The Predators' unlikely draft model
April, 24, 2012
By Alvin Chang | ESPN Insider
Jerome Miron/US PresswireRyan Suter and Shea Weber have been pillars for the Predators.Let's say you have to build a championship team through the draft. What do you do? You go with forwards.
That's the conventional wisdom. Forwards develop faster, reach the NHL faster and make an impact faster -- which makes the GM look smarter and gives the franchise more years of production from their cornerstone players before they reach unrestricted free agency.
With all of those points advocating for selecting forwards, you'd be crazy to build your core around defensemen. The odds of finding elite-level blueliners are long, even if you have high first-round picks. But now the Nashville Predators have built a team around two elite defensemen and suddenly look like they could break through in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. So, is there an argument to be made for the Preds' blueprint?
It should be noted that the Preds didn't follow this D-first draft model intentionally. When they drafted Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in 2003, they didn't know they were drafting the cornerstones of their franchise. Even though Suter was selected No. 7 overall, he was far from a guarantee to be an elite-level defenseman. Weber was a huge steal at No. 49, but that's a major exception to the draft's rule of diminishing returns.
So now the Predators are in a territory that few other teams have been in. With NHL teams always searching for the latest strategy to give them a competitive edge, and the 2012 draft ripe with talented defensive prospects, we wondered if the Nashville draft model is one that other teams should follow. Turns out that there may be more merit to it than we first thought.
The biggest problem in pursuing the Predators' model is scarcity, which could be reason enough to avoid it. Since 1990, only a few teams have drafted two "elite" defensemen within a five-year span. And we have to use the term "elite" somewhat loosely just to put a few other teams in the Predators' class: