NASHVILLE, Tenn. -– As the Predators prepare for their 15th season, they must first negotiate their 16th NHL Entry Draft come Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Coming off a lockout-shortened season in which they did not make the playoffs for only the second time in nine years, the Predators have the No. 4 overall pick –- their lowest since taking forward David Legwand with the No. 2 overall pick in their very first draft in 1998. In all, the Predators have 10 draft picks this year.
Starting with their first one, here is a look at each of the Predators’ previous 15 drafts …
Picks: Eight, including No. 2 overall in First Round
Top pick: Michigan native David Legwand became the Predators’ first Entry Draft pick when he was taken behind only Vincent Lecavalier, who went to Tampa Bay. Legwand remains on the team as a solid forward with two-way skills.
What hit: Third-rounder Denis Arkhipov played a solid four years with the Predators and became part of productive “vowel” line with Martin Erat and Vladimir Orszagh.
What didn’t: While he has had a solid 13-year career as solid second-line center, Legwand never lived up to advance billing of that ballyhooed pick. He never seized leadership reigns despite being the chief constant in locker room all these years.
Picks: 15, including No. 6 overall in First Round
Top pick: After the Predators took goalies Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun in the expansion draft, Brian Finley was drafted the following year and given time to become the team’s first homegrown goaltender.
What hit: Seventh-round forward Martin Erat turned out to be one of most productive and popular Predators after making the roster in 2001-02 and scoring 163 goals before being traded last season to Washington. Eight of the picks played at least one NHL game.
What didn’t: Second-round goaltender Jan Lasak and Finley never worked their way onto the Predators or any other NHL roster on a full-time basis and are out of the league.
Picks: 14, including No. 6 overall
Top pick: Soon after being drafted, Scott Hartnell was on the Predators’ roster, where he would stay for six seasons before hitting pay dirt as a key cog with Philadelphia.
What hit: Hartnell showed promise from Day 1 and was popular within the community, but he drove coach Barry Trotz crazy with a penchant for the big gaffe at the worst time.
What didn’t: Second-round forward Daniel Widing never played a game for the Predators, despite having a lengthy pro career in Europe.
Picks: Nine, including No. 12 overall
Top pick: Defense Dan Hamhuis proved to be a top-line defenseman, but couldn’t find the top pairing with the Predators because of veteran stars Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. He has played solidly last three seasons in Vancouver.
What hit: Fourth-round winger Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuit to play in the NHL, would start a trek that would eventually make him the most-popular Predator yet.
What didn’t: Second-round left winger Timofei Shishkanov was among several high picks who never panned out. He only played two games for Predators before finishing his career in his homeland of Russia.
Picks: Eight, including No. 6 overall
Top pick: Right winger Scottie Upshall made the roster early and showed flashes, but seemingly was never good enough to please Trotz or Predators general manager David Poile.
What hit: Upshall has had a nice career, most recently playing 27 games last season for Florida. He peaked by scoring 34 goals over two seasons from 2009-11 for Phoenix.
What didn’t: After Upshall, not much came of this draft, easily making it the worst draft of the Predators’ era. Then again, the Predators traded their second- and third-round picks.
Picks: 13, including No. 7 overall
Top pick: Defenseman Ryan Suter is generally regarded as one of best American born players in the NHL. After playing seven seasons in Nashville, he signed a huge free-agent deal before last season with Minnesota.
What hit: Ironically, this draft was held in Nashville and it was the Predators’ best. Second-round defenseman Shea Weber, a two-time nominee for league’s top defender, signed a huge deal with the Predators and will be team leader for a long time. Second-round defenseman Kevin Klein has been a Predator mainstay.
What didn’t: While the Predators were hitting it out of the park with defensemen, the lack of a player who could grow into a dependable front-line scorer would start to confound the Predators. Second-rounder Konstantin Glazachev never made it to the NHL and has had an up-and-down career in the KHL.
Picks: 11, including No. 15 overall
Top pick: Russian right winger Alexander Radulov appeared to be the can’t-miss scorer the Predators had been seeking. But in a contentious contract move, Radulov jumped to the KHL after two seasons with the Preds.
What hit: Considered one of the top steals in the draft, goaltender Pekka Rinne was selected in the eighth round. Eventually, he would become one of the league’s top goalies.
