Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the Nashville Predators Prospects.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Nashville Predators Prospects
The Nashville Predators entered the 2018-19 season with big expectations. The regular season was a bit of a roller coaster ride but the team still put up 100 points and finished in first place in the Central Division. They seemed to be set up for another long playoff run. Things did not work out that way though. The Predators fell in the first round, losing in six games to the Dallas Stars.
With that disappointment, the Predators made a number of big changes in the off-season. The first big move was sending star defender P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils in what must be looked at as a cap dump. General manager David Poile used that cap space to sign free-agent centre Matt Duchene on July 1st. Other additions include Daniel Carr and goaltender Connor Ingram. Meanwhile, losses include recognizable names in Zac Rinaldo, Brian Boyle, Wayne Simmonds, and Cody McLeod.
Top Prospect: Dante Fabbro
Defence — shoots Right
Born June 20th, 1998 — New Westminster, British Columbia
Height 6’1″ — Weight 192 lbs [185 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 1st round, #17 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Fabbro improved his offensive output in his third season with Boston University. He put up seven goals and 33 points in 38 games. He was part of the Hockey East Second All-Star Team. Fabbro also played for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup, scoring two goals and three points in four games and making the tournament all-star team. He also played in the World Championships, scoring a goal and three points in nine games and coming home with a silver medal. Fabbro signed his entry-level deal with the Predators, scoring one goal in four regular-season games and one assist in six playoff games.
The strength of Fabbro’s game comes from his silky-smooth skating stride. He has great agility, as well as an excellent first step, allowing him to pounce on loose pucks quickly. Fabbro has good speed and acceleration in both directions and covers a ton of ground in just a few seconds. He also has good edgework and pivots, allowing him to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. His lower body strength could be improved, which would make him stronger on the puck as well as improve his balance.
Fabbro is a two-way defender who does everything well. He moves the puck effectively, with a crisp first pass and good stickhandling ability. Fabbro starts the transition game with a smart first pass. He can also avoid oncoming forecheckers and start the play by skating out of his own end of the rink. He is willing to lead the rush or jump in to provide offensive support as a trailer.
Fabbro is poised with the puck on his stick and quarterbacks things from the point on the power play. With his good vision and high hockey IQ, he can play the role of the playmaker from the back end. Fabbro also has a hard and accurate slap shot and has an excellent release on his wrist and snapshots. He is a goal-scoring threat at the point or on the rush. Fabbro loves to sneak in and let his shot go at the top of the face-off circles. He understands when to pinch in to keep a play alive and when to avoid taking unnecessary risks.
Defensively, Fabbro’s strong skating also allows him good gap control. He takes away the middle of the ice and forces attackers to try to beat him to the outside. While not a big hitter, he is able to take out opponents who try to beat him wide, playing the body and being physical. He also is not afraid to battle in front of the net or in the corners. Fabbro effectively cuts down passing and shooting lanes. He is not afraid to put his body on the line to block shots. His game shows maturity with great positioning in his own end.
Fabbro’s strong development over the past year, as well as proving he was NHL ready in the spring allowed the Predators to trade Subban. While he can’t be expected to do all the things that Subban did for the Predators, it is not a stretch to believe that Fabbro can handle second pairing minutes even as an NHL rookie. He has a ton of potential and could become the next great Predators defenceman with continued development.
#2 Prospect: Eeli Tolvanen
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born April 22nd, 1999 — Vihti, Finland
Height 5’10” — Weight 192 lbs [178 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 1st round, #30 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Tolvanen played in four NHL games, scoring one goal and one assist. He got more ice-time in the AHL, and had an impressive season for a 19-year-old with 15 goals and 35 points in 58 games. Tolvanen also played for Finland at the World Juniors, scoring four points in seven tournament games and helping the team to a gold medal.
Tolvanen is a very good skater. He has very good top-end speed. Tolvanen uses a quick first step and excellent acceleration to elude defenders and get himself open to fire a shot on goal. He can beat his man to the outside. When Tolvanen gets a step on his man, he can drop his shoulder and cut to the net. He can also make a number of quick cuts and uses strong agility to beat his man one-on-one. Despite his small stature, Tolvanen is strong on the puck and has good balance on his skates. He is tough to knock over when he is battling for pucks along the boards.
