Yesterday, I ranked the “Bottom 8″ of the 13 total first round draft picks that the Nashville Predators have had in their short history.
Today, we conclude the countdown with the top 5.
The envelope, please…
5. Colin Wilson, C, Boston University – 2008 NHL Draft, 7th overall
David Poile turned a lot of heads when he traded up in the 2008 Draft to be able to take Colin Wilson. While Wilson took a little bit to pan out – including spending quite a bit of time in Barry Trotz’s doghouse – he has become perhaps the best forward currently on Nashville’s roster. In 210 NHL games with Nashville, Wilson has managed to score 103 points (46 G – 57 A). However, his point production has steadily increased. In his first full season, he scored 34 points (16 G – 18 A), while he scored 35 (15 G – 20 A) in his second season. This past season looked to be his breakout year, but Wilson was injured after scoring 19 points (7 G – 12 A) in just 25 games and virtually took the entire Predators offense with him to the injured reserve. When one considers that the Predators had a second pick in the 2008 draft that they used to take Chet Pickard, this pick looks even better.
4. Dan Hamhuis, D, Prince George Cougars – 2001 NHL Draft, 12th overall
Dan Hamhuis was the first defenseman that the Predators drafted with a first round pick. He became one of the most reliable blueliners in the young history of the franchise, appearing in over 80 games in 5 of his 6 seasons in Nashville (he appeared in “just” 78 during the odd one out). All told, Hamhuis played in 483 games over 6 seasons with Nashville, scoring 161 points (32 G – 129 A) along the way. When the Predators were unable to re-sign him after the end of the 2010 season, Hamhuis’ rights were traded to Philadelphia for Ryan Parent (#11 on our countdown). Hamhuis’ rights were then traded to Pittsburgh before he finally landed in Vancouver with the Canucks.
3. David Legwand, C, Plymouth Whalers – 1998 NHL Draft, 2nd overall
David Legwand came into Nashville’s system with gigantic expectations. He was the very first player the franchise ever selected and was projected by some to be the second coming of Steve Yzerman. Legwand is simply an enigma – as a role player he’s been a fantastic player for the franchise. However, as a second overall pick/first pick in the history of the franchise…maybe there could have been more. Regardless, Legwand owns virtually every record in Nashville’s record book – scoring, goals, assists, games played, etc. He’s the only player who has appeared in at least one game during every single one of the Predators’ seasons. Nearly a goal per game player in junior, Legwand has only cracked the 50 point threshold twice in his NHL career…however, it’s been a long NHL career. He has played in 894 games with Nashville, scoring 526 points (200 G – 326 A). If he manages to stick it out for a couple of years, he will become the franchise’s first 1000-game player.
2. Scott Hartnell, LW, Prince Albert Raiders – 2000 NHL Draft, 6th overall
Scott Hartnell was the first and – to date – only player to go immediately to the NHL after being drafted by Nashville. The numbers – 211 points (93 G – 113 A) in 436 games – don’t tell the full story. By the end of Hartnell’s time with the Predators, he was developing into a consistent goal scorer. In 2005-06, Hartnell scored 25 goals while scoring 22 in 64 games the next season. Unfortunately, free agency came for him at the same time that Craig Leipold put the team up for sale and he was away to the Flyers during the fire sale of 2007. He continued to improve in Philadelphia after being traded, scoring 30-plus goals twice and earning an All Star nod with the Flyers in 2012.
1. Ryan Suter, D, USNDT – 2003 NHL Draft, 7th overall
In 2003, the Predators actually hosted the NHL Draft, so it’s fitting that the best first round pick in franchise history came from that year. Ryan Suter played for 7 seasons with the Predators, appearing in 542 games and scoring 238 points (38 G – 200 A). The fewest games in a season that Suter ever played in Nashville was 71 during his rookie campaign. With fellow 2003 pick Shea Weber, Suter made up half of what was arguably the NHL’s best defensive pairing for roughly half a decade. in 2012, Ryan Suter became the only Nashville first round pick to represent the team in the All Star Game. Ignoring the very public soap opera of his signing with Minnesota, Ryan Suter’s impact with Nashville makes him the single best first round selection in team history.
Where do you rank Nashville’s first rounders? Please comment below!