What didn’t: Only Rinne and Radulov shine from this crop. The Predators tried for several years to lure Radulov back and finally did late in the 2011-12 season for a playoff push. But he became more distraction than scorer, and he won’t be back with the Predators.
Picks: Seven, including No. 18 overall
Top pick: Defenseman Ryan Parent was one of three straight defensemen taken by the Preds to lead this draft. The franchise set the bar high for blueliners in previous drafts, and Parent has bounced between the NHL and minors ever since.
What hit: They call the last pick in the draft “Mr. Irrelevant,” but that doesn’t fit Patric Hornqvist, who has become one of the Predators best players and leaders. He plays a physical game that netted a team-leading 82 goals the past four seasons.
What didn’t: Fourth-round center Cal O’Reilly teased the Predators with solid play at Milwaukee, but couldn’t break through despite getting ample opportunity. He played last season in Russia.
Picks: Five picks with no first rounder Top pick: Homegrown second-rounder winger Blake Geoffrion, grandson of legendary Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, became the first Tennessean to be drafted in the NHL. He was traded to Montreal and suffered a head injury last season in a minor-league game that put his career in jeopardy. What hit: With limited picks coming because of previous deadline trades, the Predators had what might be their worst draft. Only Geoffrion has yet to make a NHL roster from this class.
What didn’t: With only one pick coming in the top three rounds, the Predators figured this draft wouldn’t provide much bounty. They were right.
Picks: Nine, including No. 23 overall
Top pick: Defenseman Jonathon Blum took the unconventional route as a product of the southern California inline skating movement before he could do it on the ice in juniors. The Predators hope he sticks as a regular this season.
What hit: Second-round center Nick Spaling has become one of Trotz’s favorite forwards. Currently a restricted free agent, Poile said this week getting Spaling nailed down long term is a priority.
What didn’t: With only one pick coming in the top three rounds, the Predators figured this draft wouldn’t provide much bounty, but the quality outweighs the lack of quanity.
Picks: Seven, including No. 7 overall
Top pick: Despite a shaky start to the NHL career due in large part to youthfulness, center Colin Wilson when healthy can be a first-line center.
What hit: It’s a toss-up for who is the best of this draft. Wilson is a promising player, but second-round defenseman Roman Josi and seventh-round goaltender Anders Lindback, now with Tampa Bay, exploded onto the scene.
What didn’t: Second-round goaltender Chet Pickard couldn’t keep up with the talented crop of Predators at the position and never played in the NHL. He played last season in Sweden.
Picks: Ten, including No. 11 overall
Top pick: Up and down between Nashville and Milwaukee, defenseman Ryan Ellis needs to overcome smallish stature by living up to offensive billing.
What hit: Fourth-round center Craig Smith became first Predator since Colin Wilson to make the team as a draft pick without a minor-league game. The team thinks he can be a 30-goal scorer. Fifth-round forward Gabriel Bourque is a pleasant surprise.
What didn’t: The jury is still out on second-round winger Zach Budish, who decided to go the college route before foregoing his senior season this spring to turn pro.
Picks: Six, including No. 18 overall
Top pick: After forward Austin Watson played solidly in Milwaukee last season, the Predators rewarded him by letting him come up late for his NHL debut.
What hit: While playing a dependable 72 games in Milwaukee, Watson scored 37 points with 20 goals. He scored his first NHL goal in his sixth game.
What didn’t: It’s early, but third-round defenseman Taylor Aronson has bounced between minor-league Milwaukee and Cincinnati, where he scored only one goal last season in 44 combined games.
Picks: Seven picks with no first rounder
Top pick: Goaltender Magnus Hellberg was the top goaltender taken in the draft after going in the second round at 38th overall. In line with recent tall Predators goaltenders, he is 6-foot-5.
What hit: Second-round forward Mikka Salomaki seems to be progressing nicely in the Finnish Elite League, scoring 19 points with nine goals in 42 games last season.
What didn’t: The Predators like what they have seen of this class, especially Hellberg, so no grades here just yet.
Picks: Nine, with no first rounder
Top pick: Left winger Pontus Aberg was selected in the second round at 37th overall. At age 19, he scored 15 points in 47 games last season in the Swedish Elite League
What hit: Second-round center Colton Sissons had 67 points with 28 goals in 61 games in the Western Hockey League last season.
What didn’t: It would be unfair to place even close to a grade on any of the 2012 draft picks.