Tolvanen is a pure sniper who scores goals in a variety of different ways. He reads the play extremely well and gets himself into the right position to create a scoring chance. Tolvanen has an outstanding one-timer, with great power and accuracy. He also has a lightning=quick release on his wrist shot. That wrist shot is heavy, and he is also very accurate. It is one of the best shots of any player not in the NHL. Tolvanen has the soft hands to make quick moves and beat defenders with his stick-handling ability. Tolvanen’s snapshot is also deadly. He can fire that vast assortment of shots in stride. He can also bury rebounds and has the hand-eye coordination to get deflections in front of the net as well.
While he is known for his goal-scoring, Tolvanen also has good vision and passing skills. He can be a playmaker both in the cycle game, and when coming down the wing with the puck. He can also use his strong stickhandling and changes of pace in his skating to open up passing lanes and find an open teammate. His high-level hockey IQ extends to his playmaking, as he finds teammates open and in good positions to generate a scoring chance.
Tolvanen has good defensive instincts for a teenager. He is rarely caught out of position and is more than willing to help out in his own end of the ice. He must improve his strength though. When trying to contain bigger forwards in the cycle, he can often be outmuscled. One thing he does well though is the transition to offence once he is able to create a turnover in the defensive end of the ice.
Tolvanen should make the Predators this year and is expected to have an immediate impact. He might start out on the third line but could work his way up to the second. He also could find himself seeing some power-play time. The deep Predators team might mean that he doesn’t get quite as much ice time as other NHL rookies and this will likely reduce his chances at the Calder Trophy. That said, Tolvanen is still one of the most exciting and talented prospects in hockey.
#3 Prospect: Philip Tomasino
The Predators drafted Tomasino with the 24th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Tomasino. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#4 Prospect: Alexandre Carrier
Defence — shoots Right
Born October 8th, 1996 — Quebec City, Quebec
Height 5’11” — Weight 183 lbs [180 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 4th round, #115 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
In his third season with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, Carrier continued to show his puck-moving skill. He put up five goals and 37 points in 76 games. He was named an alternative captain for the team.
Carrier is a strong two-way defenseman and this is based around his good mobility. He has decent speed and acceleration in both directions. His agility, edgework and pivots are also good, allowing him to transition from offence to defence, and vice-versa very quickly. He has gotten stronger and increased his muscle mass to help in battling on the boards and clearing the crease.
Carrier has a very good hockey IQ. He reads the play extremely well and makes smart plays with the puck. He skates the puck away from forecheckers and makes a strong first pass to start the breakout. Carrier picks his spots well and is willing to lead or join the rush when an opportunity presents itself. At the AHL level, he can quarterback the play from the point on the power play with excellent vision and passing skills. There is some question as to how well he can do this in the NHL though.
He also has a hard and accurate slap shot. Carrier’s wrist shot is accurate, powerful, and features a quick release. He loves to sneak down from the point and take this shot from the top of the faceoff circles. Carrier also joins the rush where he can get his shot off. He understands to keep his shot low to get it on the net and give teammates the opportunity to get a tip-in or rebound.
Carrier’s ability to read the play extends to his defensive game as well. He maintains good gap control and funnels attacks towards the outside. He also has good positioning and breaks up plays. Carrier is not a big hitter but is not afraid to engage in physical battles on the boards and in front of the net. He could use more upper body strength as his lack of size is a bit of a detriment here.
The Predators defence is one of the best in the NHL, and extremely hard to crack. Carrier will challenge for the eighth spot in the lineup. However, he is just 23 years old and needs game time. Expect him to play on the top pair in Milwaukee and continue his development. He could see NHL action if injuries hit.
#5 Prospect: Rem Pitlick
Centre — shoots Left
Born April 2nd, 1997 — Ottawa, Ontario
Height 5’11” — Weight 196 lbs [180 cm / 89 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 3rd round, #76 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Pitlick had a huge junior season at the University of Minnesota. He scored 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points in 38 games. He was named to the B1G First All-Star team and also to was an NCAA (West) First-Team All-American. Following the season, he signed his entry-level contract and played one game for the Predators.
