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Fenton: Diaby a good value pick

Defenseman Seth Jones is far and away the headline player of the Predators’ 2013 draft class. But down the road, third-round pick Jonathan-Ismael Diaby could be playing alongside the player selected 60 slots ahead of him. At least that’s how Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton sees it.

“This kid is an absolute skyscraper that plays with a mean sense to his game,” Fenton said. “We think he’ll be a guy that develops into a pairing with say Seth Jones down the road here. To have two guys of that stature and be able to take them early in the draft, we were just thrilled.”

Diaby, drafted with the 64th overall selection on Sunday, is listed at 6-foot-5, 223 pounds, but Fenton said he actually weighs much more than that.

“When we interviewed him and he told us he was 250, my jaw just hit the table. ‘It says you’re 223 now’ and he said ‘No no, I’m 250; I’ve been putting on good weight,” Fenton described. “To us, maybe he plays at 240 or whatever. That would be an enormous presence back there to be able to lean your hat on.”

Diaby is described nationally as a physical defensive defenseman with limited offensive upside. Still, Fenton believes the Victoriaville (QMJHL) product is still a raw talent with room in his game to grow.

“If we had a second-round pick we have considered taking him in the second round,” Fenton said. “To us, it was a very good value pick and it was addressing something that we’re trying to address here, which is size, strength and grit.”

Meanwhile, Diaby describes his game as “toolsy”.

Here was Fenton’s rundown of the rest of the Predators’ draft class:

Seth Jones (1st round, 4th overall)
“We’ve been watching Seth Jones for years. The type of impact he can have as a defenseman, both to the offensive side of the game and defensive side – my son called me yesterday and he was talking about; he lives in Germany but he follows everything. He asked me ‘Are you as excited as you were when you picked Ryan Suter?’ and I said ‘Yeah.’ I definitely am because when you think about the characteristics that both of them have, the way they both control the entire ice surface, the way they can change games both offensively and defensively – and to look at it that we now have a 6-foot-5 guy that has the mobility of a running back and his agility is terrific to be able to skate and pressure – this is a franchise type player that you dream about and we were able to get him.”

Felix Girard (4th round, 95th overall)
“We’ve tried to address the grit and hardness of our organization and our guys were telling me time after time that we have to get this kid.”

Jusse Saros (4th round, 99th overall)
“He was the highest-rated goaltender in Central Scouting in Europe. It certainly goes off of the map with what we’ve done here in the past, taking 6-foot-5 goaltenders. But this kid’s hockey knowledge, hockey sense, feel for the game was second to none. Our guys were almost giddy and asking permission if we could take a kid that is 5-foot-11 as opposed to 6-foot-5. Mitch Korn, of course, gave them their blessing and said it would be fine. He is a special goaltender with his thought process and the way he lets pucks come to him.”

Saku Maenalanen (5th round, 125th overall)
“He is a big right winger that [European scout] Janne Kekelainen was telling us that we will love the way this kid skates and pressures and takes pucks to the net. 6-foot-3, has a great sense for the game.”

Teemu Kivihalme (5th round, 140th overall)
“He has five years before he has to come out. He’s a 5-foot-11 defenseman that is smooth, has very good sense for the game. As we were talking about him, it was [North American scout] Tom Nolan that said Phil Housley knows him very well. We were talking to him about it as well and he thought his feel for the game was special and that he has a chance again to be one of these puck-moving defensemen that we’ve cherished here time after time.”

Emil Pettersson (6th round, 155th overall)
“[European scout] Lucas Bergman was really high on him from an offensive standpoint, thinks he has a chance of becoming an elite player at some point. We have four years with him to let him develop. Bergman was very instrumental in recommending him.”

Tommy Veilleux (6th round, 171st overall)
“The sandpaper part is the most important ingredient we were looking for. Taking three players from Quebec, I think if you went back and looked at our 15 drafts we’ve probably taken three players from Quebec. I think they’re starting to produce the type of player that the Predators are made with. I give Tom Nolan an awful lot of credit for being able to find this type of player that should add to our success.”

Wade Murphy (7th round, 185th overall)
“He is a scorer, plain and simple. He’s not a very big guy but he has that ability to score goals. When you get four years at a quality program like that (North Dakota) that has had success, we thought this would be a great thing to try and see if he can turn into a player.”

Janne Juvonen (7th round, 203rd overall)
“We had this guy very high on our list. He was a guy that didn’t get a lot of exposure in Finland this year. You saw the last time that we didn’t have a lot of exposure on guys, like Pekka Rinne; Janne [Kekalainen] somehow finds these guys that are under a rock someplace. We have high hopes that this guy can turn into a goaltender. After talking with Mitch [Korn] about both of our goaltenders, he sent [chief amateur scout] Jeff Kealty and I a note and said ‘My spies tell me these guys are terrific athletes, terrific goaltenders and we should be thrilled with them. When you get an endorsement like that from his world, where Mitch lives in, you take it and put a smile on your face.”

 
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