The Nashville Predators depth chart at center got a little murkier when Mike Fisher underwent surgery last week to repair a ruptured Achilles.
After the club missed on adding a first line center in free agency and lost Fisher for the next four to six months, what seemed like an abundance at the forward position has quickly become a question mark. But as far as adding another capable center to the roster goes, Nashville may have to look no further than within the organization.
Twenty-year-old Colton Sissons played 17 games with the Predators during the 2013-2014 season, and the forward says he’s ready to take on a bigger role.
“Obviously it’s pretty unfortunate for a teammate like Fish to go down with an injury; he’s a great leader. But sometimes injuries do happen in this game and it give opportunities to players like myself,” Sissons said. “It makes me feel really good that the GM has faith in me, and he’s giving me that opportunity. I’m coming into camp ready to make the team.”
Last campaign, Sissons joined Nashville after the start of the new year and performed well in the limited role he was given. Centering the Predators fourth line, Sissons managed four points at the NHL level to go with the 25 goals he chipped in while with the Milwaukee Admirals (in the American Hockey League).
Whether he can now move up from being a temporary fix on the Predators bottom-six forward group is the next big question though.
“I had to fill a role when I got called up. Gaustad went down and they needed that depth centerman, and I felt I did a pretty good job of that,” Sissons said. “Once you get a taste you just want more and more. I want to be a full-time NHL [player]. They gave me a fair shot last season, and I plan on building on that in training camp.”
First-year Predators coach Peter Laviolette has been lauded as a bench boss highly proficient in helping young forwards progress in their careers, and Sissons thinks he can be another one of those success stories.
“Obviously I want to make a good first impression, to show the coach what I can do. I think in past camps I did a good job of impressing Barry [Trotz] with my work ethic–he had a lot of trust in me–so I plan to do the same this time.”
Tallying 44 points in 62 AHL games was an impressive start to Sissons’ first full year as a professional, and those numbers hint that he can contribute a fair amount in the NHL. There’s no one-to-one point ratio from AHL to NHL, but it’s a fair guess to say that Sissons could top 15 goals if given an 82-game set in the NHL, and that would certainly help the Predators.
“I think there’s going to be more of a push for some more offense up front, so I think that’s really good for some of the younger guys like me who can contribute in that area.”
The rookie forward might not be the player Laviolette had penciled in at one of his center spots a few months ago, but Sissons represents a solid and available option that won’t cost the Predators any additional money or pieces to utilize. Giving Sissons a shot at full-time NHL duty makes a lot more sense than trading for an aging Vincent Lecavalier for example, and it also lets the rookie learn firsthand at hockey’s top level.
Sissons has shown he can deliver in the small opportunities, so it’s time to give him another nudge toward the spotlight.