A lot has been made out of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft that was held in Nashville. It has been called one of the best draft classes in NHL history, and it was certainly a memorable one for the city of Nashville and the Nashville Predators. All-star defensemen Ryan Suter (7th overall) and Shea Weber (49th overall) were selected by the Predators in that draft and eventually became the NHL’s best defensive pairing before Suter went to the Minnesota Wild via free agency.
However, there was one defenseman by the name of Kevin Klein, taken in between Suter and Weber, that still remains a valuable and underrated part of the Predators.
Klein was a second round pick (37th overall) in the 2003 draft and played his first game in a Predators uniform during the 2005-06 season on Dec. 3, 2005, against the Philadelphia Flyers. He really began to solidify a spot in Nashville during the 2008-09 season when he played in 63 games. Klein has been on the NHL roster in Nashville ever since then, and he has grown to be one of the most effective defensemen that the Predators have.
During the 2011-12 season, Klein had just four penalty minutes in 66 games played during the regular season. Through the first eight games of the 2012-13 season, Klein has yet to register a penalty of any kind. That shows how positionally sound he is and how much intelligence he displays on the ice.
Klein is a very underrated part of the defensive unit for the Predators. He is reliable defensively, isn’t afraid to block shots, plays a key role on the penalty kill and has become one of the leaders for the Predators on the ice. Klein anchors the second defensive pairing and is second on the team only to Scott Hannan in blocked shots with 18 on the season.
Over the past two seasons, Klein has really developed into the reliable defenseman that he is today. He used to be known for making a big mistake with the puck that would cost his team a goal, which is one of the reasons why he has drawn the ire of Predators fans throughout his NHL career. However, his overall game has improved drastically over the past two seasons especially, and he hardly makes any mistakes anywhere on the ice nowadays.
Klein’s game isn’t as flashy as Weber’s. He’s not a guy that shoots the puck over 100 miles per hour, and he isn’t an intimidating physical force that strikes fear into the opposition. However, he has developed into one of the smartest defensive players in the league and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body for the betterment of the team. Klein’s skill-set is an invaluable one for the Predators that largely goes unnoticed.
During Nashville’s first round matchup with the Detroit Red Wings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Klein had a bit of a coming-out party on the offensive side of the puck. He scored two goals for the Predators in hostile territory in Detroit in that series, including a beautiful highlight-reel goal in Game 3. While Klein is not a huge offensive threat by any means, he has shown the ability to finish before with pretty good hands.
The Predators know how valuable Klein is to their defensive corps, and they rewarded him last summer with a five-year, $14.5 million contract that will keep him in Nashville through the 2017-18 season. At only 28 years of age, Klein is entering the prime of his career and should be an effective player for the Predators for the foreseeable future.
In many ways, Klein and the Predators are the perfect fit. Not flashy, but able to get the job done effectively every night using hard work and doing the little things right. It’s that style of play that has allowed him to be successful so far during his career, and it’s that style of play that will continue to help solidify Nashville’s defense corps for years to come.