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.