Welcome to Last Word’s Draft Boom and Bust series. As the 2020 NHL Entry Draft approaches, we decided to examine each team’s best and worst pick since the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The biggest boom is a player that had the best value relative to where they were selected. Meaning, no one in the first round will be considered a team’s best value pick. However, the biggest bust picks will almost always be in the first round. We will examine each player, why they were picked where they were, and what their NHL career was like. Today, we look at the Nashville Predators draft, and their biggest boom and bust.
Nashville Predators Draft Boom and Bust
There was never going to be anyone other than Pekka Rinne for Nashville’s biggest draft boom accolade. Rinne is the sporting equivalent to Johnny Cash in Nashville; everyone loves him. Drafted in a round (8th) that no longer exists, going 256th overall in 2004, Rinne has gone on to make a mockery of those who place high-value on picking goaltenders early.
In the entire history of the NHL Entry Draft, Rinne ties for second in save percentage and ranks fifth in games played among goaltenders selected in the eighth round and beyond. And this list includes goaltenders such as Dominik Hasek, Evgeni Nabokov and Tomas Vokoun.
Rinne is currently 20th in shutouts all-time and is only one of twelve goaltenders in NHL history to score a goal. He is also just the seventh to be credited for a shot on goal, launching the puck the full 200 feet to secure a crucial win over the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
A bedrock in net for over ten years, Rinne holds every goaltending record for the Predators. He’s a giant but mobile goaltender, with impeccable stick use and astounding athleticism, Rinne is best known for his outrageous multi-save sequences.
Although, Rinne has battled the volatility of the goaltending position throughout his career. He is one of the streakier goalies in the NHL and tends to jockey between the hero and villain of the piece. One of his biggest criticisms is his tendency to fall apart in crucial playoff games. In eight playoff appearances, Rinne holds good save percentages in only two playoff runs. However, one of them (.930 in 22 games) did take the Predators as far as Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Rinne won a Vezina Trophy in 2018 after years of strong consideration. He is the jewel in the Nashville Predators draft crown.
Other Notable Booms
Patric Hornqvist has had a more successful NHL career than Rinne, but is less beloved in the hearts of Predators fans. Especially given that he was complicit in denying them their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2017. Hornqvist scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 to beat out his former club and hand the Pittsburgh Penguins the Stanley Cup.
Hornqvist was the final selection in the 2005 NHL Entry draft and boy does he carry that like a chip on his shoulder. One of the most determined and gritty players to also possess natural goal-scoring ability. Hornqvist is a pest in front of the net who just won’t let up. Goalies hate him, defencemen hate him and opposing fans hate him. And what’s worse, he is prolific.
Hornqvist has split his 12-season career evenly between the Predators and the Penguins to date. He won two Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 with the Penguins, scoring nine goals in the post-season in 2016. He has remained remarkably consistent throughout his career and even now can be relied upon for around twenty goals per year. Hornqvist tallied his highest goal-scoring regular season with the Predators (30) in 2009-10.
Viktor Arvidsson is the final honourable mention. Selected in the 4th round in 2014, Arvidsson has played the most games of anyone outside the first round in his class. Moreover, he has scored the third most goals of the 2014 draftees, behind only Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak.
He is currently the most prolific goal scorer the Preds have. Over the past four seasons, Arvidsson has scored the most regular-season goals (109) of any Predator. This is even despite injury-related issues during 2019-20.
Arvidsson possesses the speed that for so long the Predators lacked. Before Arvidsson was drafted, Nashville was a heavy, defence-first, run and gun from the point, sort of unit. The Predators relied upon a New York Islanders style of stinginess.
Since then, Arvidsson has changed the Predators’ offensive threat on the rush and his tenacity to go to the net has reaped handsome reward. While his backward step this season was concerning, Arvidsson isn’t far removed from a Predators’ record, goal-scoring season. His 34 goals in 2018-19 were the most scored in a single season in the franchise’s history.
Chet Pickard is an example of a goalie that the Nashville Predators misjudged. He was selected 18th overall in 2008, the only draft in which the Predators held two first-round picks in their history. At the outset, there was so much promise about him. He was a World Junior Gold Medallist, albeit in a back-up capacity, and an excellent performer in junior hockey. He backed up Carey Price with the Tri-City Americans before winning Canadian Junior Hockey Goaltender of the Year in 2008.
Pickard had two difficult seasons in the AHL which ultimately resulted in him being bounced to the ECHL. The closest he got to the NHL was during the 2011 playoff run. He was with the Predators as injury relief for Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback. The only reason for this was because AHL affiliate, Milwaukee Admirals were also in the playoffs at the time. Pickard ended up playing zero games for either team, leaving him sixth on the goalie depth chart.
Pickard never managed to play a game in the NHL. He carved out a sub-par AHL and ECHL career before moving to Europe. He played in Sweden, Denmark and now Germany. Pickard won the German Championship with Adler Mannheim in 2019.
Other Notable Busts
The remaining Nashville Predators draft busts come at a position that they are famous for drafting well in. Picking the likes of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis in previous drafts tends to accentuate when you get it wrong. And unfortunately for defenceman, Ryan Parent, he was the Predators’ inaugural first-round faux pas in the 21st century.
Parent was coming into the draft as the 8th ranked North American skater by Central Scouting and so he wasn’t an off-piste pick at number 18 by any means. However he never did integrate into the Predators system and was traded when Nashville required scoring help during the 2006-07 stretch run.
Peter Forsberg came to Nashville and Ryan Parent headed to the Philadelphia Flyers alongside Scottie Upshall and several draft picks. Parent got some NHL game time there, after securing consecutive gold medals at the U-20 World Junior Championships with Team Canada. Sadly, he couldn’t make the leap to the highest level. He managed just 106 career NHL games, scoring once and recording seven points. He finished his career with the Vancouver Canucks when he was traded there via Nashville yet again in 2010.
Taken in the first round, before the likes of P.K. Subban, David Perron, Jamie Benn and Wayne Simmonds in 2007, Jonathon Blum makes the final spot for Nashville Predators draft busts for similar reasons to Parent.
In his first few seasons in the NHL, his defending was abjectly bad and since he had no scoring ability, he began to gather bad stock. As his responsibilities were stripped and his minutes lessened, Blum started to sure up on the backend but offered very little else.
Blum became an unrestricted free agent in 2013 and signed with the Minnesota Wild rejoining former Predators’ teammate, Ryan Suter. He would only play 19 games for the Wild in two years before he left North America for the KHL.
In 5 NHL seasons, Blum played in 110 games and amassed 24 points. He scored 30 points in his first season with Admiral Vladivostock in the KHL. Blum currently plays for Farjestad BK in the Swedish Hockey League.