Welcome to the 2021 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2021 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. 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 2021 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2021 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 2021-22 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.
2021 Nashville Predators Prospects
Predators Season and Off-Season
Finishing fourth in the Central Division, the Predators made the playoffs but fell in the first round. The big news in Nashville was the passing of the torch from Pekka Rinne to Juuse Saros as the team’s starting goalie. After years of a 1A/1B situation, Saros is now the undisputed starter. This was cemented when Rinne retired in the off-season. The Preds appear to be in rebuild mode now. They traded away Ryan Ellis, picking up Phillipe Myers and Nolan Patrick. Patrick was then flipped to Vegas for Cody Glass. The Predators also moved Viktor Arvidsson to Los Angeles, picking up draft picks in the process. The team also lost Calle Jarnkrok to expansion and Erik Haula, Erik Gudbransson, and Brad Richardson to free agency. The Predators were pretty quiet on the free-agent market, with new backup goalie David Rittich the only significant addition.
2021 Top Nashville Predators Prospect: Yaroslav Askarov
Goalie — shoots Right — catches Right
Born June 16th, 2002 — Omsk, Russia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 176 lbs [188 cm/80 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 1st Round, #11 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
Playing in the SKA St. Petersburg system, time in the KHL can be limited for a young goalie. Askarov was impressive in nine KHL games, putting up a 5-4-0 record, a 1.21 goals-against-average, a .951 save percentage and one shutout. He also played in six VHL games, putting up a 2-3-1 record with a 2.12 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Askarov allowed just one goal in two games in the Russian junior league (MHL). He also played seven playoff games, going 3-4 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. Askarov also represented Russia at the World Juniors with a .914 save percentage in six games. He put up a .939 save percentage in four games against national men’s teams on the European Hockey Tour.
Skating and Talent Analysis
Askarov is incredibly advanced for a young goaltender. He uses his size effectively, coming out to cut down angles and gives shooters very little net to look at. His strong legs take away the bottom of the net. They also make him an effective skater. He is able to take away those angles but still gets a good backward push, which makes him hard to deke. Those strong legs also give him a strong push and good side-to-side movement. He tracks the puck well on cross-ice passes and can get over to still make the save.
Askarov’s rebound control is very good for a young goalie, far ahead of other prospects his age. He is extremely efficient in his movements and is almost always square to the puck. This helps him to make a second save when he does give up a rebound. Askarov is also an athletic freak, with the ability to make a jaw-dropping save on those rare times when he does get caught out of position.
He is also good at handling the puck and making a pass to set up the breakout. He often acts like a third defenceman for his team, quickly moving the puck to his defenceman and helping the transition game. If the opposing team gets caught on a line change, he can make a long pass to create an odd-man rush for the forwards.
Askarov remains calm and cool in the net and is always ready to make the next stop. He has often played up an age level or two, showing his maturity despite his age. Askarov has the ability to shake off bad goals and does not let them snowball by being prepared for the next scoring chance. He also battles well through traffic and activity around his net. Askarov understands the game. He will keep the play moving when necessary or look to cover up the puck if his defenders need a breather. Askarov has been a leader for his team, a player that the defenders can look to stand tall in times that they need it the most.
Goalies take longer to develop than any other position, and the Preds can be patient with Askarov. He is playing this season in Russia, likely getting time at both the KHL and VHL levels and playing for the World Junior Team. According to Elite Prospects, Askarov’s Russian contract expires at the end of this season. Look for the Preds to try to sign him and bring him to North America. Even if they do, he will need some AHL time and so is at least two years away from making an impact in the NHL and it might be even longer before he is a full-time starter. That said, he has the potential to be a franchise-defining goaltender.
#2 Prospect Philip Tomasino
Centre/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born July 28th, 2001 — Mississauga, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 181 [183 cm/82 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 1st Round, #24 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Tomasino played for Canada at the World Juniors, scoring four goals and six points in seven games for the silver-winning squad. With the OHL season never launching, Tomasino joined the Chicago Wolves in the AHL. He put up 13 goals and 32 points in 29 games.
Tomasino is a dynamic skater. His acceleration is elite. The ability to quickly change speeds allows him to dart into open space in the offensive zone as well as to beat a defender wide and cut back to the net. He also has very good top-end speed. Tomasino adds excellent agility and edgework to his speed, making him very difficult to defend off the rush. Defenders often have to back up on him and give plenty of space to shoot or pass the puck so that he does not beat them wide. He could continue to add core strength to make him stronger on the puck and better able to fight through checks at the next level.
