by Thomas Sarver
If you follow the entire NHL, you may have noticed how much conversation is revolving around Edmonton.
The Oilers who are consistently disappointments decided to cut ties with GM Peter Chiarelli and in light of that some of his more…questionable moves have come to light.
Situations like these make it really easy for fans to be grateful when their team has a solid GM making choices. Even though trades are important, they can backfire in heartbeat, like when you trade both Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin. Solid drafting is what makes a Championship contending team though, and not just in the first round though, you need to do well through the entire draft.
So, with that, here are the top five most impactful players that the Preds have snagged in the late rounds of the draft.
1 Pekka Rinne
During the 2004 NHL Entry draft, The Nashville Predators changed the course of the franchise when they picked Pekka Rinne in the eighth round. Not much needs to be said here, Pekka has carved out one amazing career filled with acrobatic saves, a Vezina trophy, and almost every single team career record for goaltending.
It’s even more amazing when you were able to get that type of player in the eighth round of the draft. Your team has to be blessed by the hockey gods in order to get a franchise cornerstone that late in the draft.
To prove my point, Rinne has been the only player to actually succeed at this draft position, and the player with the second most games is Dmitry Bykov, who was draft by Detroit and had a long career of 71 games, so Pekka has done more than simply outperform his peers who were also taken 258th. (hot take, number 35 will be the first number that hangs in Bridgestone’s rafters)
(Rank at that Draft position in Wins= 1st)
2 Martin Erat
Martin Erat, the former fan favorite who consistently ranked highly on the team in scoring was a former 7th round draft pick in 1999. He finished his career with 545 points, and 481 of those came with Nashville.
But even though things were looking well for Erat in the music city, things changed quickly and Erat demanded a trade in 2013. Erat was then traded to the Washington Capital’s because he wanted to be on a winning team. The feeling of betrayal that the Nashville fans were feeling quickly turned into overwhelming joy when we got Super Swede, Filip Forsberg out of it.
So as far as late draft picks who turned into steals, Erat gets bonus points for one, being a draft steal and two, being part of one of, if not the, most one-sided trades in NHL history.
(Rank at that Draft position in points= 1st)
3 Patric Hornqvist
One of the most relevant Mr. Irrelevant’s in NHL history, Patric Hornqvist formed a large part of Nashville’s identity while he was on the team due to his physically and offensively game-changing play.
Due to that ability, Hornqvist has carved out a nice little niche for himself as one of the most consistent players in the league with his point production staying between 43 and 53 points a season (minus his first season and the lockout season). Despite only playing one full season in his long career, his 684 NHL games rank second among players drafted at that position.
Who is he behind? Former Nashville Predator Karlis Skrastins. Karlis, who retired after playing in 832 games also found a role for him to stay in the league. Unfortunately for the 1998 draft pick, Hornqvist’s 437 career points are 301 more than his, and even though Karlis holds the spot for most games played,
it won’t be long before Hornqvist fully takes over as the best player to be drafted at that position. Overall, not bad for someone who was the last pick in the Draft.
Similarly, to Erat, Hornqvist gets some bonus points added to this because of how his value on the trade market landed Nashville it’s first Elite Scorer since Paul Kariya when James Neal was acquired from Pittsburgh. That move was ultimately one of the first moves that truly ushered in this new era of Predators hockey, and for that, we thank you, Patric.
(Rank at that Draft position in points= 1st)
4 Mattias Ekholm
When I started on this list, part of my brain tried to tell me that Ekholm was a former first-round pick, and given how he has developed, that’s pretty believable.
It is also very false, Ekholm was draft in the 4th round of the 2009 Entry Draft. Ekholm had kind of a late start to his career and didn’t earn a spot on the Preds blue line permanently until the 2013-2014 season when he was 23 and even then, it was a rough season.
After that season, however, we really saw more and more of what he would turn into. And what he turned into was one of the key pieces of the best defensive unit in the league. A player who has played in 98.95% of games since the 2014-2015 NHL season. Ekholm’s been known for being a more defensive defenseman in his career until this season.
Matthias has already smashed his career high in points (37 on the season) and he has 31 more games to continue to add on to that. This list is filled with players who have exceeded expectations, but Ekholm has been downright amazing the past four seasons.
(Rank at that Draft position in points=1st)
5 Viktor Arvidsson
Before I get eaten alive in the comments for listing Arvidsson below Ekholm, hear me out. Despite Arvidsson being the most electrifying player to dawn the Nashville Jersey (sorry P.K. but you can’t win everything), that alone is not enough to put him above Ekholm.
He also just does not have the sample size to rank him above Ekholm. Arvidsson is a phenomenal player, however, his combination of speed, scoring ability, and well, his lack of care for how big the players he hits are, has made him a fan favorite in Nashville.
That in addition to the fact that he has possibly the highest motor in the history of sports is what led to his seven-year extension with the Preds. If Arvidsson is able to consistently score like he has the past two seasons (122 points in 158 games) then not only will he be listed above Ekholm, he will be rivaling Pekka Rinne. Rivaling though, not beating.
Pekka Rinne will always be the greatest steal in franchise history.
(Rank at that Draft position in points=2nd)
Honorable mentions Jusse Saros, Craig smith
This list alone is enough to show how much David Poile has brought to the city of Nashville via drafting. Everyone knows his knack for completely fleecing teams in trades, but it his drafting that has really brought the continued success that the Preds have enjoyed, and if this ship stays the course, then we can expect a lot championship caliber teams to call Nashville home.