While the Predators try to contend every year, they also put a strong focus on making sure they have a good prospect pipeline. With the summer over and the chance to assess the prospects during the training camp, here is the new top 20 for the Predators:
1. Derrick Pouliot
Pouliot jumps to the first rank with an impressive 2014-15 season. A very skilled offensive defenseman, Pouliot is a great puckmover up the ice. He is about to become a fixture on Nashville's blueline.
2. Nikita Scherbak
Scherbak is a tall forward with slick hands that likes to hang onto the puck in the offensive zone. He has a quick burst of speed that he can use to retrieve lose pucks on the boards. He still needs to gain a bit of lower body strength but otherwise he is close to be an offensive weapon for the Predators.
3. Oscar Klefbom
Big and strong, Klefbom is a complete defenseman, using his reach, speed and reads to shutdown opponents while at the same time getting the puck up the ice with his clever passing game. He will spend 2015-16 on the pro roster and should stay there for the next 10 years or so.
4. Tyler Bertuzzi
Lil Bert took the OHL by Storm in 2014-15, leading his team in scoring with 98 points in 68 games. Moving to the AHL for the post-season, he managed to put up 12 points in 14 games. Bertuzzi has been developing quickly his offensive game while playing an agitating role. He boasts a good shot and surprisinly efficient passing game.
5. Beau Bennett
Bennett has been playing more from the infirmery than on the ice the last couple of years which has slowed his development. If he can stay healthy and get to the tough areas of the ice, Bennett should be able to complement well the offense with his blend of size, vision and passing.
6. Ty Rattie
Rattie has worked hard the past two years to improve his two-way play. Late last year, he didn't look out of place on the bottom six of a pro team. Still, Rattie could bring his sniping abilities to the pros and work his way into the top six.
7. Tobias Rieder
Rieder is a tenacious player that keeps his motor on at all times. With a nose for the net, he showed in 2014-15 that he could be efficient playing against pros. He should improve his offensive numbers this year which should make him a regular for Nashville next year.
8. Brett Ritchie
Ritchie has the physical tools to be a top six player. He still needs to improve his reads though to further translate his offensive game to the pros. Unfortunaly, he suffered an injury last season which required surgery and he will be out some time which could set him back this year.
9. Jeremy Roy
Roy is a defenseman who's best asset is his hockey sense. While he tends to make the high percentage plays that coaches love, he is also gifted offensively.
10. Steven Santini
Santini only played 22 games in 2014-15 due to an injury that made him miss the WJC-20. A big, heady defenseman, Santini plays a pro's game. He still has untapped offensive potential that he needs to develop.
11. Cole Ully
Ully has shot up the ranks after a very impressive year with the Blazers in 2014-15. With 94 points in 69 games, Ully has shown incredible offensive instincts. He still needs to improve his strength to make it to the pros but should work on that aspect in the AHL.
12. Igor Shestyorkin
Shestyorkin has played at multiple levels last year: VHL, MHL, KHL, WJC-20 and other international junior events. There was one thing common in all the places he played: he performed well with SV% ranging from .917 to .945.
13. Brian Dumoulin
The tall defenseman had his best pro year in 2014-15, leading the WBS Penguins D with 33 points through 62 games. This year, he should continue to develop his two-way play, although his bread and butter in the top league will probably hang more to his defensive abilities.
14. Alex Dergachyov
Dergachyov gets polarized reactions from the onlookers: some think he has offensive tools to develop while others believe he may be just a grinder. The Predators are really high on Dergachyov, who displayed in the WJC-20 that he was a tank with offensive tools, fending off the likes of Darnell Nurse quite handily.
15. Yakov Trenin
Trenin was a strictly offensive player that was turned into a complete two-way skater by Olympiques coach Benoit Groulx in 2014-15. With his good size and offensive tools, he could become a very efficient two-way menace on a top team at the top level.
16. Vince Dunn
Dunn is an exceptionnally skilled offensive defenseman that is extremely mobile. He can rush the puck, stickhandle in close and has a very hard and accurate shot. However, he needs additional work in his zone.
17. Pontus Aberg
Aberg is a speedy sniper that had a successful first season in North America in 2014-15. He will need to continue to improve this year and raise his offensive contribution.
18. Colton Sissons
Sissons is a two-way player with a nose for the net. He had struggles early on last year but improved as the year went by to end the year strongly. He needs to raise his game to get to the pro level on a permanent basis.
19. Vincent Hinostroza
Hinostroza is a small but speedy forward that has pushes the play in the offensive zone. Coming from the NCAA, he will need to step up and show how effective his speed can be against pro players.
20. Joel Edmundson
Edmundson is a big and strong defenseman that missed a lot of time last year due to injury. He plays a safe and sound game but carries a big shot and can pass the puck efficiently.