The Nashville Predators enter the 2022 NHL Entry Draft desperate to fill their prospect cupboard with as much talent as possible.

With the franchise in an unwieldy position between “rebuilding” and “competing”, the Preds cannot afford to pass up on talent in this draft. They need to improve their overall skill level, vastly improve their scoring depth, shore up their defense, and just generally look for players that can provide consistency from top to bottom.

It will be hard to accomplish all of that with just one pick in the 1st round and only three picks in the top 84 selections, but David Poile and his draft team need to hit a home run, particularly with their 17th overall selection tomorrow night.

Here are some names you could see the Preds draft with their pick at #17, all of which could head up a successful draft class.

Conor Geekie – C (Winnipeg Ice)

The brother of Seattle Kraken’s Morgan Geekie, Conor Geekie has been flying up and down mock drafts recently. While most see him as falling outside of the top 10, he might not last long after that. With Columbus, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Buffalo all needing talent at the center position, and all of them picking ahead of the Preds, it’s hard to see him getting to Nashville at 17.

But if he falls that far, Nashville should take advantage.

Geekie stands at 6’4″ and 200 pounds, a nice larger frame for a center entering the NHL. The Predators are known to target larger forwards in the draft, so I could see them looking at Geekie here.

Here’s Eric Dunay’s scouting report on Geekie, from Part 2 of our NHL Draft Preview:

“Good hands, really good shot. He’s a really smart offensive player. He sees the offensive zone really well. The big concern, as it was for his brother, is his skating.”

Dunay then added that a recent trend in the NHL is to take “bad skaters” that have great offensive talent and work with skating coaches to get them up to speed. Geekie might never be a high speed talent, but perhaps with a bit of skating work, he can transform into a playmaking center with enough speed to beat most opponents.

Geekie’s shooting ability and puck skills should be tempting enough for the Preds to draft, even with the skating issues. He finished with 24 goals and 46 assists in 63 games for the Winnipeg Ice this past season, adding 11 points in 15 playoff games as well.

Lian Bichsel – D (Leksands IF)

Bichsel is 6’5″ and 225 pounds and can skate very well. He’s not fast, but he’s a much better skater than most defenseman at his size.

Also, he’s a Swiss defenseman. The Nashville Predators have done well at drafting those recently.

Honestly, Bichsel is a really exciting player to keep an eye on. He’s strong, tall, physical, and somewhat menacing on the ice. While the recent trend in the NHL is acquiring fast, small defenseman (i.e., Cale Makar), Bichsel’s physical presence would be tough to pass up on. In an interview with The Athletic, Bichsel described himself as a “gorilla” both because of his physical strength and his calm stoicism.

In addition to his size, Bichsel is a smooth moving defenseman that can handle the puck quite well. He won’t run away with the scoring title or anything, but he should be able to handle his offensive duties with plenty of skill, even if his strength is at the defensive end.

Think Mattias Ekholm, rather than Roman Josi, but bigger and also probably a better skater.

Bichsel suffered a concussion near the end of the season, which saw him miss some games for Leksands. The injury does not appear to be that serious, but it’s led to volatility on recent mock drafts. For example, Corey Pronman has him as high as 15th, but Craig Button has him as low as 62nd. That range appears to be more because of the injury, though it could also be his size (again… the recent trend is to go for smaller, quicker defensemen).

Rutger McGroarty – C (U.S. NTDP)

It’s no secret the Predators like to draft players out of the U.S. National Team Development Program. Grant Mismash, David Farrance, and Spencer Stastney are three recent examples, but also Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion were drafted out of the USNTDP.

However, the Preds haven’t drafted a USNTDP product since 2017. We could see them go back to the well in this draft with someone like Rutger McGroarty.

McGroarty is from Lincoln, Nebraska and will be the second NHL player ever drafted from Nebraska. He’s not huge, but he has enough size to entice David Poile, who likes bigger forwards.

“He’s got a really good motor,” Dunay said of McGroarty on our podcast. “Shift to shift, his starts and stops are great. He’s always in the right position off the puck. He’s got good hands, he’s got a good shot. He’s creative with the puck, he doesn’t just do the same thing in the offensive zone. And he’s got a good frame where he can be a powerful, power forward in transition.”

At 6’1″ and 204 pounds, McGroarty should be able to grow a bit in the NHL and become a nice grinding 3rd line style forward, with the possibility that he develops his puck skills enough to be a solid scoring option. But the downside, as with the other options we’ve discussed, is his skating. He is not fast and not fluid in his motions on the ice, so that will have to be worked on.

Assuming the Preds insist on drafting someone out of the USNTDP but do not want to go with McGroarty, they could look at Jimmy Snuggerud, a right winger with a good scoring touch. He’s been mocked recently in the low 20’s, so he should be available as well.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —