busts, and several late-round hits thanks to astute drafting and player development.
Top 10 Nashville Predators Prospects
- Yaroslav Askarov, G – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted: 2020 round one, 11th overall by Nashville Predators
Arguably the top goalie prospect in the world. Askarov has an impressive body of work to date. Highlighted with a dominant performance at the Hlinka Gretzky where he led Russia to a Gold Medal with a 4-0 record and a 1.25 GAA with a shutout. He has added U18 and U20 Silver Medals on the international stage as well. In league play, he is getting starts in the KHL and VHL for SKA St. Petersburg as a 19-year-old which is rare.
Askarov is very advanced in his play at a young age, his outstanding positioning and ability to read the play puts him in a position to make saves look easy. He limits his movements in a way that has drawn style comparisons to Carey Price as a highly efficient goalie.
In the final year of his KHL contract, Nashville will attempt to bring him to North America for the 2022-23 season where he should the bulk of his time in the AHL. The Predators are comfortable in goal with Juuse Saros as the starting goalie and can afford to be patient with Askarov as he continues to develop. Given his advanced development, Askarov may not require much more development time as it is difficult to imagine how he could get much better than he is right now.
- Philip Tomasino, C/RW – Nashville Predators (NHL)
Drafted: 2019 round one, 24th overall by Nashville Predators
Tomasino has cracked the Nashville roster for the 2021-22 season and is ahead of Askarov, but Askaorv has a higher ceiling for the impact he may have on the franchise. That being said, the 24th overall pick in the 2019 draft is seeing his stock continue to rise as he makes an impact wherever he plays.
Tomasino returned to the OHL in his D+1 season where he dominated to the tune of 100 points in 62 games split between Niagara and Oshawa. The following season with no OHL to play in, he won Silver with Canada at the WJC scoring six points in seven games, and made his pro debut in the AHL with over a point per game as an 18-year-old scoring 32 points in 29 games.
As an NHL rookie, he is producing with five goals and 10 points through his first 28 games, playing in a bottom-six role. His play may have relaxed Nashville in allowing them to part with Victor Arvidsson, Eric Haula, and Calle Jarnkrok in the offseason, opening a window for Tomasino to walk into the NHL as a 20-year-old rookie.
Tomasino plays a quick game both in his foot speed, hands, and how he thinks the game. He lacks dominating physical size, yet he still plays a decent physical game and has a highly competitive motor. He is dangerous on the rush and has crafty and deceptive abilities to create offense with sneaky passes or quick shots that are unexpected. In a short amount of time, Tomasino should have locked down a top-six role in Nashville with Cody Glass as the future forward foundation.
- David Farrance, D – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round three, 92nd overall by Nashville Predators
Nashville has done a formidable job of developing high-quality NHL defensemen and Farrance looks to follow in the footsteps of fellow Boston Terrier teammate Dante Fabbro. Farrance is an offensive defenseman and a product of the Boston Terriers of the NCAA.
In his D+1 season as a freshman on a Hockey East Championship team, he registered nine points. His point totals doubled each of the following two seasons to 20 points in 37 as a sophomore and 43 points in 34 games as a junior. After back-to-back Hobey Baker Award Finalist seasons, he signed his ELC and played the final two NHL regular-season games with the Predators.
With a deep NHL roster, Nashville has assigned Farrance for a year of development in the AHL where he can refine his game from being the top defenseman in the NCAA, and he has ten points through his first 25 games in Milwaukee.
- Zachary L’Heuruex, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Drafted: 2021 round one, 27th overall by Nashville Predators
A future fan favorite in “Smashville” L’Heuruex has drawn comparison to NHL players such as Brad Marchand, Tom Wilson, and Nazem Kadri. While not a true heavyweight he plays a very physically aggressive game. Always looking to initiate contact and throw hits, causing trouble after the whistle, and willing to drop the mitts or get under the other team’s skin he is a true agitator. But there is more to his game than that, he is a gifted offensive player.
As a QMJHL rookie he recorded 20 goals and 53 points in 55 games with Moncton. Acquired by Halifax for his draft year, he surpassed the point per game pace with 39 points in a short 33 game season. In his D+1 season, his development continues to progress with 38 points through the first 23 games with 32 PIMs to boot.
The concern in his game is his skating. L’Heuruex lacks an explosive first step which will be a problem at the pro level. While his aggression is a strength in his game, he may need to reign it in at the NHL level to prevent from taking costly penalties. His upside is an offensive top-six winger that provides physicality, or a bottom-six physical player that has some offensive upside. The difference likely comes down to how his skating can develop. With one more season of junior before a year or two in the AHL, he has plenty of time to refine his stride and gain that quickness in his first step.
- Fyodor Svechkov, C/LW – SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)
Drafted: 2021 round one, 19th overall by Nashville Predators
The Predators’ first of two first-round selections in the 2021 draft was the defensive specialist from Russia. While Russians are more known for their high-level puck skills and offense, Svechkov is recognized for his proficiency on the defensive side of the puck.