Pitlick is an excellent skater. He has very good speed which he reaches in just a few strides with his great acceleration. His first step is also exceptionally quick. This helps him win short races for loose pucks, create offence off the rush, and get in quickly on the forecheck. He also has very good agility and edgework, allowing him to maneuver through traffic, both with and without the puck. Pitlick could add some core strength though, this would help him to be stronger on the puck and improve his balance. While it was not a big issue at the college level, he will now be facing stronger opponents in the pros.
Pitlick has very good hands. He is a creative player who can stickhandle in a phone booth as well as being able to make moves at top speed. This helps him to get by defenders or even just to change angles and create shooting and passing lanes. His vision and passing skills are extremely good, allowing Pitlick to be an effective playmaker. He can put the puck through tight areas in order to set up a scoring chance for teammates.
Pitlick can also score goals. He has a very good arsenal of shots. He is effective with his wrist shot, snapshot, and backhand. Pitlick has a good release. He is able to vary his launch angle in order to fool defenders. Despite his size, he is not afraid to operate in traffic, working the puck down low and getting to the front of the net. Once he gets there, he can use his soft hands to finish in close. He will need to be stronger to continue to play this game at the pro level.
Pitlick’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. His size and strength can be an issue in the defensive zone as he struggles in helping out the defence down low. He can be overpowered down low by bigger, stronger opponents. Pitlick also needs to work on keeping his feet moving. He can sometimes get too focused on watching the puck and let his man slip by when he is away from the puck. This will be an area of his game that must improve in the AHL.
Pitlick is likely to start his first pro season with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL. The Predators hope to see his offence translate at the AHL level. If he plays well, he could see time as an injury call-up later in the year. He’s likely a year or two away from being a threat for a full-time NHL roster spot.
#6 Prospect: Frederic Allard
Defence — shoots Right
Born December 27, 1997 — St. Sauveur, Quebec
Height 6’1″ — Weight 184 lbs [185 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 3rd round, #78 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
In Allard’s second season with Milwaukee, he scored four goals and 29 points in 65 games. He also scored one goal and one assist in five playoff games.
Allard is a strong skater. His speed and acceleration are good in both directions. A quick first step helps him to win races to loose pucks. Strong agility and good edgework allow Allard to get back quickly for loose pucks and to avoid forecheckers to start the play up the ice. His agility also gives him the ability to walk the line, opening up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. Allard’s pivots are also very good, allowing him to transition from defence to offence quickly and vice-versa. He covers a lot of ice. Allard could stand to improve his lower body strength going forward. This would improve his balance, and help him to clear the front of the net and win battles along the boards.
Frederic Allard plays a very smart offensive game. He has good stickhandling and shows patience and poise with the puck on his stick. Quarterbacking the offence from the blue line, Allard waits for the play to open up and a teammate to get in a good position before making a tape-to-tape pass. He has the hockey IQ to see plays developing and the passing skill to take advantage of when they do. He has increased the power in both his slap shot and wrist shot. Allard could still add more strength going forward. Allard can also use his stickhandling and his skating to both lead and join the rush. He makes a strong first pass out of his own zone and gets the transition game started.
Allard shows a commitment to playing strong defence, but his actual game is a bit of a work in progress. He battles hard along the boards and in front of the net, but can sometimes be overpowered by bigger, more powerful forwards. His positioning and gap control can be excellent on some nights but could stand to be more consistent on others. He is willing to block shots as well. Allard does have an active stick, which he uses to poke check opponents and cut down on passing lanes.
Allard will also battle for a depth spot on the Predators blueline. He is still just 21 years old though, and if he is not a top-6 defenceman, he should be sent back to the AHL for more development time. He could see a call-up if injuries hit, particularly on the right side.
#7 Prospect: Anthony Richard
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born December 20th, 1996 — Trois-Rivieres, Quebec
Height 5’10” — Weight 163 lbs [178 cm/74 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 4th round, #100 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Richard continued to take steps forward in his third year with the Admirals. He put up career highs with 24 goals and 23 assists for 47 points in 73 games. He also added four goals and five points in five playoff games. Richard also played his first NHL game this past season but is still looking for his first NHL point.
Richard is a very strong skater. He has a great first step, excellent acceleration, and outstanding top-end speed. He can take a defenceman wide and cut to the net. Once Richard gets a step on a defenceman he can drop his shoulder and accelerate past him. His speed also makes him a threat to get behind the defence and create breakaways when turnovers occur. He also has very good edgework and agility, which helps him to be elusive in the neutral zone and offensive zone. Richard needs to continue to work on his strength though as this would help him in battles.
