Year of the Luke

After taking goalie Yaroslav Askarov in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, the Nashville Predators used half of their remaining picks on guys named Luke (a day later, David Poile traded Nick Bonino to Minnesota for 22-year old Luke Kunin). The Preds' draft class was rounded off by a Chase, an Adam, and a real person named Gunnarwolfe. It was a statistically average yield, but David Poile is notorious for taking players whom he can develop under the radar.

Let's take a closer look at the Preds' 2020 draft class: what they've done on the ice so far, when/if we can expect to see them in gold, and where they'd conceivably slot into the current roster.



Credit: London Knights

Evangelista's second Major Junior year in the Ontario Hockey League was a resounding success. In 62 games with the London Knights, the 18-year old recorded 23 goals, 38 assists, and a +15 on-ice rating, ranking him fifth in scoring for the team. He played 27 games for London in 2018-19, but tallied only two assists and a -5 rating in that time. Though it's not directly related to Evangelista's selection in the NHL draft, his AAA Minor Major stats played an instrumental role in London drafting him 14th overall in the 2018 OHL Draft. Evangelista's 2017-18 season with his hometown Oakville (Ont.) Rangers saw him rake 39 goals and 51 assists in just 36 games.

A young Evangelista is going to require a few more years of development in the OHL and AHL before he can expect to suit up in Nashville. The Preds' depth in Milwaukee is surprisingly dearth of righthanders; Frederick Gaudreau signed with Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, leaving just Zach Magwood and Mathieu Olivier as the Admirals' only designated right wingers. With that being said, Evangelista could make an early rise to the AHL once he signs his entry-level contract.

If the Preds choose not to re-sign Rocco Grimaldi next year, Olivier will likely be the one to swap into the lineup. After him? It's looking to be Evangelista.


Credit: Candice Ward

Having a large, mobile guy looming at the blue line is a great asset for any hockey team. The 6'4, 218-lb Prokop is a decent pickup for the Preds. Prokop was just 17-years old during the 2019-20 season, yet accrued a solid 23 points in 59 games with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen. The year prior, however, Prokop tallied just one goal in 62 games with the Hitmen, finishing the 2018-19 season with a -17 on-ice rating.

Prokop has a ways to go before he makes his professional debut. He's young- and it shows. Even after a combined 146 games in Major Junior competition, Prokop is only the third-highest scoring defenseman in Calgary. He did show exceptional poise after teammate Yegor Zamula was injured mid-season, however, taking over Zamula's minutes and advanced pairing. As far as breaking into the Preds' depth chart, Prokop sits behind Alexandre Carrier, Frederic Allard, Jeremy Davies, and the newly-acquired Tyler Lewington. At the earliest, we could expect to see Prokop in 2022-23.


Credit: Bildbyran

Wilsby has been lighting up Sweden's Skelleftea junior programs since he was 16. Prior to leveling up to the SHL this year, Wilsby made a name for himself on the Under-20 circuits. 2019-20 saw the defenseman record 14 points in 13 games with Skelleftea, then- on a loan to Sodertalje SK- Wilsby racked up 30 points in 41 games and was the club's highest-scoring defenseman on the season. Now at 20, Wilsby is more or less playing second defensive fiddle to 19-year old Filip Broberg (drafted by Edmonton in 2019) on Skelleftea's professional AIK team. They're a mere nine games into the 2020-21 season, but Wilsby has recorded just a single assist in that time.

One looming concern with Wilsby is that he has never played for any teams outside of Sweden, and North American competition is notoriously more physical and less wide-open. According to Bill Placzek of DraftSite, Wilsby is a strong puckhandler but needs to work on his attack reads, which are vital skills to have across the pond. Coming into an organization with a stout hierarchy of defensemen who are all at least moderately adapted to the North American playing style, it's going to be tough for Wilsby to rise through Nashville's ranks.


Credit: Dan Hickling

The final Luke drafted by the Preds this year is a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, after having spent his previous two seasons playing for the USHL's Chicago Steel. In 105 games as a Steel defenseman, Reid recorded just four goals and 34 assists, but came away with a +31 rating when all was said and done. The NCAA hockey season is scheduled to begin its 2020-21 campaign before Thanksgiving, when Reid will officially become the youngest NHL-drafted player on UNH's current roster.

Reid, at 6'0 and 192 pounds, is certainly not undersized by any means. He is, however, still very young and a long ways away from breaking into the NHL. UNH is part of the uber-competitive Hockey East conference, which includes the likes of Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern University; this type of stiff competition is exactly what will benefit Reid in the long run. Reid may elect to spend all of the next four years with the Wildcats, but it would be wise to transition into the Preds' system if his first two college seasons are resounding successes.


Credit: Chicago Steel

Yes, that is his actual name. Fontaine and co-Predators draftee Luke Reid both spent their previous two seasons with the Chicago Steel of the USHL. Fontaine, however, had a far more impressive scoresheet. In 105 games with the Steel, Fontaine accumulated 46 goals, 54 assists, and a +36 rating- contributing to the Steel's first place "finish" in 2019-20, as well as their Finals loss in 2018-19. Fontaine and Reid will meet again during the 2020-21 NCAA season, but this time on opposite ends of the ice as Fontaine will be suiting up for the Northeastern University Huskies. At 20, Fontaine is old for a college freshman, but his development in the USHL will likely boost his performance in a Hockey East conference that is already loaded with USHL alumni.

The East Greenwich, R.I. native is slightly undersized at 5'10 and 176 pounds, but has a lot of offensive upside. He inexplicably dropped to the seventh round, but the Preds were fortunate to snatch him up there. Depending on what Fontaine can do in his freshman NCAA season, we may wind up seeing him in Milwaukee as early as 2021-22.


Credit: Tri-City Storm

The final player taken by the Preds in the 2020 NHL draft has failed to play a full season in his three years with the USHL's Tri-City Storm. In exactly 100 games with the Storm dating back to the 2017-18 season, McLane recorded just 13 goals and 35 assists. McLane is another "overager" in this Preds' draft class; he- like Gunnarwolfe Fontaine- is entering his freshman year at Penn State at 20-years old. McLane is simply unspectacular both offensively and defensively, but that could change with his moving onto NCAA competition.

McLane has the height to be a formidable presence, but he will need to add weight onto his lanky 6'2, 183-pound frame. Unless he goes on an absolute tear for the next few seasons with the Nittany Lions, it isn't likely McLane will move into sight of NHL ice.

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