Predators Sign Juuse Saros

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Image source: Google images

Moments ago, the Nashville Predators announced that they have signed 2013 draftee, Juuse Saros to a three-year, entry-level contract. Due to this deal, he is expected to begin his North American career during the 2015-16 season. Here is word from the official Predators press release about the Finnish goaltender:

Saros, 20 (4/19/95), appeared in 47 of HPK’s 60 Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga) contests in 2014-15, ranking among the league’s Top Five in shutouts (6), minutes played (2773:53), save percentage (.929) and goals-against average (2.14) in his second full season in the league. He was named 2013-14 Finnish Elite League Rookie of the Year after ranking second among the Top Three in goals-against average (1.76), and save percentage (.928) becoming just the fourth goalie to win the award in its 40-year history. During his final Finnish junior league season in 2012-13, the Forssa, Finland, native was named best player and recipient of the Jorma Valtonen Award as the league’s top goaltender after leading all netminders in goals-against average (1.86) and save percentage (.933).

The 5-11, 176-pounder represented Finland at both the World Championship and the World Junior Championship for the second consecutive year in 2015, backing up Predators netminder Pekka Rinne at the 2015 World Championship and stopping all 22 shots he faced in his lone appearance of the tournament against Slovakia to record Finland’s third of four consecutive shutouts. At the 2014 World Junior Championship, he led Finland to its first Gold Medal at the tournament since 1987, receiving Media All-Star Team honors after leading all goaltenders in save percentage (.943) and goals-against average (1.57) in six games. He was also named Best Goalkeeper of the 2013 Under-18 World Championship and one of Finland’s three best players of the tournament in helping them claim the bronze medal.

With Saros’ signing, that ultimately means someone has to go. You have Rinne and Hutton on the NHL level, and Marek Mazanec and Magnus Hellberg in waiting with Milwaukee. Well, it has already been stated that Carter Hutton isn’t going anywhere (definitely not Rinne, either), and Mazanec has been goalie-in-waiting. Though Hellberg is good to have in the system, it’s time for this kiddo so spread his wings and get some ice time elsewhere.

Preds vs. the 2013 Draft

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The much anticipated 2013 NHL Draft is just around the corner on June 30th, and rumors of who will nab who are floating around the Internets, clogging our Twitter feeds and Facebook walls.
So, say you’re new to this whole “draft” thing. You just started following hockey within the last few seasons or are just now getting interested in more than just the gameday routine. Well, here’s a background on the 2013 Draft in a nutshell:

Hockey players born between January 1, 1993 and September 15, 1995 are eligible for selection in this year’s draft. Along with those players, any un-drafted players over the age of 20 are also eligible for the draft on June 30th, as long as they are not from North America. And, last but not least, any players who were drafted in the 2011 Draft but were not signed by an NHL team who were born after June 30, 1993 are eligible to re-enter this year’s draft.

The NHL hosts a “Draft Lottery” every year to determine who will get the first overall pick in the Draft. All fourteen teams that did not qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs were given “weighted” chances towards the first pick, with the Colorado Avalanche winning the coveted first choice.

The Draft order ranks as follows (Top 10):
Colorado Avalanche
Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Nashville Predators
Carolina Hurricanes
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
Buffalo Sabres
New Jersey Devils
Dallas Stars

We’d go through all 30 teams, but that would make this an extremely long post and would stray from the original point. Anywho, as you can see, our tried and true Predators have the No. 4 pick, which is a relatively relieving position to be in… IF the organization chooses wisely.
Wait- How can Nashville possible go wrong? A chance at any of the top four picks in the draft; there’s no way. Oh, with Nashville’s history of choosing “defensively”, so to say, there’s a definite way, alright. But let’s give our guys a break and put some faith behind them, shall we? Here are the top 5 prospects in this year’s Draft:

NORTH AMERICAN
Seth Jones (D)
Nathan MacKinnon (C)
Jonathan Drouin (LW)
Darnell Nurse (D)
Sean Monahan (C)

EUROPEAN:
Alexander Barkov, Jr. (C)
Valeri Nichushkin (RW)
Elias Lindholm (C)
Rasmus Ristolainen (D)
Alexander Wennberg (C)

Now, you would assume that Colorado would go for Seth Jones, the prospected No. 1 pick, right? Well, in the last few days, Colorado has began to back away from the young defenseman, claiming that their options are “open” to any of the top prospect, not just Jones. Though the chances of him, if Colorado passes him up, ending up within Nashville’s grasp are slim, the possibility is still there. Thus leads to this blog post that you are reading.

