This is a huge night for the Nashville Predators franchise, hosting the 2023 NHL Draft – the first under the leadership of new general manager and franchise coaching legend Barry Trotz. Over the past few hours, it’s become clear Trotz is looking to make an earth-shattering move on the draft floor tonight to move up in the first round.
Multiple reports suggest the Predators have called the Montreal Canadiens about trading up to fifth overall, and Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli now reports Nashville’s put goalie prospect Yaroslav Askarov into play. The Russian netminder, who was the 11th overall pick in the 2020 draft, is one of the best netminder prospects in the world and posted a .911 save percentage in 48 games with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals this season.
Askarov would make tremendous amounts of sense for the two teams Nashville’s called about in the top five – Montreal and the San Jose Sharks, who Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic says are getting multiple calls about their fourth overall selection. Both teams have a decent pool of goalie prospects but no surefire starter in their future.
It’ll take much more than Askarov to get either of those teams to part with their picks, though. Nashville holds the 15th and 24th overall selections tonight, with the latter acquired from the Edmonton Oilers for Mattias Ekholm. It’ll take at least Askarov plus the 15th pick, potentially a tad more given the game-breaking, franchise-changing talent available with each of the first five picks in this draft.
With Trotz’s public posturing of wanting high-upside, skilled players in Nashville’s prospect pool, it’s fair to wonder if Nashville is targeting Matvei Michkov if they do move up. While there are some concerns about his defensive engagement (depending on who you ask) and obvious off-ice questions given his contract status and geopolitical uncertainty, he’s the highest-upside prospect in this draft not named Connor Bedard.