Sean Henry (left), David Poile (center), Barry Trotz

The last time the Predators made 13 selections in the NHL Entry Draft, the year was 2003 and the event was held at Bridgestone Arena.

That was the year the Predators selected defensemen Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Kevin Klein in a span of 42 selections, setting the franchise up for years to come with a trio of blueliners that would eventually play a combined 1,708 games for Nashville — totaling 220 goals, 543 assists and 763 points.

The Preds certainly wouldn’t mind that kind of history repeating itself on June 28-29, when the draft returns to Music City for the first time in two decades.

It just so happens that the Predators have 13 selections, the most of any team in the NHL, and — if they use all those picks instead of trading any — it would represent a franchise high for Nashville in a seven-round draft. The league trimmed the draft from nine to seven rounds in 2005.

The Preds’ pick total includes two first-round picks (the first is 15th overall), two second-round picks, three third-round picks, three fourth-round picks, two fifth-round picks and one sixth-round pick.

“There’s definitely a level of excitement,” Predators assistant general manager/director of scouting Jeff Kealty said Wednesday. “It’s a good challenge. You saw the young players we do have now toward the end of the season. So there’s a good base there.

“Everybody here really sees the opportunity to add to that. If we can really hit it well here the next couple drafts, particularly this year [and] add that to the young guys we do have, we’ll be in really good shape.”

A team that reached the playoffs in eight straight seasons before falling short this year, the Predators have more often than not been a team trading away draft picks during the past decade — trying to collect assets for playoff runs in return.

That’s the main reason Nashville hasn’t made more than seven draft picks over the past three years, nor as many as 10 since 2013.

But that changed this season, when Predators general manager David Poile dealt away a handful of players at the NHL trade deadline, securing five additional 2023 draft picks — one each in the first, second, third, fourth and fifth rounds — in the process.

“At the trade deadline we kind of knew we were going in that direction with the picks and the young players we added and the picks going forward,” Kealty said. “We know we’ve set things up pretty well for ourselves going forward here and we know the opportunity is there the next couple of years to really set ourselves up.

“If you look back 20 years ago when we had the draft here, if you remember all the picks that we had … we really set ourselves up there with Ryan Suter and Shea Weber going forward. I think we look at this as the same type of opportunity, and we’re going to work now and we’ll be ready to go.”

The Predators have selected five forwards and a goalie with their previous six first-round draft picks, meaning the franchise hasn’t selected a defenseman in the first round since Dante Fabbro in 2016.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Nashville will be looking to land a blueliner at No. 15 this year, especially in a draft that’s considered deeper in forwards than defensemen.

“We definitely talk about that stuff,” Kealty said. “I mean, that’s kind of just the way it’s fallen for us. We haven’t picked real high. So sometimes when you pick high, you probably have a little more luxury as to say, positionally, things you can try to pinpoint.

“We’ve been a little later, so you’re really focusing on the best player. With where we sit, we’ve taken a lot more forwards of late, but you probably still have to take the best player because you want the best assets moving forward.”

Whichever position the Preds choose in the first round, they will have many more opportunities to add variety to the mix.