Top prospects for Nashville Predators – is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 32 teams from Aug. 1-Sept. 1. Today, the top five prospects for the Nashville Predators, according to


Predators 32 in 32: Season Preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy projections


1. Matthew Wood, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 15 pick in 2023 NHL Draft

2022-23 season: University of Connecticut (NCAA): 35 GP, 11-23-34

Wood made a big impact as a freshman last season, leading the University of Connecticut in points despite being the youngest player in the country. The 18-year-old has great size (6-foot-5, 202 pounds) and reach, which help him establish position and maintain puck possession in the offensive zone. He scores goals, has good vision and plays in straight lines up and down the ice, assets that will eventually boost Nashville.

Wood also played in all situations at UConn last season, so he can contribute in multiple ways. The Predators are looking for Wood to improve his strength and skating ability as he heads into his sophomore season. It remains to be seen when he’ll turn pro, but given his talent level, it would be no surprise to see it happen following the coming season.

“He’s a big body who is growing into his frame,” said former general manager David Poile, who retired June 30. “He’s a goal-scorer and he’s got size, and that’s something we really wanted.”

Projected NHL arrival: 2025-26


2. Yaroslav Askarov, G

How acquired: Selected with No. 11 pick in 2020 NHL Draft

2022-23 season: Milwaukee (AHL): 48 GP, 26-16-5, 2.69 GAA, .911 save percentage

Askarov had a solid first season in North America; the 21-year-old was named to the 2023 AHL All-Star Classic and also helped Milwaukee reach the Calder Cup Playoffs. Askarov (6-3, 178) won a decisive Game 5 twice in the American Hockey League postseason but did not play the final four games of its Western Conference Finals. The Predators were pleased with Askarov’s growth on and off the ice during the 2022-23 season, noting that he improved his practice habits. They continue to be impressed with his athleticism and his ability to cover the crease low.

“I thought he had a fantastic year for his first year pro,” said Scott Nichol, the Predators’ assistant general manager and director of player development. “He’s got a great personality, he’s super competitive and he wants to win. As with all young players in the American league, it’s just being consistent on a nightly basis. For the majority of the whole year, he was really solid.”

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: NSH@MTL: Askarov pushes across crease to deny Harris


3. Joakim Kemell, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 17 pick in 2022 NHL Draft

2022-23 season: Milwaukee (AHL): 14 GP, 6-7-13; JYP (SM-liiga) 43 GP, 12-3-15

The 19-year-old showed he could hold his own against older, more experienced players when he joined Milwaukee late in the season. Still 18 at the time, Kemell averaged nearly a point per game during 14 regular-season games, then led the Predators’ AHL affiliate with eight goals in 14 playoff games. He’s a pure goal-scorer with a great shot. Kemell (5-11, 182) creates his own goal-scoring opportunities, using grit, competitiveness and feistiness in the offensive zone. Even if he doesn’t make the NHL roster out of training camp this fall, Kemell will likely earn an early-season promotion from the AHL.

“He’s physical,” Nichol said. “He reverse-shoulders guys and he’s strong on the puck for a young player. He wants the puck, and he demands the puck. He wants to shoot the puck.”

Projected NHL arrival: This season


4. Luke Evangelista, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 42 pick in 2020 NHL Draft

2022-23 season: Nashville (NHL): 24 GP, 7-8-15; Milwaukee (AHL): 49 GP, 9-32-41

Evangelista made a strong impression after the 21-year-old was promoted from the AHL in February. He scored two goals in his fourth NHL game and became a regular in the lineup, helping the injury-riddled Predators remain in contention for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth through 80 games. When he returned to the AHL for the postseason, Evangelista led Milwaukee with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 16 games. Evangelista (6-0, 183) will never be the biggest or fastest player, but the Predators love his hockey intelligence and his tenacity along the boards.

“He’s got a really good sense for the game,” Nichol said. “He has absolutely off-the-charts hockey sense. He sees people on the second wave coming into the offensive zone.”

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: NSH@BUF: Evangelista scores back-to-back goals


5. Tanner Molendyk, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 24 pick in 2023 NHL Draft

2022-23 season: Saskatoon (WHL): 67 GP, 9-28-37

It starts with speed for Molendyk, who uses his skating ability to anticipate passes in the defensive zone and to move the puck up ice offensively. The 18-year-old has a good, left-handed shot, impressive vision from the blue line and the ability to play against top lines. Molendyk (6-1, 182) wants to increase his offensive production this season in the Western Hockey League, where he will likely be seeing more ice time.

“His edges are fantastic,” Nichol said. “He’s got tons of confidence in his feet. The way he competes … he’s not an overly big guy, but he competes real hard.”

Projected NHL arrival: 2025-26

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