The Nashville Predators are all set to pick 4th overall in this Sunday’s NHL Draft. This was certainly the year to land the franchise’s highest pick since the 1998 draft when David Poile selected David Legwand 2nd overall. The best four players in this year’s draft appear to be elite, and it is becoming more and more apparent that the Predators will likely select Aleksander Barkov out of Tappara, Finland.
Barkov is a 17-year-old centerman that has been productive in two years for Tappara Tampere of SM-liiga, scoring 28 goals and 64 points in 85 career league games. In the 2012 World Juniors, Barkov became the youngest Finnish player to ever score a WJC goal at age sixteen. NHL Central Scouting has ranked Barkov as the top ranked international player.
With Seth Jones, Nathan Mackinnon and Jonathan Drouin presumably rounding out the top three picks, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Nashville doesn’t land the Finnish phenom. The Predators are in dire need of talented forwards that possess the ability to score, and Barkov may be just that.
Barkov has an above average frame, standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 205 pounds. Despite his age, the 17-year-old is known for his maturity and outstanding hockey IQ, and he displayed that during his two year stint playing against much older competition in SM-Liiga. The only thing keeping Barkov out of the top three, scouts say, is poor skating. However, elite puck-handling and vision more than make up for any perceived weakness regarding skating.
The Tampa Bay Lightning pick third and have been quiet about their intentions. Also, it is known that the Colorado Avalanche, picking first, are quite keen on the the idea of trading down and selecting him. If the Filip Forsberg situation taught us anything, it is very likely that Aleksander would bypass the AHL altogether and make his NHL debut in October.