By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Over the last week the Nashville Predators have made news on three fronts. One continues the revamping of the roster, the second announced which players would be protected in the upcoming draft. But the third was the biggest from a cultural standpoint, with the announcement by their third-round draft choice Luke Prokop that he is gay. That makes him the NHL’s first openly gay player.
That announcement made international news. Prokop, 19-year-old from Edmonton, was drafted last year. He’s a defenseman.
Both Predators President/CEO Sean Henry and President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile voiced their support for Prokop in statements Monday. Henry said, “The Nashville Predators organization is proud of Luke for the courage he is displaying in coming out today and we will support him unequivocally in the days, weeks, and years to come as he continues to develop as a prospect. A long-stated goal in our organization is equality for all, including the LGBTQ community, and it is important that Luke feels comfortable and part of an inclusive environment as he moves forward in his career.”
Poile added, “Luke is a valued prospect of the Nashville Predators and we think he has a bright future. We want Luke to become a successful hockey player, and we understand his ability to be out comfortably will help him achieve his goals on and off the ice. We are committed to ensuring nothing stands in the way of his ability. His courage is an inspiration to us, and to the LGBTQ community in Nashville.”Prokop hasn’t yet played in the NHL. He’ll report to training camp in late August. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also voiced his support for Prokop and praised his courage in making the announcement.
Over the weekend the Predators also made public the players they’re protecting in the upcoming expansion draft. The Seattle Kraken will be picking players from a list provided by all NHL teams except for Las Vegas. They are exempt as the league’s most recent expansion entry. The Predators elected to use the eight skater and one goaltender protection method. The players protected were forwards Filip Forsberg, Tanner Jeannot and Luke Kunin; defensemen Alexandre Carrier, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, Roman Josi and Philippe Myers; goaltender Juuse Saros.
Lastly, they made two trades earlier last week. The Predators acquired defenseman Philippe Myers and forward Nolan Patrick from the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Ryan Ellis. They then acquired forward Cody Glass from the Vegas Golden Knights for Patrick.
“We felt it was time for a change to our core this offseason, and we are really excited to add an influx of youth, size and skill into the lineup with these additions,” Poile said. “Cody Glass is a former sixth overall pick that we think has a high ceiling as a center prospect, and Philippe Myers is a 6-foot-5 defenseman that adds an element that we do not currently have on our back end.
“At the same time, we will miss Ryan Ellis’ leadership, dedication and work ethic in our locker room. We drafted Ryan in 2009, and over the last decade-plus he helped lead our franchise through its most competitive era, spending the last four seasons as Associate Captain. We wish Ryan and his family all the best in Philadelphia and thank him for all he did during his time with the Predators.”
Those moves were the first in the retooling of a Predators’ roster that many felt was in need of it last year, and certainly after their first-round playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
By Ron Wynn