By Jim Diamond
As all of the management and scouting staffs of the Nashville Predators were gathered around their draft table at the Wells Fargo Center for the 2014 NHL Draft this weekend, this is how we imagine things went.
After arriving at the table and the draft begins, general manager David Poile finishes a conversation with Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford. He comes back to the table to let them know he has completed a trade for James Neal.
Predators chief amateur scout Jeff Kealty: “You did not trade away another first round pick did you David? We were so close…”
Poile: “No, just our second- and fifth-highest goal scorers among our forwards last season.”
Kealty: “Whew, that’s a relief. We are going with the Swiss guy still, right?”
Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton: “I like the Swiss guy. Everyone like the Swiss guy?”
They all nod their heads in approval. Swedish scout Lucas Bergman smiles and thinks to himself, ‘Yes he’s Swiss, but he plays in Sweden. Skål’
PR guru Kevin Wilson checks Kevin Fiala’s Twitter page, sees nothing controversial, and announces, “Yeah, I love the Swiss guy.”
Poile: “Are we sure about this? The Swiss guy is a forward. Isn’t there a defenseman from the Western League we can draft?”
Walking up to the stage, Poile gives Kealty a quick elbow, “Hey Jeff, watch this. I am pretty sure these Philly fans are still pissed off about that Weber offer sheet matching deal. I am going to make Paul go and announce this pick.”
Kealty: “You’re smart. Let Paul take the heat. They booed Santa Claus, they are definitely going to boo us when we get up there.”
Poile to Fenton: “Hey Paul, since you run all of the scouting operations, I want you to go ahead and announce our pick. Just don’t forget to congratulate the Kings on winning the Stanley Cup, thank the wonderful fans of Philadelphia for their hospitality, and say hello to the best fans in the world watching at our draft viewing party.”
Fenton: “Wow thanks David, that’s quite an honor. Doesn’t everyone hate when you congratulate the Stanley Cup champions and thank the host city though?”
Poile: “Of course they do, but it is tradition.”
Fenton: “Can I say anything about the fact that we have so many good defensemen and goaltenders in the organization, we are going to pick a forward for a change?”
They all look over at Janne Kekalainen as he chuckles to himself and favorites a tweet while walking up the steps.
Poile: “One of Diamond’s tweets?”
Poile: “Is it about Martin Erat? I love his Martin Erat tweets.”
Smiles, handshakes, and pictures are taken. Everyone is happy and the rest of the night goes unremarkably.
They all arrive Saturday morning and discuss that since things go so quickly in rounds two through seven, they need to be ready with all of their picks. Holding picks 42 and 46 in the second round, they will be up soon.
Bergman and Kekalainen have a heated argument over whether there will be more Swedes or Finns drafted this day.
As the pick approaches, Kealty leans over to Fenton: “Do you want to bring it up or should I?”
Fenton: “He made me go to the microphone and face the Philly fans booing us worse than Bettman. You do it.”
Kealty: “David, we like this 6-foot-2, 203-pound forward. We think he is going to be really good. I’m surprised no one has picked him yet.”
Poile: “Where is he from?”
Kealty: “Central Scouting says ‘He handles the puck very well and makes several great passes through traffic.’”
Poile: “Where is he from?”
Kealty: “I really think this guy is going to help us.”
Kekalainen sees this is going to take a while and favorites another tweet.
Poile: “Jeff, I get the feeling there is something you aren’t telling me.”
Kealty: “OK David, he’s Russian and plays in the KHL.”
Poile starts sweating profusely.
Poile: “Can someone get me some water? And a towel.”
Fenton: “We think he wants to play in the NHL soon. Maybe we can get him over to the CHL where he can learn English and the North American game.”
Poile: “I’ve heard that before, Paul. You saw where that got me.”
Kekalainen favorites another tweet.
The picks tick away and the Predators are up.
Kealty: “David, we have another pick soon and we really like this right-handed, college-bound, American defenseman at that pick.”
Poile’s eyes light up: “That’s like hitting for the cycle with me.”
Kealty to Fenton: “QUICK PAUL, he’s distracted. Announce the Russian.”
“The Nashville Predators are proud to select Vladislav Kamenev from Magnitogorsk of the KHL.”
Poile: “Did I hear what I thought I just heard?”
Kamenev comes down to the table, dons his Predators gold jersey and shakes Poile’s hand.
Poile looks to Kealty: “Wait, what did he say?”
Kealty changing subject quickly: “Hey David, we need to get ready for that next pick.”
Fenton to Wilson: “Kevin, get this kid back to the interview area now.”
Poile’s head is still spinning when his phone rings.
Poile: “It is San Jose. They want our 46th pick in exchange for the 51st pick and a fourth round pick next year. Should I do it?”
Kealty: “Yes, more picks. We love picks.”
Bergman thinks to himself: ‘More picks means more Swedes. And this soon after Midsummer too. Skål’
Poile: “Do you think we can get that *eyes light up* right-handed, college-bound, American defenseman at 51?”
Fenton: “We think so. Go ahead and make the trade.”
As the 51st pick approaches, Poile leans over to Kealty: “Jeff, which college is that guy going to? Is it Northeastern? You know I would love to draft another guy going to my alma mater.”
Kealty: “Umm… not exactly. He is a Midwestern guy. He’s from Minnesota.”
Poile: “Oh, so he is going to be a Golden Gopher, eh? What a great program they have. I am really looking forward to this.”
Kealty: “No David, he isn’t going there.”
Poile: “Oh, one of the other Minnesota schools? St. Cloud or Duluth?”
Kealty: “Well, he is actually going to the University of Wisconsin, David.”
In-arena announcer: “Nashville is up next.”
Kealty: “Quick Paul.”
“The Nashville Predators select Jack Dougherty from the US Developmental Program.”
Poile: “American? US Developmental Program? From the mountains to the prairies white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home.”
Of course this is all in jest. In all reality this looks like the best draft the Predators have had since 2003.