One of the biggest things to happen at the NHL Draft for the Nashville Predators was seeing No. 1 prospect defenseman Seth Jones fall into their lap with the fourth overall pick.
Many people believe Jones is the guy who will make Ryan Suter an afterthought in Nashville. Meanwhile, third-round pick Jonathan-Ismael Diaby has some thinking he along with Jones will be the Suter-Shea Weber combo of the Preds’ future.
The question to ask now is: Can both players make the Preds roster this season? It could happen.
Here’s what Nashville’s defensive setup looks like right now:
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Kevin Klein – Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
The top four seems almost destined to happen. Josi had a breakout season playing alongside Weber and earned himself a big contract extension because of it. Some think Jones is set to play alongside Weber, but they’re both right-handed shots. Pairing the improving Klein with Jones would seem more likely.
Those final two spots would seem to be up for grabs and Diaby could fit into that mix.
At 6’5″ 223-pounds, Diaby is already NHL-sized as an 18-year-old. Last season with Victoriaville in the QMJHL, he had just 4 goals and 22 assists but punished opponents to the tune of 117 penalty minutes. That kind of mean streak and physicality is lacking on the Preds blue line as Ekholm and Ellis are better puckhandlers than hitters.
Nashville’s “Smashville” brand of hockey gets plenty of grit-and-grind from the forwards but it’s lacking from the defense. Diaby could change that up drastically.
One thing working against the possibility is age. Would coach Barry Trotz trust two 18-year-old defenseman to make the jump right into the NHL? Jones is a virtual lock to start right away but Diaby may need more refinement to his game. Trotz along with new assistant coach and legendary defenseman Phil Housley will have plenty to look at when camp opens next month.
Busy day for Isles GM Garth Snow.
First, in an interesting move, the Isles have signed Boston College’s Matt Gaudreau — the younger brother of Calgary star Johnny Gaudreau — to an ATO with its AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
Gaudreau, 22, is a diminutive forward (not unlike his brother), listed at 5-foot-9, 145 pounds. He had a good offensive campaign for BC, leading the team in scoring with 35 points in 40 games.
In a second move, the Isles finally agreed to terms with University of Minnesota d-man Jake Bischoff on an entry-level deal.
Five years ago, the Isles selected Bischoff in the seventh round of the draft (out of USHL Omaha). The 22-year-old then proceeded to build an impressive resume with the Gophers, which includes a solid senior campaign that saw him rack up 32 points in 38 games. He also captured the Big Ten defensive player of the year award.
New York had until this summer to sign Bischoff, otherwise it would’ve lost his draft rights.
Like Gaudreau, Bischoff will report to Bridgeport to begin his pro career. There, the pair will join yesterday’s signing — Northeastern captain John Stevens (the son of Kings associate coach John Stevens), who inked a two-year ELC with the Isles.
The New Jersey Devils have signed UMass-Lowell defenseman Michael Kapla to a two-year, entry-level contract.
Kapla, 22, had three goals and 27 assists in 41 games this season. He’ll report to the Devils and likely burn the first year of his ELC by making his NHL debut sometime very soon.
The Devils host the Winning Jets tonight. They’re in Brooklyn Friday to play the Islanders.
Kapla spent four years in college. Per the Devils’ press release, he “most recently captained the River Hawks to the 2017 Hockey East Championship. He also received Hockey East All-Tournament Team honors and was named to the Hockey East Second All-Star Team.”
For the second straight day, the Rangers have landed an undrafted college free agent.
Vince Pedrie, a sophomore blueliner that just wrapped his sophomore campaign at Penn State, has reportedly agreed to terms with the Rangers on an entry-level deal, per the Collegian.
Citing a post from Pedrie’s Facebook account confirming the move, the Collegian reports the 23-year-old is the youngest Nittany Lion in program history to leave the team for the professional ranks.
It comes after Pedrie emerged as a “dominant offensive force” for the club last season, racking up 30 points in 39 games while helping Penn State qualify for its first NCAA championship appearance.
As mentioned above, this is the second intriguing prospect to join the Blueshirts in as many days. On Monday, University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri agreed to join the team after an impressive four-year career with the Gophers.
When most people take trips to Florida, it’s to get away from the stress and struggle of everyday life. But it’s safe to say that this edition of the Chicago Blackhawks won’t want to remember their visit to the Sunshine State.
The ‘Hawks dropped an embarrassing 7-0 decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night before blowing a 4-1 lead in last night’s game against the Bolts (they eventually lost 5-4 in OT).
They still have a comfortable lead atop the Central Division (eight points up on the struggling Wild), but they aren’t satisfied with their play.
“It’s getting close to the end here and we’re getting a little bit too comfortable maybe,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said, per the Chicago Tribune. “As soon as you do that, you’re going to lose games … At the same time I’m glad that we were playing like this before the playoffs so we can make some adjustments.
“Eighty-two games is a long season. It’s a mental grind more than anything. As soon as you’re not there 100 percent, it’s going to show in the scoring.”
As Hjalmarsson said, six games is still enough time to figure things out for Chicago. They just won’t have the luxury of facing easy opponents when they do try to sort out their struggles.
They’ll play the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday before returning home to play Columbus and Boston. They’ll then head back on the road to close out the season in Denver, Anaheim and Los Angeles.