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On August 18, the NHL announced that Nashville will host the 2023 Draft and NHL Awards next June. This is the first time since 2006 that both events will be held in the same city and the 20th anniversary of Nashville hosting the NHL draft in 2003. 

There are, of course, a lot of preparations to make before the league and fans descend on Smashville next summer. Finishing touches will be made on new hotels, a venue will be selected for the Awards Show, and plenty of entertainment will be booked for June 26-29. It is also important to consider ways to spice up the events when they come to Music City.

Inspired by the creative and fun Seattle Kraken expansion draft, here's an idea to keep the NHL draft feeling spicy through seven rounds. 

Hear me out - instead of Gary Bettman, General Managers, and a plethora of hockey ops folks in suits on stage announcing draft picks, what if the NHL went wild and invited teams to get creative with their draft announcements? If the NHL could see fit to think outside the traditional hockey box, it could lead to an interesting and lively 2023 draft with surprise appearances aside from the hockey talent that will be present. 

This idea got me thinking - who would be the best choices to announce the Nashville Predators draft picks at Bridgestone Arena next year? Here is a creative list of potential candidates for the Preds. 

1. Dolly Parton

Nashville will have to be careful not to overdo the "country music" schtick when the NHL comes to town, but let's speak plainly. Dolly Parton embodies the very best the state of Tennessee has to offer, and as far as I am concerned she would be a must get

Dolly is quintessentially Tennessee, growing up in East Tennessee and climbing to the pinnacle of the country music genre while also quietly becoming one of the most gracious philanthropists in America. From her Imagination Library that has sent children over 188 million books to her full scholarships for Dollywood employees to her donation for COVID vaccine research to her My People Fund that helped families and first responders after the devastating 2016 Sevierville wildfires...the list of what Dolly means to the state of Tennessee and the country as a whole is long and that doesn't even touch on her singer/songwriter accolades. 

With her charm, humor, talent, and appeal across most every demographic, Dolly represents the best of Tennessee. While she may not be an icon for the NHL (yet), it would be a gift to introduce hockey fans to one of the greatest human beings from this state. 

2. Pekka Rinne

Picture it with me...the Predators's favorite son returns to stand outside of Bridgestone Arena where his new statue holding the envelope with Nashville's next pick is unveiled. Curmudgeonly Nashville sportswriter/broadcaster be damned, Pekka deserves a statue and certainly a chance to announce a draft pick for the Preds. 

It would feel sacrilegious to host a major NHL event in Nashville and not have Pekka present. Rinne has been busy since he retired from the NHL spending time with his family in Finland and coaching the goalies for the Finnish U20 National Team. Surely he would be willing to return to Smashville to bless Predators faithful and the NHL by announcing a draft pick. 

And maybe toss another catfish.

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3. Taylor Lewan, Hany Mukhtar, Ja Morant, Mookie Betts

Tennessee has a plethora of athletic talent, and the NHL draft could be a fun time for several major sports leagues to collide. Recruiting Tennessee Titan Taylor Lewan to show up to the NHL draft feels like an easy yes. Lewan has been a frequent fan at Preds games and made quite the impression on FangVision during playoff games either chugging beer through a catfish corpse or chugging beer and ripping his shirt open to get the team and crowd pumped up. A party in Nashville? Lewan should definitely make an appearance. 

Lewan is not the only famous Tennessee athlete who should get an invite to the draft party. Nashville SC star Hany Mukhtar could punctuate the pick announcement with his signature snappy salute while Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant could be a slam dunk for a sports crossover. Nashville area native Mookie Betts might be able to find a window in between L.A. Dodgers games to join the group for a pick announcement as well. 

4. Nashville Predators Foundation & partnership charities

The Nashville Predators Foundation is partnering with several amazing charities this 2022-2023 season, and the NHL draft would be a perfect opportunity to spotlight the work being done in Tennessee in conjunction with the Preds. Whether it is highlighting player initiatives like Roman Josi's work with Best Buddies or promoting the work of amazing organizations like The Family Center, A Secret Safe Place, or Nurture the Next, the draft could be a chance to promote partnerships that benefit the Nashville community. Let's see an important off-ice side of the Nashville Predators and the life changing work being done in Middle Tennessee on the big stage in 2023.

5. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood

As mentioned above, Nashville will need to be careful not to go overboard on the country music vibe, but Mr. and Mrs. Yearwood are Nashville Predators faithful and would represent Preds fans well as they announce a pick. Despite the league wide (and so overdone) Nashville Predators banner jokes, Garth's banner hangs in the rafters of the Tire Barn, so why not let the showman and his equally talented wife stir the crowd up and change a young player's life with a raucous announcement?

6. The 2022 U.S.A. Gold Medal Winning Paralympic Sled Hockey Team

There is no better place to introduce stand up hockey fans to the fast, physical, intense game of sled hockey than the NHL draft, and Nashville has been a training hub for the top talent in the nation in recent years. In March, the U.S. Men's National Sled Hockey Team went to Beijing and dominated at the 2022 Paralympics, bringing home an unprecedented fourth gold medal. The NHL likes to say that "hockey is for everyone" - let's invite Brody Roybal, Malik Jones, Jen Lee, Declan Farmer, and the rest of the Paralympics roster to announce an NHL draft pick while wearing their (multiple) gold medals. 

7. A predator from Jack Hanna's Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

Going outside the box with this one, but hear me out. 

Did you know wildlife expert Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and TV programs like Animal Adventure and Into the Wild is a Knoxville, TN native? Although Hanna has stepped away from public life, his work in wildlife conservation and education continues to have an incredible impact. What better way to acknowledge his life's work and create an unforgettable memory at an NHL draft than by bringing a predatory animal to Bridgestone to "announce" a Nashville Predators pick? 

It wouldn't have to be an apex predator per se - I'm not saying we should parade a lion or crocodile or bear into Bridgestone, but how about a peregrine falcon swooping towards Gary Bettman with the pick? That would be a Top Ten draft moment and perhaps a secret dream of some hockey fans as well.

8. A representative from the Pat Summitt Foundation

If the topic is legendary sports figures in Tennessee, Pat Summitt's name must be near the top of that list. The head coach of the Lady Vols from 1974-2012, Summitt's winning record of 1,098-208 and  program's reputation for excellence is nearly unmatched in both women and men's collegiate basketball. 

In 2011, Summitt announced the formation of the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund to raise money for Alzheimer's research, education, and family support. Since her passing in 2016, the Foundation has continued its important work. While orange is not in the Predators natural color wheel, it would be a special moment to have Coach Summitt's foundation highlighted as a representative announces a Preds draft pick. 

It may not be likely that the NHL adopts a more diverse and entertaining method for introducing draft picks at the 2023 draft, but if Nashville is looking to keep things interesting, these suggestions are a good start.