Jones is the type of player that Nashville can build their brand around as he’s easily marketable, considering he led the United States Men’s National Team to a shocking World Junior Hockey Championship over the most star-studded Canadian team in recent memory–a team that ironically included Nathan Mackinnon and Jonathan Drouin.
However, as Barry Trotz claimed during the draft that Jones would play on the top defensive unit next to Shea Weber, he backed-tracked on that statement after realizing they both have right handed shots. In other words, expect to see the 18-year-old playing on the second line next to Ryan Ellis. Although not as exciting, the bright side is that this would keep either Weber or Jones on the ice for practically the entire game on most nights.
GM David Poile indicated that he wanted to add size and he did just that. Along with the 6-foot-3 Jones, the Predators selected defenseman Jonathan-Ismael Diaby of the Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL) with the 64th overall pick. Diaby is 6-foot-5, 220 lbs. and was the 37th ranked North American skater heading into the draft by NHL Central Scouting. He’s best known for being a ‘stay at home’ tough guy.
Continuing that notion, Nashville drafted 6-foot-3 Finnish right winger Saku Maenalanen with the 203rd overall pick. Maenalanen, only 180 lbs., is a very raw talent and still has time to grow into his large frame. Despite his size, he’s most known for his exceptional skating and offensive prowess. If properly developed, this 19-year-old sixth rounder could be an absolute steal.
On the opposite side of the drafting spectrum, Nashville nabbed 5-foot-9 Finnish goaltender Juuse Saros with the 99th overall pick. Considering his height, Saros immediately reminds me of 5-foot-10 Buffalo Sabres netminder Jhonas Enroth, which is ironic considering Buffalo dealt us this pick in the Paul Gaustad trade. Saros has been described as a highly competitive puck stopper who’s very athletic.
To address the Predators offensive woes, Poile drafted 19-year-old Felix Girard of Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL) at 95th overall. The Canadian center is regarded as a two-way player responsible on both ends of the ice and won the QMJHL’s Guy Carbonneau Trophy last year as the league’s best defensive forward. He’s a nice shot-blocker and knows how to play physical. In the sixth round, Nashville continued to add to their depth at center by drafting Swedish Emil Pettersson, who’s known for excellent skating ability and puck skills.
With the 140th overall pick, Poile decided to continue polishing the organizational depth at the blue-line by drafting 18-year-old American (believe it or not) Teemu Kivihalme. Kivihalme is a two-way defenseman who can hold his own on the offensive end as well. He has tremendous upside, can play on the power play and has a deadly shot from the point. It will be a while before we see him, however, as he will return to the Fargo Force of the USHL next season before heading to Colorado College for collegiate hockey
I know what you’re thinking: “Man, I wish we still had Jordin Tootoo..”
Well, now we do! Kind of. Although you would probably never say that, we drafted his replacement anyway at 171st overall. Left winger Tommy Veilleux of the Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL) has drawn comparisons to the departed Inuit as well as Andrew Shaw of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Veilleux can hit, fight and is dedicated to making himself hard to play against. Fifteen picks later, Poile added another winger in Wade Murphy, who’s drawn comparison to Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And with Nashville’s 10th and final pick, it selected Finnish goaltender Janne Juvonen. It’s clear that Poile did some heavy scouting in Finland’s Jr. A SM-Liiga, as Juvonen became the third player picked out of the Finnish junior league in this draft by Nashville (Saros, Maenalanen). The 18-year-old netminder is a ‘shot in the dark’ type pick as he didn’t play much last year, despite looking phenomenal when called upon. He will assume the starting goaltender role next season and if he flourishes, Nashville may have gotten a steal at the 203rd overall pick.