Richard pairs his skating ability with great hands. He can make plays while moving at top speed. This makes him especially dangerous off the rush. He is more of a goal scorer than a playmaker. Richard has a good wrist shot and quick release. He also is able to score in tight to the net with the quick reflexes to pounce on rebounds and get deflections. However, Richard does not win enough battles in front of the net and can get boxed out by bigger defenders. He did a better job this season than in his first year in the AHL but still needs to improve.
Richard makes simple passes to keep the puck moving. He is not really a creative playmaker but instead tends to play a straightforward game. He also tries to generate offence through the forecheck, but can sometimes be too aggressive leading to penalties or getting caught out of position. Richard was a very creative player in the QMJHL and while he has started to show signs of that creativity in the AHL, it is not the key feature of his game right now.
Richard works hard in the defensive end of the ice. He has good positioning and uses his quickness to cut down passing lanes. However, he is hurt by a lack of size and strength. This is another area where an increase in muscle mass would help him. He needs to be better at keeping his opponent to the outside and not letting them drive the net.
Richard has the skill level necessary to be a middle-six winger but needs to continue working on adding strength. He could be NHL ready very soon. Richard will battle for a bottom-six role in training camp. While Richard played centre in junior, his pro future is likely on the wing due to the lessened defensive responsibilities and support down low.
#8 Prospect: Egor Afanasyev
The Predators drafted Afanasyev with the 45th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Afanasyev. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#9 Prospect: David Farrance
Defence — shoots Left
Born June 23rd, 1999 — Victor, New York
Height 5’11” — Weight 189 lbs [180 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 3rd round, #92 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Farrance was given more responsibility in his second season with Boston University and his game showed great strides at both ends of the ice. He put up four goals and 20 points in 37 games.
Farrance is a very good skater. He has excellent agility along with very good edgework and pivots. He transitions quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. This mobility also allows him to cover a lot of ice. Farrance is fast and has good acceleration in both directions. He is able to join the rush, as well as pinch in from the blue line, and still get back defensively. He has improved his lower-body strength and balance, though there is still more room to grow. Farrance can sometimes be overpowered in the corners or in front of the net.
Farrance is a solid playmaker. He can skate the puck out of danger in his own end and has the stickhandling ability to carry the puck and lead the rush. He can also start the transition game with an excellent first pass. Farrance can even throw the long home-run pass, hitting a streaking forward for an odd-man rush. He shows poise with the puck, keeping his head up and scanning the ice to make a play both in transition and when quarterbacking things from the blue line. His vision and ability to make passes through tight spaces is a real asset here.
He is more of a quarterback than a trigger-man though. While Farrance has a decent slap shot from the point, it is not a howitzer. He can sneak in from the blue line and let go a wrist shot. He gets it through traffic and is accurate. It also features a quick release. He could stand to make better decisions with the puck. He is prone to giveaways, as well as to firing a slap shot when there is no shooting lane. This is an area he will need to work on.
Farrance uses his strong skating ability, to be tough to beat one-on-one. He is decent at defending against the rush and makes quick poke checks to steal the puck from defenders. He also maintains good gap control and forces his man to the outside. However, his size deficiency can cause some issues defensively. These manifest when defending down low in his own zone. Farrance is not very physical. He has trouble clearing the front of the net and winning battles in the corners. This improved during his sophomore year though. When he does get the puck, he is able to transition quickly from defence to offence.
Farrance heads back to BU this fall and it would not be a surprise if he spends one or two more seasons in the NCAA. He needs to continue to bulk up and to keep working on his defensive game. He has earned the confidence of his coaches through his hard work in improving his game and is willing to work to reach the next level.
#10 Prospect: Connor Ingram
Goalie — shoots Left
Born March 31st, 1997 — Imperial, Saskatchewan
Height 6’2″ — Weight 202 lbs [188 cm / 92 kg]
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 3rd round, #88 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Traded to the Nashville Predators in June 2019.
In his second pro season, Ingram split time between the AHL and ECHL. In 22 games with Syracuse, he put up a 2.26 goals-against-average and .922 save percentage. Despite the limited ice time, he led the AHL with six shutouts. Ingram also played 13 games in Orlando, with a 2.81 goals-against-average and .914 save percentage. In 10 playoff games, he had a 1.94 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage.
