T he Nashville Predators have had 13 first round selections across the 15 NHL Drafts in which they have participated. On Sunday, they will have a first round selection for the first time since 2010, having traded away the first rounder in the last two drafts.
With Nashville having its highest selection (4th overall) since the franchise’s inaugural draft, it seemed like a good time to rank Nashville’s selections.
I’m dividing this ranking into two parts, a la American Idol, Top Chef, America’s Best Zombie, etc., with a top 5 and a bottom 8.
Please note that while these are the “bottom” 8, a couple of these merely did not make the cut for the top 5 due to their lack of experience. There simply has not been enough time to judge whether or not the selections of Ryan Ellis and Austin Watson will pan out.
Let the countdown begin…
13. Brian Finley, G, Barrie Colts – 1999 NHL Draft, 6th overall
What made the pick especially egregious for the Predators was that it was the second first rounder in franchise history – it was a chance to draft and develop a foundation player for the franchise. When the Predators took Finley, he had just been named the OHL’s goaltender of the year. As a Predator, well, there isn’t much to remember about Brian Finley. He appeared in 2 games, giving up 3 goals in 13 shots in his first game and a ridiculous 7 goals in the only full game he played in Nashville. At the end of the 2005-06 season, Finley signed with the Bruins where he played 2 more games before retiring just 8 years after he was drafted.
12. Chet Pickard, G, Tri-City Americans – 2008 NHL Draft, 18th overall
Chet Pickard would have been the worst pick in Predators history if he had not been the only first rounder the team had in the 2008 Draft. Luckily, Nashville also had the 7th overall pick and drafted Colin Wilson. Pickard had been named the CHL’s goaltender of the year prior to being drafted, but upon turning professional, Pickard continuously struggled. Notably, Pickard endured a 10 game losing streak that stretched from the end of the 2009-10 season into the 2010-11 season. He was called up to Nashville briefly, but never appeared in a game. Last offseason, Pickard – who never had a save percentage over .900 in professional North American hockey – left the Predators organization to play in Sweden.
11. Ryan Parent, D, Guelph Storm – 2005 NHL Draft, 18th overall
Like Pickard, Ryan Parent never appeared in a game as a Predator. In fact, when he actually departed the organization (the first time), he had only appeared in Milwaukee on a tryout contract. Parent, however, was a crucial piece in not one, but two Nashville trades. In the 2007 season, Parent was part of a trade to Philadelphia for Peter Forsberg. In 2010, the Flyers traded him back to Nashville for the rights to Dan Hamhuis. His second stint in Nashville was about as eventful as his first – Parent was traded to Vancouver in exchange for Shane O’Brien.
10. Jonathon Blum, D, Vancouver Giants – 2007 NHL Draft, 23rd overall
Compared to the first 3 players on this list, Jonathon Blum played significant time as a Nashville Predator. Over 3 seasons, Blum appeared in 91 games with the Predators, scoring 22 points (7 G – 15 A), plus another 12 playoff games. However, Blum’s time in Nashville was plagued with questions about his effort level. During the 2011-12 season, his struggles became so apparent that he was sent back to Milwaukee. This past season, Blum missed making the opening day roster and found himself a frequent healthy scratch. After 4 seasons with the organization, Nashville announced this week that Blum had not been tendered a qualifying offer, effectively ending his time with the Predators.
9. Scottie Upshall, F, Kamloops Blazers – 2002 NHL Draft, 6th overall
Scottie Upshall turned into a fairly dependable player after he left Nashville, but this list is ranked by how these picks affected the Predators. Upshall played in 77 games with Nashville over 4 seasons, scoring 29 points (11 G – 18 A). He was up and down quite a bit between Nashville and Milwaukee during his time with the organization, but was included in the trade for Peter Forsberg in 2007. He ranks above Blum on this list because of the method of his departure. After leaving Nashville, Upshall became a regular NHLer and has played in over 300 games. Notably, Upshall scored a hat trick against the Predators while a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.
8. Austin Watson, C, Peterborough Petes – 2010 NHL Draft, 18th overall
Austin Watson ranks in 8th because it is as close to the middle as he can fit. He’s only played in 6 NHL games so far, but he began to find his “sea legs” towards the end of that stint, scoring his first career goal. Since he is still a budding work-in-progress, he finds himself in the middle of the field here.
7. Ryan Ellis, D, Windsor Spitfires – 2009 NHL Draft, 11th overall
For similar reasons to Watson, Ryan Ellis finds himself in the middle of the pack. Extremely celebrated coming out of junior hockey, the 5’9″ Ellis has taken a bit to adjust to the size of NHL players. He has appeared in 64 games over the past 2 seasons, scoring 17 points (5 G – 12 A). Like Watson, Ellis is still a work-in-progress, so he is ranked in the middle.
6. Alexander Radulov, RW, Tver – 2004 NHL Draft, 15th overall
Some people may rank Radulov at the very bottom of this list, but to be fair, when he was willing to stay in North America, he was a very effective player for the Predators. Between the 2006-07 season and the 2007-08 season, Radulov played in 135 games with Nashville and scored 95 points (44 G – 51 A). A 58 point season during his second season in 2007-08 season gave the Predators hope that they might finally have the elusive explosive scorer that the organization had always sought. However, it wasn’t to be. Radulov left for the KHL after the 2008 season while still having a year on his contract. After 4 years of trying to entice him, David Poile finally lured Radulov back for the final 9 games of the 2011-12 season. He scored 7 points (4 G – 3 A) during that stretch. However, during the playoffs, he found himself on Nashville’s bad side once again, earning a suspension for off-ice conduct. Radulov did not accept Nashville’s qualifying offer and headed back to the KHL to play for CSKA Moscow.