For the foreseeable future, the Predators will rely on their young players to perform beyond their years and to excel in moments usually reserved for veterans by other NHL teams. For a franchise that has to closely watch their dollars and cents, getting big-time play out of low-salary players is essential for Nashville.
Budding-star, defenseman Roman Josi is one of those players.
Drafted 38th overall in 2008, the Swiss-born blueliner played his first season with Nashville in 2011-12. Josi was limited by a concussion until November 2011, but ended up playing in 52 games (five goals and 16 points) and was eventually promoted to the second d-pairing. The then 21-year-old had a strong playoff series against Detroit and performed above expectations (especially when considering his rookie status).
Last season, Josi was given the gargantuan task of filling the void left by Ryan Suter on the first pairing with Shea Weber. Expecting a second-year player to seamlessly replace an All-Star like Suter was a bit much, but honestly, Josi did a pretty good job. Weber and Josi started slowly during the first month of the season (as the two went through a period of adjustment), but after some brief time apart, both players reunited and raised their level of play in the last few months.
Josi is no Suter, yet. But, for someone who has only played in 100 NHL regular season games, he’s already shown flashes that he could one day play at or above that type of level.
That’s good news for Nashville, because that’s exactly what they need him to do.
Josi has been up to all the challenges the Preds have put before him so far, and has shown he can chip in quality offensive numbers all while shutting down an opponent’s top players. With the depth the Predators have at defense, it’s impressive Josi has been able to rise to the Preds first d-pairing in just two seasons, and the signs point toward him being the real deal.
Earlier this year, general manger David Poile positioned Josi to be a pillar of the franchise for many years to come after he signed him to a seven-year deal worth $28 million. Josi will make $2.5, $3 and $4 million in his next three seasons and if he continues to play at a high-level on the first d-pairing with Shea Weber, that price tag has to be regarded as a major steal for Nashville.
The Predators will rely heavily on Josi (and Colin Wilson) this coming year, and the fortunes of the team will follow closely his success or failure on the ice.
For a player that has not logged a full 82-game season yet, Josi may still experience some growing pains this coming year, but that’s a risk Nashville has to take. At only 23 years of age, it’s a lot to ask of him, but that’s just what Nashville has to do with their young, homegrown players they think are primed to breakout. And Josi is no exception.