Skating and Talent Analysis
At just 6-foot-2, Ingram is smaller than the prototypical goalie that teams are looking for today. He makes up for it with excellent reflexes and athleticism. He is also very technically sound. Ingram makes up for his lack of size by coming well out to challenge shooters and taking away angles. Ingram is a good skater and can back up quickly to take away attempts to deke him. He also has an excellent push and good side-to-side movement and puck tracking.
Ingram gets down in the butterfly quickly. He has quick and powerful legs that take away the bottom of the net. He also has a good glove hand and decent blocker to take away the top. One issue is Ingram’s rebound control. This is a typical problem for many young goalies, but it is something that he will need to improve on to make it to the NHL.
Ingram stays composed in the net, even in the face of heavy traffic. His calm and cool demeanour is something that his defenders look to and rely on. Even next to veterans like Dominigue and Pasquale, Ingram seemed like a bigger leader for the young Syracuse team. He does not give up many bad goals but when one gets by him he recovers quickly. Ingram does not let things spiral out of control by dwelling on past mistakes.
Ingram will be back in the AHL, this time with Milwaukee. Fortunately, he will not get the opportunity to be the number one goalie and take most of the starts. Just 22-years-old, and with the Predators having Rinne and Saros ahead of him, Ingram will be given plenty of AHL time. He is likely at least two years away from full-time NHL duty.
Sleeper Prospect: Patrick Harper
Center/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born July 29th, 1998 — New Canaan, Connecticut
Height 5’9″ — Weight 160 lbs [175 cm / 73 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 5th round, #138 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
After missing most of the 2017-18 season with an illness, Harper came back to play 38 games for Boston University this season. His game seemed to suffer early in the year as it took some time to regain his strength and get up to game speed. Overall he scored six goals and 20 points in 38 games.
Harper is a good but not a great skater. His speed and acceleration are well above-average. He also has good agility and edgework. While Harper does not blow anyone away, he can certainly keep up with the play and is elusive enough to avoid defenders in the neutral zone and offensive zone. He could be stronger on his skates. Harper needs to add muscle to his frame to win more battles along the boards and to fight through checks.
Harper has dynamic offensive skills. He is an excellent stick handler who can make plays while moving at top speed. Harper can fool defenders and create space for himself to get off a pass or shot. He sees the ice very well, identifying open teammates and finding them with a good pass. His anticipation is very good. He reads the play, anticipates where his teammates will go and can make passes to them through tight openings or with a saucer pass. He also has a very good wrist shot and quick release.
Harper needs to be more consistent at using these skills game-in and game-out. There are times when he is absolutely electric and there are others when disappears into playing a perimeter game. Harper also needs to get stronger so that he can play in the dirty areas of the ice, win battles in the corners and fight for position in front of the net.
Harper’s defensive game is hurt by his lack of size and strength. He works hard but is unable to contain bigger forwards in the cycle game. They can overpower him and get to the net. He uses good anticipation and hockey IQ to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers though.
Harper will head back to Boston University for his senior season. With the lighter, weekend-based, NCAA schedule, the Predators hope that he is able to spend plenty of time in the weight room and fill out his frame. If he is able to have a bounce-back year, the Predators could make him a contract offer at the end of the college season.
As the Nashville Predators have become a Stanley Cup contender, they have been drafting later each year, have traded away picks and prospects for immediate help, and have really depleted their farm system depth. There are three real high-end prospects in the Predators system as well as a few others with a chance to make an impact. The team’s overall depth is weaker though.
In goal, they also have Niclas Westerholm, Ethan Haider, Konstantin Volkov, Tomas Vomacka, and Milan Kloucek. The team’s defence also features Vladislav Yeryomenko, Semyon Chistyakov, Jeremy Davies, and Brandon Fortunato as prospects worth watching. Forwards to keep an eye on include Grant Mishmash, Yakov Trenin, Jachym Kondelik, Mathieu Oliver, Lukas Craggs, and Josh Williams.
Nashville Predators Prospects Main Photo
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – APRIL 20: Dante Fabbro #57 of the Nashville Predators plays against the Dallas Stars during the second period of Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 20, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)