Svechkov is a very smart player and excels at anticipating and breaking down offensive pressure. He has a motor that drives both his backcheck and forecheck to gain puck possession. In his D+1 season, the 18-year-old has played mainly in the Russian junior league but has also seen time at the pro level in the KHL and MHL. He was also named to the Russian WJC roster and scored a goal before the tournament was canceled.
Svechkov is not devoid of offensive upside, he uses his hockey IQ to create offense and is an accomplished passer and playmaker. He is more dangerous off the rush or in close than a long-range scorer as his shot needs to improve. Svechkov has shown his offensive chops while playing internationally for Russia at the 2021 U18 with four goals and ten points in seven games to help Russia win the Silver Medal.
It is clear his defensive game will translate to the pro level, but his offensive development should determine his placement on the roster as either a fourth-line defensive and PK specialist or a middle-six two-way player.
- Jeremy Davies, D – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Drafted: 2016 round seven, 192nd overall by New Jersey Devils
Davies is very close to cracking the NHL roster and maybe in the NHL if his rights were owned by another team. Acquired from New Jersey in the PK Subban trade, he adds to the embarrassment of riches in the Nashville prospect pipeline.
Davies is a smooth-skating defender that excels in transitional play. After a solid three-year run at Northeastern, he now has three years of pro-development under his belt including 16 games in the NHL. Davies is in the final year of his current contract and will no longer be waiver exempt when he signs a new contract.
With three current NHL roster defensemen on expiring contracts in Mark Borowiecki, Matt Benning, and Ben Harpur the door should open for Davies to finally crack the Predators roster.
- Juuso Parssinen, C/LW – TPS (Liiga)
Drafted: 2019 round seven, 210th overall by Nashville Predators
Nashville uncovered a gem in the seventh round in the big Finn. Since his draft year, he made the jump to the pro level in Liiga with TPS and played in 31 games with a modest 12 points. His development took a step forward the following season posting 42 points in 55 games and cracking the Finnish WJC roster with four points in seven games.
Parssinen signed his ELC with Nashville and was loaned back out to TPS where he is producing over a point per game with seven goals and 21 points in 20 games. Still only 20-years-old he should make the jump to North America next season and play a season in the AHL adjusting to the smaller ice.
- Luke Evangelista, RW – London Knights (OHL)
Drafted: 2020 round two, 42nd overall by Nashville Predators
After a difficult year where Evangelista was somewhat of a refugee due to the OHL shutdown. He did not play in Europe and only managed 14 games in the AHL with Chicago in a split affiliation scenario. His limited play essentially cost him a crucial season of development.
Considered a solid all-around player that does not really have any one elite skill set, his D+2 season back in the OHL has been a success. Wearing the C as Captain of the London Knights, he has flexed his offensive chops by posting 21 goals in 22 games with 41 points. Evangelista previously played two seasons with the Knights, but as the Knights are a perennial contender, he played more of a supporting role.
His defensive game is very good, and it seems now that he has been unleashed his offensive upside may have been underrated until now. Evangelista is a prospect quickly rising on the Nashville depth chart and when he turns pro next season we will see if he can continue to project his way into an NHL roster.
- Yegor Afanasyev, W/C – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round two, 45th overall by Nashville Predators
The big Russian has had an impressive development path as he played two USHL seasons and played his D+1 season in the OHL. Afanasyev produced over a point per game in both those leagues showing he has high-end offensive abilities. With no OHL season last year, he returned home to Russia on loan to CSKA Moskva. His time-on-ice there as a 19-year-old was limited, but his six points in 16 KHL games suggests his ability to produce at the pro level is promising. Afanasyev also sported the Russian jersey for the WJC where he scored five points in seven games.
Now back in North America, he is playing his rookie season in the AHL and is looking good with five goals and 14 points through 29 games. His best weapon is his shot, which is heavy and accurate. If Afanasyev can continue to improve his speed and use his size to his advantage by being more physical, his upside could project as a middle-six player in a few years.
- Alex Campbell, LW/C – Clarkson University (NCAA)
Drafted: 2019 round three, 65th overall by Nashville Predators
The undersized forward for the Clarkson Golden Knights is playing his way up the Predators depth chart. While he may have been a reach being drafted 65th overall in the 2019 draft, Nashville is starting to look validated with the pick based on his development. Drafted out of the BCHL where his 67 points in 53 games comes with a big grain of salt, his D+1 year in the USHL where he posted 57 points in 46 games is slightly more impressive.
Last year he played his freshman season in the NCAA with the Golden Knights, and while his 17 points in 22 games failed to reach the point per game plateau, it was him most impressive season as the NCAA is much stronger competition. Playing in his sophomore year he is continuing to produce at a similar clip, showing his super highly competitive motor and strong skating ability.
His forechecking dogged pursuit of the puck are what stands out most in his game. His skating is also a strength that pairs well with his competitiveness. Campbell is a bit of a long shot still to make the NHL, and if he does his ceiling projects as a third-line energy role.