Nashville Predators: Power Ranking the Franchise's 7 Best Prospects
The Nashville Predators are at a crucial moment in their franchise's history.
Their salary cap is hurting after re-signing standout-goalie Pekka Rinne to a seven-year, $49 million contract. They have yet to re-sign Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, arguably the most formidable defensive duo in the NHL.
Now more than ever, the Predators need to rely on their upcoming prospects for future success. Luckily, they've got some gems in their system upon which to put some faith.
7. Charles-Olivier Roussel
Charles-Olivier Roussel is a high potential defenseman drafted by the Predators in the second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Roussel is a consistent defender, with the ability to both attack on a power play or handle a one-on-one chance in the defensive zone.
The Quebec native is currently playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, and could see some time on the NHL squad if Suter and Weber were to go.
6. Zach Budish
Zach Budish is a right wing player drafted in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by Nashville. Budish uses his 6'3" build to bully other forwards and is incredibly tough to move off the puck.
The Minnesotan's only downside is injuries. He tore his ACL while playing football, and has had recurring issues throughout his career. His massive potential cannot be ignored, though, and the injury bug is the only thing keeping him from creeping up higher on this list.
5. Michael Latta
Michael Latta is a hard-nosed center from Ontario. After being taken in the third round in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Latta plays for the Milwaukee Admirals, the Predators' affiliate.
Latta is a battler who plays with an edge and sees the ice well. He is a type of playmaker that would fit in well in the Predators offense.
4. Mattias Ekholm
Mattias Ekholm should be a familiar name if you follow the Predators closely. He played for Nashville in their first two games as the seventh defender, before being called back. He currently plays professionally in his native Sweden, waiting for the Predators to give him another shot.
Ekholm needs to fill his 6'4" stature, as he is only 194 pounds. But there is a lot of promise in him, as he led the World Junior Championships with a plus/minus rating of plus-10. Look for him to make the jump for good very soon.
3. Roman Josi
Roman Josi is an old-school defender who has been excelling in junior leagues since the age of 16. His high confidence and powerful shot as well as a sound passing game make him one of the Predators' most anticipated prospects.
Josi was recently called up to Nashville's roster on Nov. 26, and has played in four games for the Predators. He has racked up over 50 minutes of ice time in those four games and joins Ekholm, Roussel and soon-to-be-mentioned Ryan Ellis as solid defensive prospects for Nashville.
2. Austin Watson
Austin Watson is a right winger from Ann Arbor, Mich. and was the Predators' first pick (18th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Watson is a two-way player, and his hard play combined with a nose for the puck is his claim to fame. He looks to play for the Milwaukee Admirals this season, and could be called up if Nashville has more injury problems in the center position. He currently plays for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL.
1. Ryan Ellis
Ryan Ellis is head and shoulders above the rest of Nashville's prospects. Selected 11th overall by the Predators in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Ontario native has four goals and eight assists on the season for Milwaukee.
Ellis is known as a offensive defenseman, using his powerful shot and quarterbacking abilities to jump start the offense. His 5'10" stature is the only thing holding him back according to scouts, but expect Ellis to be a marquee part of the Predators team within the next few years.