LIVE FROM BUFFALO: Preds use 2016 Draft to restock the defensive cupboard

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
LIVE FROM BUFFALO: Preds use 2016 Draft to restock the defensive cupboard

Apparently, the goal was to restock the defensive cupboard.

On Friday night, the Nashville Predators chose the BCHL’s Defenseman of the Year. On Saturday morning, they chose the QMJHL’s Defenseman of the Year. Then they added two more blueliners with their next three picks and then another before their weekend came to a close.

“We felt we needed to start concentrating a little bit more on defense,” Predators General Manager David Poile said. “We probably accomplished that and maybe even more with the defensemen we took.”

Dante Fabbro of the Penticton Vees (1st round), Samuel Girard of the Shawinigan Cataractes (2nd round), Frederic Allard of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens (3rd round), Hardy Haman Aktell of Skellefteå in Sweden’s junior league (4th round) and Adam Smith of Bowling Green State University (7th round) were all taken by the Predators this weekend in order to help replenish the depth on defense.

With Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm as their top four and veteran Barret Jackman paired with an emerging Anthony Bitetto on the bottom pairing, Nashville’s defense corps is among the best in the NHL. After that, however, there’s Petter Granberg as a serviceable seventh — assuming he re-signs — and then quite a gap.

With 2010 third rounder Taylor Aronson leaving the organization unexpectedly this past April and with 2013 third round pick Jonathan-Ismael Diaby switching between the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals and the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, there’s a major need for rearguard prospects in the organization.

“In the last two or three years, we’ve had a pretty clear focus on taking forwards at the high end of the draft,” Poile said. “We really felt coming into this draft that our depth chart for the future was pretty good. Our cupboards were pretty full [at that position].”

And they are. For the first time in the franchise’s 18-year history, Nashville can say that they have talent up front. Forwards Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala, Pontus Aberg, Vladislav Kamenev and Yakov Trenin are all at different stages of development. On the less-dynamic-but-just-as-promising side, Colton Sissons, Miikka Salomaki and Viktor Arvidsson all seem to have full-time NHL spots waiting for them this upcoming season.

If the forwards are in good shape, the focus should shift to another area of the ice.

“Some of it was certainly planned and some of it was the player that came up during our pick,” Poile said about taking five defensemen. “But we’re extremely happy with everybody we took this year.”

So happy that Poile already envisions two of them playing together.

“Fabbro and Girard played at one of the under-18 tournaments together,” he said. “These guys could actually be a dynamic pair in our top four somewhere down the road, playing in all situations.”

Despite the overall team philosophy of always taking the best player available, clearly the strategy going into the weekend was to address a position of need. But is that really a bad thing? After all, there was that one time when the Predators went in with the same strategy and came out with names like Weber, Ryan Suter and Kevin Klein. Heck, even Alexander Sulzer played 131 games in the League.

“If this replicates any way, shape or form, the 2003 draft, then it would be a grand slam for us,” Poile quipped.

Only time will tell but the Preds seem to have restocked the cupboard. And that was the goal from the beginning.

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