Predators Select Seven on Day Two of the NHL Entry Draft
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Nashville Predators made seven selections on Day Two of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., addressing all positions. The team opened the day with a pair of second-round selections, choosing Swedish goaltender Magnus Hellberg 38th overall and Finnish winger Miikka Salomaki in the 52nd slot. Once again, Sweden and the United States were well-represented in the Predators’ draft haul – the franchise has now selected at least two U.S.-born players in each of the last five drafts, and a Swede in six straight.
Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton was pleased with the way things turned out and how things look for the future, stating that the selections made will “add to the depth we have in the organization from a talent standpoint and a character standpoint. That seems to be a very good trademark that we have been able to continue with here.”
Nashville’s first selection, Magnus Hellberg, a 20-year-old from Almtuna IS of the Swedish Allsvenskan (second division), was the first goaltender taken in the draft. Though he was unranked on NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings, he jumped into second among International Goalies on the final list after putting together a strong 2010-11 campaign. In 31 appearances, he ranked second in the league in save percentage (.936) while posting a 2.04 goals-against average and five shutouts. The Uppsala, Sweden native is expected to play for Frolunda of the Swedish Elitserien (Elite League) next season.
Hellberg shares some obvious physical characteristics with the Predators’ current goaltending tandem (Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback), measuring in at 6-5. Predators European Scout Lucas Bergman agrees with the Rinne/Lindback comparisons, joking that “They could be three brothers.” Hellberg’s greatest strength may be his hockey sense, with Bergman noting, “He’s always one step ahead of the play and he is always ready for the puck.”
The Predators stayed with the Nordic theme with their second pick, selecting Miikka Salomaki of Karpat Oulu (former club of Rinne). Making his debut in Finland’s top league this season (SM-Liiga) as a 17-year-old rookie, Salomaki notched 10 points (4g-6a) in 40 games and also picked up a pair of goals in six games at the World Junior Championships. The 5-11, 198-pound winger was the seventh-ranked International Skater on Central Scouting’s final list and Nashville’s scouts describe him as an offensively skilled forward with tremendous drive and a physical edge.
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As for comparable players, Predators European Scout Janne Kekalainen names Tuumo Ruutu and former Predator Peter Forsberg as similar in style to Salomaki. Though perhaps not possessing Forsberg’s elite skill, Kekalainen notes that he can surprise defenders in tight quarters – “He can beat players one-on-one. He takes no prisoners in his approach – this kid is a strong, strong kid.”
Nashville’s first North American selection came in the fourth round, with the club taking Josh Shalla of the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit 94th overall. The 19-year-old from Whitby, Ont., who measures in at 6-1, 202 pounds, was fifth in the OHL this season with 47 goals in 68 regular-season games – a franchise record for Saginaw – and added another eight in 12 playoff games.
Predators Amateur Scout Jason Bukala was impressed with the way Shalla tallied his goals – “He is the kind of guy that doesn’t need a playmaker. He is a big body, so he can make plays on his own. His gifts are his quick release, his puck skill, and getting pucks to the net.”
Two-way defenseman Garrett Noonan of Boston University was the second of Nashville’s fourth-round selections at 112th overall. A 6-0, 205-pound freshman from Norfolk, Mass., the 20-year-old Noonan posted 15 points (4g-11a) for the Terriers in 38 games.
Expected to return to the Terriers for his sophomore season, Noonan will have an opportunity to develop his game alongside another future pro. “He is going to play a lot of minutes. At the end of the year, he was playing with [2011 second-round selection] Adam Clendening and they were playing all of the important minutes – he played on the power play and he played on the penalty kill,” Predators Amateur Scout Tom Nolan said.
The Predators again looked to defense with their fifth-round selection, choosing Swede Simon Karlsson 142nd overall. Predators scouts feel that the 6-2, 178-pound blueliner from the Malmo Redhawks’ junior system will excel on the power play thanks to his excellent hockey IQ and skating ability. The 17-year-old had 13 points (3g-10a) in 32 games with Malmo’s under-20 squad in 2010-11, and 21 points (10g-11a) in 15 games at the under-18 level this past season.
Bergman said Karlsson made incredible strides in his game over the course of 2010-11 – “The raw factor is there. He has grown from 5-11 to 6-3 in almost a year. He started the year as a B-junior player. He worked his way up to A-juniors and he ended the season with a couple of senior games. He has had a quick journey.”
At 170th overall, Nashville chose Chase Balisy, a 5-11, 170-pound center from Western Michigan University who shares a hometown with Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.). Balisy was a pleasant surprise for the Broncos last season, finishing second on the team in scoring as a freshman, notching 30 points (12g-18a) in 42 games. Along with points, Balisy picked up accolades, being named a Freshman All-American by Inside College Hockey and to the CCHA All-Rookie Team. With the selection of Blum in 2007 and Taylor Aronson in 2010, Balisy now represents the third Californian taken by the Predators in recent drafts.
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Predators Amateur Scout Jason Bukala sees the Broncos as a great fit for Balisy – “he really came on offensively and produced at a high level for an evolving Western Michigan team. He is going to be playing on their first line at the beginning of the year next year and we are excited about his development.”
Broncos Head Coach Jeff Blashill was impressed by his dedication to conditioning throughout the season, saying that “added strength and quickness allowed Chase to be a real elite freshman. I think as he continues to add that strength and quickness, it will allow him to be an elite player in college and have a great chance at becoming an NHL player.”
The Predators’ final pick of the day was Brent Andrews, a 6-2, 200-pound winger from the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. From Hunter River, P.E.I., Andrews is the first Canadian selected by the organization since the 2009 draft.
A two-way forward, Andrews compares favorably to current Predators David Legwand and Jerred Smithson. Nolan describes him as “a solid, two-way, defensive-minded forward with some offensive upside that he hasn’t really tapped into yet,” adding that “his coaches have good things to say about him.”
For more quotes and comments from the Predators Hockey Operations staff regarding players chosen in this weekend’s draft, visit Predators Draft Central at nashvillepredators.com.
The Nashville Predators’ top prospects, including several of this year’s picks, are expected to participate in the club’s 2011 Development Camp, officially opening on Tuesday, June 28 at 7 a.m. with fitness testing at Centennial Sportsplex. The first of four on-ice sessions is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 29.
The complete list of Nashville’s 2011 draft selections follows:
Round Overall No. Name Pos. Team
2 38 Magnus Hellberg G Almtuna IS (Sweden-2)
2 52 Miikka Salomaki LW Karpat Oulu (Finland)
4 94 Josh Shalla LW Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
4 112 Garrett Noonan D Boston University (H-East)
5 142 Simon Karlsson D Malmo Jr. (Sweden Jr.)
6 170 Chase Balisy C Western Mich. (CCHA)
7 202 Brent Andrews LW Halifax (QMJHL)