Without dreaming of Seth Jones, Nashville’s most realistic draftee would be Alexander Barkov, a young Finnish-Russian who collected 21 goals in the 2012-13 season with Tappara in the SM-liiga, along with 27 assists. And you are thinking, “How could Nashville pass this kid up? Forget Jones! Let’s get a goal scorer!” Reviewing his stats with SM-liiga, it’s easy to g0al-hungry forget the fact that, although it is an utterly annoying cliche, NHL-style hockey is a whole new ballgame. Though he did extremely well in Europe doesn’t guarantee he’ll do well on NHL ice or under an NHL coach… especially one that does not take risky, unorganized plans very well (ex. Colin Wilson and Craig Smith, foresee the future of Filip Forsberg). However, despite that risk, in Nashville’s case, a Center with a positive goal and assist history is something to jump on if given the chance.

So with that, you wonder why Nashville would even go for a defenseman like Seth Jones. Well, remember, it is Nashville we are talking about; the team that loves to known for their defensive abilities. While being known as one of the top defensive teams in the league is great, one excelled attribute doesn’t win the ultimate goal. You have to find the right mixture of defense and offense and, for the Predators, that has been awfully difficult. This may be considered tacky, but let’s use this as an example: Everyone played the Sims (don’t you dare deny it). Whether you played to live our your fantasy life with a crush or just enjoyed setting your Sims on fire, you had to design your Sim person before you could start anything. If you actually played more than just to burn the house down, you had to create a Sim with a good, even mixture of personality. Be too “outgoing” and you’d come off as annoying to other Sims; not enough “neat” and your trash would be piling up all over the house. Again, terrible and silly comparison, but you have to admit; it’s true.

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You remember this…

While Nashville had the defensive powerhouse that was Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, the rest of the team was neglected, thus leaving the Predators to come up short time and time again in the playoffs (this year, not even making them). Sadly, this theory can be thrown at the team over and over, but action has to be taken in order to see the fruits on one’s labor.

The Preds tend to stay in the “safe zone” when it comes to drafting or trading, and that goes for any time of the season. More than likely, the same will happen June 30th. If Seth Jones is still available by the fourth pick, Nashville will undoubtedly snatch him up. You can’t blame them, of course. Ranked the best upcoming defenseman? Sure, he’s an outstanding choice that Nashville would be nuts not to pick up. However, it is a fact that Seth Jones would be much better for other teams, but I assume it would be okay to greedy… until he grew to big for his britches and he would either ask to be traded or would take an offer elsewhere when given the chance.

Speculation is all that is.

As much as either Seth Jones or Alexander Barkov would make Nashville a happier organization, no pick is set in stone. Colorado could be lying and grab Jones with their first pick, or they could go off the wall and draft someone further down the line. Tampa Bay could tell Nashville to kiss their butts and draft Barkov or Jones before Nashville gets the reins. Luckily, the Predators have landed in a good spot, no matter who they end up drafting. Personally, we pray it is NOT a defenseman but hey, all we can do is put faith in our fellow man and pray they spice it up a bit with an offensive player.

Kevin Klein joins Herlev Eagles

Kevin Klein joins a few other Preds in Europe during the Lockout

We missed this news last week, but it looks like Kevin Klein has made the move to Europe as the lockout continues to chip away at the 2012-13 season.

Nashville’s defenseman will be teaming up with the Herlev Eagles, a team in Demark, part of the AL-Bank Ligaen (the highest league in Denmark). Klein will now be the sixth Predators to head overseas, with Craig Smith returning to the U.S. not too long ago.

Klein recently signed a contract extension with the Preds worth $14.5 million for five years. With a career high of 21 points last season, the Predators were more than happy to re-sign the 27-year-old defenseman.

As a reminder, here are the current Predators skating it up in Europe:

Pekka Rinne is with Dinamo Minsk
Sergei Kostitsyn is with Avangard Omsk
Patric Hörnqvist is with HC Red Ice
Roman Josi is with SC Bern
Craig Smith was with SM-Liiga

This picture makes us sad.

Craig Smith joins SM-Liiga

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With no end in sight for the lockout, more and more players are making the jump to Europe, and now you can add Craig Smith to the list.

The Predators’ rookie phenom announced that he will be joining Finland’s SM-Liiga while the NHL and NHLPA continue to duke it out.

Smith is the fourth Predator to head overseas, including Roman Josi, Pekka Rinne, and Patric Hörnqvist.