Tomasino marries his skating ability with excellent stickhandling. He can make plays while moving at top speed. This gives him the ability to be an excellent playmaker. By quickly changing his speed, making a cut, or even changing the angle on his stick he can create a passing lane to set up a teammate. He also has very good vision to find those open teammates. Tomasino uses his speed to get in quickly on the forecheck and create offence by forcing turnovers and mistakes from his opponents.
Tomasino has an accurate shot and quick release. His wrist shot has slightly above average power but this could be improved with added upper body strength. He is not afraid to take the puck to the dirty areas of the ice or to drive the net without the puck. In the offensive zone, he shows a non-stop motor and his movement creates space for his linemates. His energy level is infectious and by being involved in nearly every scrum and battle he can drive opponents nuts. This game really works at the junior level but he is going to need to be stronger to play the same way in the NHL. It should come as he matures.
Tomasino is willing to get involved defensively and shows effort in his own zone. However, he has some issues to work on. Lack of upper body strength can be an issue when supporting the defence down low. He has trouble containing bigger forwards on the cycle. He also has a tendency to fish for the puck a bit too much and get over-committed which can lead to him being beaten in one-on-one situations. Tomasino could also stand to improve his positioning and reading of the play. These are all coachable issues and his effort level suggests that he is willing to make efforts to work with good coaches to fix this.
Philip Tomasino projects as a dynamic forward if he can correct some issues. He will need to improve his strength and defensive game. His AHL stats were outstanding, but it must be remembered that this was not a normal AHL season and with taxi squads in the NHL, much of the top veteran talent was not playing in the league and the schedule was significantly shorter. Tomasino will get a long look at Preds camp but is not a lock to make the team. Nashville’s rebuilding cycle opens some spots, but given his age, a full year in the AHL, with callups for injuries, would not hurt his development. If he does not make the Preds this fall, expect him to earn his spot in 2022.
#3 Prospect: Zachary L’Heureux
The Predators drafted L’Heureux with the 27th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on L’Heureux. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#4 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 one of the best players in College Hockey last year, though his season was limited by COVID-19 and injuries to just 11 games. He put up five goals and 16 points in that time. Following the end of his college career, he played two games for the Predators.
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. Farrance has improved his slap shot from the point, but it will never be considered a howitzer. He can also sneak in from the blue line and let go of a wrist shot. His wrist shot features a quick release that fools goaltenders. He gets his shots through traffic and on the net. Farrance also understands to keep the puck low and allow teammates to get deflections and pounce on rebounds. He could stand to make better decisions with the puck. He is prone to giveaways from time to time, though reduced this throughout his college career. 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.
With Farrance under contract, the Preds will bring him to training camp where he will attempt to earn a spot on the blue line. He has high-end upside but given that he just finished his college career and did not play many games last season, it would not be out of the question for him to start the year in the AHL and work his way up.
#5 Prospect: Fyodor Svechkov
The Predators drafted Svechkon with the 19th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Svechkov. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#6 Prospect: Anton Olsson
The Predators drafted Olsson with the 72nd overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Olsson. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#7 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.
Carrier finally started to make an NHL impact last year. He played 19 games with the team scoring a goal and three points. He also added two assists in six games.
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 has been one of the best in the NHL, and extremely hard to crack for years. However, recent moves have meant that defence is not quite as good as it was before and there is more opportunity for youngsters to breakthrough. Carrier had that breakthrough last year and looks to take it into camp this year. He should get a full-time job. The question now is if he can be a top-four defender or if he will settle into the bottom pair.
#8 Prospect: Egor Afanasyev
Left Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born January 23rd, 2001 — Tver, Russia
Height 6’4″ — Weight 201 lbs [193 cm/91 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 2nd Round, #45 Overall at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Afanasyev bounced around the various Russian leagues last year. With six points in four games, he showed he was past the MHL or junior league. He also played just two games in the VHL. Afanasyev also played in 16 KHL games, putting up two goals and six points. Afanasyev represented his country at the World Juniors, picking up five points in seven games. He played for the Men’s national team on the European Hockey Tour with two goals and four points in three games.
