Predators Prospects: Roman Josi


Roman Josi turned an early-season call-up from Milwaukee into a permanent stay in Nashville. (PHOTO: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Today’s installment of my continuing series looking at Nashville Predators prospects focuses on D Roman Josi.

Hailing from Bern, Switzerland, Roman Josi was selected by Nashville in the 2nd round (28th overall) of the 2008 draft. He began playing professionally at age 16 in 2006 with the junior team of his hometown club, SC Bern. After putting up 30 points in 30 games he graduated to Bern’s main squad in the Swiss A League for the 2007-08 season.

The young Josi was paired with former NHL blueliner Nathan Dempsey at Bern, and the experience paid off. His play for Bern’s senior team had calling him “probably the most complete Swiss junior player for quite some time,” complimenting his maturity and confidence.

Here’s a little bit of what had everyone so high on the kid:

In the summer of 2010, after helping Bern win its first Swiss A League championship in six years, Josi signed a two-way contract with the Nashville Predators. He played all of the 2010-11 season with the Milwaukee Admirals and made an impression, posting 40 points (6G-34A) in 69 games. He started the 2011-12 season on injured reserve and had only played in 5 games for Milwaukee when he an injury-riddled Nashville squad called him up.

Roman Josi played his first game as a Nashville Predator on November 26th against the Detroit Red Wings. He made an immediate impression, though probably not the kind he had intended:

The Swiss rookie handled extra ice time well enough to earn the trust of Nashville’s coaches. (PHOTO: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

During his first month with Nashville, Josi averaged about 15:00 of ice time. But he stepped up big in December and January when players ahead of him on the depth chart were injured. He regularly played more than 20 minutes a night and logged more than 24 minutes in three different games. That average dropped as Josi’s elders returned to the lineup, but the Swiss blueliner would stay with Nashville for the rest of the year.

After the team acquired Hal Gill from Montreal in February Josi was frequently played with the veteran on the third pair – much like he had been with Nathan Dempsey in Bern. Not only did Gill’s presence lessen the load on Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, but it gave Josi a chance to show what he could do for the team offensively without becoming a defensive liability. By the end of the season Josi had played in 52 games for Nashville, posting 16 points (5G-11A).

Impressed as I was with Josi’s play after his call-up from Milwaukee, he has still has some development ahead of him. One of his most glaring mistakes came in Game 3 of the Preds’ playoff series with Detroit:

Sure, Pavel Datsyuk is the kind of guy who makes lots of players look bad on a regular basis – I’ll grant you that. But plenty of players of lesser caliber than Pavel could’ve stripped Josi there. Lapses in awareness lose tight games, and not many teams play in the NHL play in as many tight games as the Nashville Predators. Continued work in Barry Trotz’s system should help Josi tighten up in his own zone and make him a valuable second-pair blueliner.

In that respect it’s a downer that he’s been playing with his former Swiss club during the lockout. He’ll continue to develop his offensive game playing in the Swiss A League, which is always valuable. But there’s no chance for him to work on the unique defensive requirements of playing on smaller ice at a quicker pace. That development will have to wait until Roman Josi comes back to Nashville – whenever that might be.