Preds 2022 NHL Draft Round-Up: Nashville Adds Six New Players

Photo: Courtesy of the Nashville Predators

The 2022 NHL Draft is over and the Nashville Predators leave Montreal with six new players, including 18-year-old Finnish star Joakim Kemell, who the Preds selected with the 17th overall pick.

“He’s versatile, but the first thing about him is that he’s a goal scorer,” says Predators European Scout Janne Kekalainen on Kemell. “He’s an extremely confident kid and has a presence and swagger about him. He can shoot from all places and knows how to finish.”

Kemell skated in his first full professional season with JYP of the Finnish Liiga in 2021-22, tallying 23 points (15 goals, 8 assists) in 39 games. He led all Liiga rookies and was tied for third on his team in goals with 15. His 23 points were the second-most among U-19 skaters in his league.

The Preds went on to select five more players during the two-day draft and made some trades along the way to help better the team for this upcoming season. Nashville went on to trade their second pick of the fourth round, No. 122 overall (Dennis Hildeby), to Toronto for a fourth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

“We’re very happy with this year’s draft class,” shares Predators Assistant General Manager/Director of Scouting Jeff Kealty. “It started with our first-round pick falling to us, and then in the later rounds, we were able to get some players who our scouts were excited about heading into the draft. We let the best player guide what we do, but when you can fill in different spots and balance things out a bit, it’s always a good thing as well, and I feel we accomplished that.”

Nashville opened the third round with two early picks, selecting forward Adam Ingram at No. 82 overall and defenseman Kasper Kulonummi at the No. 84 overall pick.

Ingram was the No. 27-ranked North American skater per NHL Central Scouting, and he produced more than a point-per-game rate during his rookie USHL campaign in 2021-22, tallying 55 points (26 goals, 29 assists) in 54 contests with the Youngstown Phantoms. Ingram, a West St. Paul, Minnesota native, earned a spot on the USHL’s All-Rookie Team and led Youngstown in both goals and points. The 6-foot-2, 161-pound center is committed to play collegiate hockey at St. Cloud State in 2022-23.

“He’s a tall, wiry, skilled and smart hockey player,” Predators North American Scout David Westby notes. “We think he’s going to be a big kid when he is done developing physically. He’s a competitive kid who can play wing and center, sees the ice well and can make plays.”

Kulonummi, a 6-foot, 178-pound native of Helsinki, Finland, spent most of the 2021-22 campaign with Jokerit’s U-20 squad, posting 29 points (3 goals, 26 assists) in 40 games while serving as an alternate captain. He led all U-19 blueliners in his league in assists (26) and was third in points.

“He has a high hockey IQ,” Kekalainen says. “He’s extremely intelligent and manages the game well, especially with the puck, always giving himself options and making the right plays. He jumps into the play at the right time when needed. He approaches things with his smarts and is able to stay out of trouble because of that.”

With three picks left, the Predators selected forward Cole O’Hara at No. 114 overall in the fourth round. He completed his second USHL season with the Tri-City Storm in 2021-22, finishing tied for second on his team in goals (25) and third in both points (73) and assists (48).

Nashville used its fifth-round pick (146th overall) to pick up Graham Sward, a defenseman from the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. The Abbotsford, British Columbia native scored 10 goals, 33 assists and 43 points in 57 games for Spokane in 2021-22.

With the final pick to wrap up the 2022 Draft, the Preds selected forward Ben Strinden in the seventh round (210th overall). The 6-foot, 193-pound center completed his second USHL season with Muskegon in 2021-22 and tallied 56 points (25 goals, 31 assists), a 46-point improvement from his rookie campaign where he only scored 1 goal and 9 assists.

With the draft completed, Nashville turns its eyes to free agency to help bulk up its team before next season. The Predators have already made some key moves, improving the team from last year by trading for Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh and re-signing Nashville all-time leading goal-scorer Filip Forsberg.

Steven Boero