Here's an inside look as Barry Trotz made his moves in 1st NHL draft as Nashville Predators GM (2024)

LAS VEGAS — The Nashville Predators' draft table, positioned on the floor of the Sphere at Las Vegas, was crowded.

General manager Barry Trotz sat at one side. To his right, assistant general manager Brian Poile; to his left, director of scouting and assistant general manager Jeff Kealty. Elbow to elbow, knee to knee.

Squeezing in around them Friday, the first day of the NHL draft, were chief amateur scout Tom Nolan, director of team services Brandon Walker, coach Andrew Brunette, and 15 amateur and pro scouts.

Missing was retired general manager David Poile, absent from the Predators' draft team for the first time in 26 years.

Not that there was any room for him.

Months of draft preparation had brought these nearly two dozen hockey minds together to select Nashville's 2024 draft class.

And there was no question who was in charge.

Trotz — who officially took over as general manager on July 1, 2023 — governed the table with austerity for two days, making every trade look like a planned calculation and every draft pick preordained.

Barry Trotz's busy first draft as Nashville Predators general manager

The Predators had pick No. 22 in the first round, and though Trotz had told the Tennessean on Thursday they were unlikely to trade up in the draft, it was not for lack of trying.

When the draft began, the Predators' table was quiet. The first overall pick — Macklin Celebrini to the San Jose Sharks — had been decided for weeks. The next few picks — including Artyom Levshunov to the Chicago Blackhawks — also held no real surprises.

It wasn't until pick No. 8 that activity at the Predators' table picked up.

Trotz frequently conversed with Kealty, reviewing printed player evaluations. Kealty would lean on Nolan and his scouts to provide added insight. Poile mostly consulted with his own notes, laser-focused on the task at hand, much like his father had been.

During the New Jersey Devils' pick at No. 10, Trotz was seen on the table's landline phone, both receiving calls and dialing out.

At one point, with the Devils still on the clock, Trotz finished a call, turned to Kealty and shook his head. Kealty looked unsurprised — clearly a deal had not been reached — but there was a tinge of disappointment between him and Trotz.

With the Philadelphia Flyers on the clock at No. 12, Trotz was on the phone multiple times, consulting with Kealty and Poile with greater intensity. They even brought Brunette into the discussion.

Then, when the league announced a trade had occurred, there was some buzz in the room. Were the Predators a player?

False alarm. The Flyers swapped picks with the Minnesota Wild, who selected defenseman Zeev Buium.

Another call, this one while Buffalo was on the clock at No. 14. This one was quick — on Thursday, the Sabres had already moved back from No. 11 to No. 14 — and nothing came of it.

There was some reaction from the table, especially from several scouts, when Sacha Boisvert went to the Blackhawks at No. 18. A potential target gone to a rival, maybe.

When it became clear that the Predators were going to stick at No. 22, activity at the table calmed. The team seemed comfortable they would get their guy.

And who was their guy? Russian forward Egor Surin out of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

"Thank God he slipped through and we were able to get him," Trotz said after the first round concluded.

It turns out all of those calls between picks No. 8 and No. 14 had one focus: to move up in the draft to ensure they could get Surin.

Pre-draft meetings with Jeff Kealty, scouts guided Trotz's decisions

Twenty-four hours prior to selecting Surin, Trotz was in day-long meetings in Vegas with his scouting department.

The group constructed several draft boards based on their scouting intel to provide scenarios of how the draft might go.

The process is fluid when the clock is running, so they added trade options as well.

"Sometimes you get a call and everything flips," Trotz said. "But what you want to do is have a Plan A and a Plan B ahead of time."

Kealty added that the many weeks of planning make draft day a little smoother.

"You're trying to forecast who might take who," he said. "Some years it's fairly predictable, and other years it's not."

As we saw play out on Day 1 of the draft, the top five or six picks were relatively unsurprising. But the Predators knew after that, there was a chance to move up for the right price.

"That's where all the preparation comes into play," Kealty said. "You've got to be ready for all the different scenarios."

Kealty happy with Predators' later rounds of the draft

While most of the Predators' pre-draft meetings were focused on landing Surin at No. 22., the team had seven more selections to consider on Saturday, the second day of the draft.

At No. 55, the Predators took forward Teddy Stiga out of the U.S. National Team Development Program in the USHL.

In the third round, they added defenseman Viggo Gustafsson at No. 77, plus two more forwards, both out of the CHL's Western Hockey League: Miguel Marques at No. 87 and Hiroki Gojsic at No. 94.

"I thought we managed the day really well," Kealty said. "We moved around a little bit, in the back half of the second, but still managed to get a few players we really like."

The Predators added a few late-round picks, including their only goaltender of the draft, Jakub Milota, but with six of their eight draft picks being forwards, it's clear where the team is looking to improve.

DRAFT RECAP:Who did the Nashville Predators take in the 2024 NHL Draft? Recap of Rounds 3-7

"We needed those offensive, attacking players," Kealty said. "Modern NHL players, if you will."

Hockey development takes time. Evaluating any draft class in the short run is difficult.

Some have criticized the Surin pick, saying there were other more highly rated players available on the board. But many also praised the Stiga pick, a player some considered to be a first-rounder.

"Those picks from 32 to 40 are pretty coveted," Kealty said. "After Day 1, everyone's trying to get up there. But Stiga was a guy we really liked. Like I said, I think we managed it really well."

Here's an inside look as Barry Trotz made his moves in 1st NHL draft as Nashville Predators GM (2024)
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