Preds Pick Eight in NHL Draft
The next generation of Admirals were welcomed to the family as the Predators made eight selections at the 2019 NHL Draft from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, taking five forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender.
“We’re happy with the way this year’s draft went,” Predators Assistant General Manager and Director of Scouting Jeff Kealty said. “We kind of had to adjust things on the fly a little bit with the trade that went down, but we were ready for it. We were prepared, and we thought we got a lot of guys we targeted and talked about. That’s always what you hope for. Time will tell – it takes a few years for it all to play out – but we were happy with the way the weekend went.”
Making a first-round selection for the first time since 2017, the Predators drafted center Philip Tomasino from the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs with the 24th overall pick. The 17-year-old tallied 72 points (34g-38a) in 67 games with the IceDogs in the 2018-19 season. Compared to his rookie OHL campaign in 2017-18 (5g-19a), he posted improvements of 48 points and 29 goals, and led his league in game-winning goals this season with 12. Internationally, the Mississauga, Ont., native represented Canada at the 2019 IIHF World U-18 Championship in April, where he recorded five points (1g-4a) in six games.
“He’s a really dynamic player,” Predators Chief Amateur Scout Tom Nolan said. “He attacks, plays with high-end speed and has real good instincts with and without the puck. He’s a top-six forward, we feel. He has a great personality and will fit in well as time goes on.”
“He plays the way that we want to play – fast and skilled,” Predators North American Scout Ryan Rezmierski said. “He’s a real versatile forward because he can play center or wing. We really like his motor, his drive and his high hockey IQ. His top-end speed is really good. He’s still young and has time to mature into either position.”
In the second round, the Preds selected forward Egor Afanasyev from the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks with the 45th overall pick. That pick was acquired along with the 65th overall choice (third round) from the Philadelphia Flyers for the 34th overall pick (second round), which previously was obtained from the New Jersey Devils along with defensemen Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies and a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in exchange for defenseman P.K. Subban earlier in the day.
Afanasyev, an 18-year-old from Tver, Russia, led the Lumberjacks in goals (27), assists (35) and points (62) last season, his second in the USHL. He finished 10th in the USHL in points and his +24 plus-minus was the sixth-highest among all league forwards. The 6-foot-3, 204-pound left wing competed in the 2019 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and in two seasons with Muskegon had 76 points (33g-43a) in 103 games. Internationally, Afanasyev represented Russia at the 2017 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, posting two goals and five points in five games. He will play for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires next season.
“He’s a big, strong, skilled offensive forward,” Predators North American Scout David Westby said. “He can protect the puck well and is strong on the boards and in the corners. I’d say he’s more of a shooter than a playmaker, but he’s hard to play against. I think he’s a top-six forward and will be a productive player at the NHL level.”
With their third choice, the Predators selected center Alexander Campbell from the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies at No. 65 overall (third round). The 5-foot-10, 154-pound Campbell was second on the Grizzlies in points with 67 (21g-46a) in 53 games, helping him earn the Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy as BCHL rookie of the year. His 46 assists were also the most among BCHL rookies. The Chateauguay, Que., native will suit up for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers next season and is committed to play college hockey at Clarkson University.
“He excites me as a player,” Predators North American Scout Glen Sanders said. “He’s not very big in stature, but he plays very hard and wins battles. He has a high hockey IQ, drives corners and has outstanding hands. He knows his path and is very smart about where he wants to be and when he wants to be there. He wants to go to the USHL and play more of a physical style.”
The Predators made two selections in the fourth round, taking defensemen Marc Del Gaizo (109th overall) and Semyon Chistyakov (117th overall).
Del Gaizo, a 5-foot-10, 188-pound blueliner from Basking Ridge, N.J., had 29 points (13g-16a) in 59 games with UMass Amherst last season, his freshman campaign. The 18-year-old was second among team defensemen in points as he helped lead the Minutemen to their first Frozen Four in school history. Prior to enrolling at UMass Amherst, Del Gaizo spent two full seasons with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, tallying 61 points (15g-46a) in 119 career USHL games. He was teammates with Afanasyev and Predators prospects Rem Pitlick and Jachym Kondelik during his time with the Lumberjacks.
“He’s a real active offensive defenseman,” Nolan said. “He really improved his defensive play this season and has a little bite to his game as well. We are happy where he is at UMass Amherst and their program is going in the right direction. We’re really excited he was still there for us.”
Chistyakov, a 5-foot-10, 167-pound defenseman from Yekaterinburg, Russia, comes from Tolpar Ufa of the Russian junior league, where he posted 11 points (1g-10a) in 32 games last season. It was his first full campaign in the league – in 2017-18, he split time between it and Russia’s U-17 circuit. Internationally, the 17-year-old served as an alternate captain for Russia’s team at the 2019 World U-18 Championship, helping them to a silver medal.
“He’s not a big defenseman, but he plays much bigger than his size,” Predators European Scout Martin Bakula said. “He likes to step up and make those highlight, open-ice hits. He’s good with the puck, can skate out of trouble and is simple with his passes. We think he is solid on both ends of the ice and we see him as someone who can be used on the power play and penalty kill.”
Nashville selected goaltender Ethan Haider with its lone pick in the fifth round (148th overall). The 17-year-old native of Maple Grove, Minn., spent last season with the NAHL’s Minnesota Magicians, going 19-13-2 and earning the team’s starting goaltender job en route to a spot in the playoffs. He was second in save percentage (.926) and third in goals-against average (2.35) among NAHL rookies and was among the league’s best in the shootout, stopping 10 of 12 attempts. The 6-foot-2 Haider is committed to play college hockey at Clarkson University alongside Campbell.
“He’s a guy I was able to see play live on a couple different occasions and we like what he brings to the table in terms of skill, size and athleticism,” Predators Goaltending Development Coach Dave Rook said. “When speaking to him, we saw how passionate about the game he was, and that was very intriguing. He has a great skillset, he likes to play the puck, he plays with pace and is consistently engaged, which shows his maturity.”
The Preds closed out the draft by selecting forwards Isak Walther in the sixth round (179th overall) and Juuso Parssinen in the seventh round (210th overall).
The 17-year-old Walther, a 6-foot-3 Swedish winger, spent the 2018-19 campaign with the Sodertalje program, playing the majority of his games with its U-18 squad. He posted a total of 46 points (25g-21a) across 40 games last season and saw time with Sodertalje’s U-20 side, where he had two goals and four points in five contests.
“He’s plays a good two-way game and is able to play with the puck in small areas,” Predators European Scout Lukas Bergman said. “He has a high hockey IQ and there is a ton of room for improvement. He will play full time with the Sodertalje U-20 team next year and has a chance to play with the men’s team at some point next year as well.”
Parssinen, an 18-year-old left wing, hails from Hameenlinna, Finland, and skated in seven games for TPS in the Finnish Elite League last season. He spent the majority of the 2018-19 season with TPS’ U-20 side, where he was an alternate captain and tallied 22 points (13g-9a) in 36 games. He picked up a goal and an assist in five games for Finland at the 2019 World U-18 Championship in April.
“He is a big centerman who plays a good all-around game,” Predators European Scout Janne Kekalainen said. “He has some good offensive abilities he has to use a little more. He has a heavy shot, is good on faceoffs and protects the puck really well. He has a terrific mentality.”