If there’s one thing that’s clear from the last couple years under David Poile, the Nashville Predators are getting younger.
After a plethora of older, veteran players either retired or were traded away since the 2020 pandemic shortened season, the Preds have made a concerted effort to build a more youthful roster. While there have been growing pains along the way, including a first round series loss to the Colorado Avalanche, building a young roster now means there’s a higher likelihood of success later.
And the Preds’ efforts are starting to get some attention.
In The Athletic’s recent ranking of the “Top 170 players under 23 years old” by Corey Pronman, the Nashville Predators had three players make the list.
Philip Tomasino was the highest ranked player at #45, Joakim Kemell was next at #61, and Yaroslav Askarov next at #145.
Of those three players, only Tomasino will be on next year’s Preds roster, but he should be a regular contributor. All expectations are that he will play in the top six, most likely alongside Ryan Johansen in a supporting role.
Kemell was the Predators’ 2022 1st round draft pick. Most recently, he had a heroic performance at the World Junior Championship for Finland, where he scored 12 points, the most ever in that tournament for a Preds draft pick. Kemell will play for JYP in Finland’s Liiga this season, so he will not be in North America until at least 2023.
Askarov is surprisingly low on this list, but it’s likely because his recent work load hasn’t given him a chance to shine. His team in the KHL “punished him” for signing his entry level contract with the Preds by not playing him hardly at all (this is a common occurrence in that league). Even then, in his limited playing time, Askarov didn’t play quite up to what he’s capable of.
But in the few weeks that he’s been in the United States, he’s shown that he’s clearly a star in the making. His talent was on full showcase at Preds Development Camp in July, and he has received rave reviews from his teammates already.
I expect Askarov, who only just recently turned 20 years old, to climb up the rankings of “Top Players under 23 Years Old” very soon.
Three players in the top 170 players under 23 years old might not sound like much, but the Predators have not traditionally had more than one or two players on this list in the past. If they continue to develop young talent, it should help contribute to more success on the ice, assuming they can also manage the cap well enough to add veteran talent around their young stars.
— Featured image via Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports —