In a perfect world, the Nashville Predators would get a top-two forward out of this weekend’s NHL draft.
The challenge is to find it without a Number One.
“On both balance and, I would say, high-end prospects, if we could get a draft pick that could potentially be a top-two forward that would be high on my wish list,” General Manager David Poile said. “We have pretty good goaltending here and in our depth. We have pretty good defense here and in our depth. We have forwards coming, but I’m not sure how many high-end forwards we have coming.”
Two of Nashville’s last four first-round selections were forwards, including Austin Watson, who was selected No. 18 overall a year ago.
Barring a trade, the Predators will not add to that group this weekend in St. Paul, Minn., because they traded their first-round selection in February to the Ottawa Senators in the Mike Fisher deal. The first round begins at 6 p.m. Friday (Versus) and the remaining six rounds will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday (NHL Network).
Only once in their previous 13 drafts did they not make at least one first-round selection. Then (2006), they got center Blake Geoffrion with the 56th overall selection.
They will not have to wait nearly as long this time.
Nashville has two picks in the second round, the first of which is 38th overall. That is a pick acquired in the trade last offseason that sent Jason Arnott to the New Jersey Devils.
“Hopefully that pick will be almost as good as a first-round pick,” Poile said. “You never know how the draft goes. … Missing the first round is going to be a little bit of a handicap, but I know our scouts will make up for it by getting us two players in the second round.”
Even he admits, though, the likelihood of finding a first-round talent in the second round is slim.
“You’re always going to find somebody who has a hole,” Poile said. “He can score but maybe he’s not too big. Or he’s a big guy who’s maybe not too fast.
“It’s somebody you’re going to have to work with, you’re going to have to develop. You’re going to have to see something in him.”
Poile added that teams have approached him in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of a trade — typically for a Nashville prospect — that would get the Predators back in the first round. He said he is open to such discussions but not necessarily inclined to follow through and make a deal, although he did not rule out the possibility altogether.
If Nashville does wait through the entire first round, though, Poile will not deal on what he did not get. Instead, he will focus on what he has.
“Unfortunately this year we do not have a first-round pick. I’m not happy with that, but I’m still very happy with the fact that we used that to get Mike Fisher … and it wasn’t just for a rental,” he said. “We got a guy who, hopefully, will be here for several years.
“… If we were in the draft and had our first pick, we’d be looking strongly to try and draft a forward. Well, Mike Fisher is a forward and he is going to be playing for us. I couldn’t say that about any 18-year-old in the draft.”
Second round: 38th overall (from New Jersey for Jason Arnott)
Second round: 52nd overall
Third round: 82nd overall
Fourth round: 94th overall (from Florida for Mike Santorelli)
Fourth round: 94th overall
Fifth round: 142nd overall
Sixth round: 172nd overall
Seventh round: 202nd overall