Afanasyev is a big forward and a good skater for his size. While not a speedster, he more than keeps up with the play with good top-end speed. He could work on his first few steps, but his acceleration is pretty good. His agility and edgework are also decent. While he could improve his footspeed and become even better, this is not something that holds him back at this point. Where he really excels though is in his balance and power. Playing a power game, Afanasyev can fight through checks and get to the front of the net. He is strong on the puck and protects it well. He also does well in winning battles along the boards.
Egor Afanasyev plays a power game. He gets to the front of the net, creating havoc, pouncing on rebounds, getting tip-ins, and making himself available to take a pass and fire a quick shot on the net. He can also score goals from further out and has an excellent arsenal of shots. His snapshot and wrist shot are both powerful, accurate and feature quick releases. He also has a very good slap shot and one-timer.
Afanasyev can also play the role of playmaker. He protects the puck extremely well down low. Afanasyev uses his big body to hold off defenders and combines this with a long stick and effective stickhandling. This extends plays and allows teammates the opportunity to get open. He has good vision and the smarts to make passes to open teammates as they go to the net. Afansyev is not a big hitter, but he uses his size and long stick to cut down the available lanes on the breakout and create turnovers.
Afanasyev needs some work on improving his defensive game. He works hard to get back in the zone and be involved with back support but has a tendency to get caught out of position. He can sometimes watch the puck a bit too much and stop moving his feet, which will allow his point man to get open. Afanasyev doesn’t get involved down low very often, preferring to stay up top and try to prevent the point man from getting the puck. This is an area that can be improved with commitment from Afanasyev and some good coaching.
Egor Afanasyev’s size and skill make him an intriguing prospect. Sometimes bigger forwards take some time to develop before being NHL ready and given the deficiencies in Afanasyev’s defensive game he is a bit of a project. If he develops properly he could be a second liner at even strength, with the ability to play an important role in front of the net on the power play. He can also continue to work on his footspeed and improve his explosiveness going forward. Afanasyev should start the season in Milwaukee, looking to round out his game in the AHL this year.
#9 Prospect: Luke Evangelista
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born February 21st, 2002 — Oakville, Ontario
Height 5’11” — Weight 165 lbs [180 cm/75 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 2nd Round, #42 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
With the OHL season never getting off the ground, Evangelista played in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves. He put up four assists in 14 games.
Evangelista is a good skater, but not a burner. His top-end speed is above average and he reaches that speed quickly enough with decent acceleration. He is more quick than fast though, with a very good first step. Evangelista also has outstanding edgework and agility. His cuts and changes of direction are very sharp and can cause issues for defenders trying to stay in front of him. Evangelista has a low centre of gravity and good balance. He is tough to knock off the puck. He can be even better in the corners though, and this should happen as he adds more muscle to his frame.
Evangelista is an extremely smart player. He has a real knack for making the right play with the puck on his stick, whether that is a safe pass to keep the cycle game going, or if a teammate is open in a scoring area getting the puck to him with a tape-to-tape pass. Evangelista extends plays by protecting the puck well and controlling it down low. He is a solid stickhandler. He is also not afraid to take the puck to the front of the net if he gets an opportunity. When the puck is not on his stick, Evangelista finds ways to get open and keeps his feet moving, ready to receive a pass and quickly make a play.
Evangelista scores most of his goals in tight to the net, utilizing his quick hands to bang in a rebound, one-time a pass from a teammate, or to deflect a shot. From further out, he gets his shot off quickly and is very accurate which can cause issues for goaltenders. However, Evangelista needs to add a bit more power. This is another area that can be even better as his body develops. Evangelista is willing to forecheck and chase down loose pucks to create chances. While he gets involved on the boards and battles for pucks, he is not really a big hitter.
Evangelista is a solid defensive player and had plenty of responsibility on the Knights penalty-kill units this season. He provides good backpressure, helping the defence to defend against the rush. He is also willing to support the defence down low, containing his man against the cycle. Evangelista uses his high-end hockey IQ to diagnose plays and put himself into the right positions to cut down passing and shooting lanes. His active stick can intercept passes as well as knock the puck off of an opponent’s stick. Once a turnover is created Evangelista can transition quickly to create offensive opportunities. He is not much of a physical presence out there, though his frame is really lanky. It might be possible to further develop this aspect of his game as he matures physically.
Evangelista could become a top-six winger capable of providing value at both ends of the ice. He plays the type of smart and mature game that coaches will love. He also brings a high-end work ethic to the table. Evangelista likely needs another couple of years of development. He could stand to get stronger. This year he should be back in the OHL, and there is no better place for him than with London.
#10 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 great start to the year with eight goals and 10 points in eight games with the Chicago Wolves. This earned him some time in the NHL with Nashville, though he had just two assists in 10 games.
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.
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 NHL 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 compete for a spot in Predators training camp. He’s proven what he can do in the AHL and its now time to see if he can bring that offence at the NHL Level.
Sleeper Prospect: Semyon Chistyakov
Defence — shoots Left
Born August 7th, 2001 — Yekaterinburg, Russia
Height 5’10″ — Weight 168 lbs [178 cm / 76 kg]
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 4th Round, #117 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Chistyakov played 39 games with Avangard Omsk in the KHL last year, putting up a goal and three points. He also added a goal and an assist in 20 playoff games as he helped his team to the Gagarin Cup. Chistyakov also represented his country at the World Juniors where he put up three assists in seven games and was named a top-three player on his team. He also played four games with the Men’s team at the European Hockey Tour, picking up an assist.
Chistyakov may not be the biggest player on the ice, but he is very strong and plays with a low centre of gravity. This makes it difficult to knock him off the puck. He has very good balance and wins battles in the corners and in front of the net. Chistyakov is also a fast skater, with good technique and speed in both directions. His acceleration allows him to hit that top-end speed quickly, in just a few strides. He also has very good agility and edgework. Chistyakov uses this to play a strong two-way game.
Chistyakov has not gotten huge minutes and a lot of offensive opportunities at the KHL level, but this is not unusual for a teenage defender. At lower levels, he has shown skills. He has a very good slap shot and is able to get it off as a one-timer as well. This makes him a threat at the point on the power play. Chistyakov uses his lateral mobility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. He also has a good wrist shot with a quick release. Chistyakov is willing to slide down from the point, taking his shot from the top of the circles.
In terms of moving the puck, Chistyakov prefers to pass the puck up the ice than to skate with it. His stickhandling and puck control could use some improvement as he could do a better job avoiding forecheckers and making a move to open up a passing lane. However, Chistyakov is an accurate passer. He gets the puck up the ice quickly to help start the transition game. He also has the ability to quarterback the play from the blue line. Chistyakov could be more patient at the line, taking the opportunity to let teammates get open and set up offensive chances.
Chistyakov is solid in his own end. He is willing to play a physical game. His low centre of gravity and his strength allows him to compete on the boards and in front of the net despite his lack of height. Chistyakov maintains good gap control and keeps his opponent in front of him. Forwards attacking his side of the ice need to keep their head up as he looks to land a big hit. He also is well-positioned and uses his stick to break up passing plays. Once turnovers are created, Chistyakov starts the transition game quickly with a good breakout pass.
Projection and Comparison
According to Elite Prospects, Chistyakov’s Russian contract runs through the 22-23 season. He will likely spend the next two years in Russia before the Predators try to get him under contract and comie over to play North American hockey. He will need some time to adjust to the smaller ice and is likely to need some AHL seasoning at that point. With his strong defensive game, good skating ability, and offensive tools, he could develop into a top-four defender capable of playing in all situations.
Other 2021 Nashville Predators Prospects
After years of trying to compete for the Stanley Cup, the Predators seem poised to take a step back and rebuild at this point. However, it will take time to rebuild the prospect pool. In terms of players to watch outside those already named, the Predators have Connor Ingram, Tomas Vomacka, Devin Cooley, Konstantin Volkov, and Ethan Haider between the pipes. On the blueline, prospects to watch include Luke Prokop, Frederic Allard, Jeremy Davies, Marc Del Gaizo, Spencer Stastney, Vladislav Yeryomenko, and Adam Wilsby. Upfront, prospects to watch include Juuso Parssinen, Grant Mismash, Tanner Jeannot, Alexander Campbell, Jachym Kondelik, Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, and Isak Walther.
2021 Nashville Predators Prospects, Main Photo:
OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC – JANUARY 4, 2020: Russia’s goalie Yaroslav Askarov ahead of the 2020 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship semifinal match against Sweden at Ostravar Arena. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images)