What can you say about Filip Forsberg that hasn’t already been said. There were thousands of words written last year about the Nashville Predators young phenom as one of the biggest stories of last year’s NHL season. He earned the Twitter nickname: #PrinceFilip and re-wrote the Predators rookie record book.
Let it suffice to say that he had the best Pred’s rookie season to date. By a lot. On January 6th, in only the 39th game of the season, he broke Alexander Radulov’s rookie scoring record with his 38th point. He broke the goal record on February 12th against the Jets in only the 55th game. He would go on to score 26 goals and 63 points on the season.
He also now holds the rookie record for games played, assists, power play points and shots. At 20 years old, he became the fifth youngest player in NHL history to lead a playoff team in scoring. And he may only get better.
Forsberg was drafted 11th overall by the Washington Capitals in 2012. In what has become known as one of the biggest fleecings in NHL history, the Caps traded Forsberg, rated as their top prospect and one of the top prospects in hockey, to the Preds for 31-year-old Martin Erat and center Michael Latta at the 2013 trade deadline.
Why the Caps had soured on Forsberg may never be known. Erat went on to score two goals for the Capitals, including an empty netter. Latta has total of 10 points for the Caps and will never be anything more than a bottom six forward. The Hockey News said they fell out of their chairs at how lopsided the deal was at the time and it’s much worse now.
It turns out that earlier concerns about his skating ability were off base and his soft hands and vision look like world-class assets. He has stick handling skills that simply make you shake your head every game and is known for his quick “twisted wrister” shot that gets by goalies before they are even ready.
He is sometimes criticized for trying to be too creative and flashy but has a well-rounded game at both ends of the ice. He does a great job of pressuring on the forecheck and helps drive possession for the team when he is on the ice. He is by no means selfish with the puck but was second on the team with 237 shots.
Filip Forsberg (9) celebrates after a win against Edmonton. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
So how does he improve? First of all, it will help as he fills out his large frame with a little more muscle for more strength in the corners. He turns 21 today so that should happen quite naturally. He could improve his consistency, as he went through a 15 game slump in late February with only three points. That probably cost him league rookie honors.
These criticisms are very small for someone so young in his first NHL season. He has all the tools become a consistently high scoring player.
One of the best things about Prince Filip is just how perfect he is for Nashville itself. With the Titans in a down cycle he became the face of Nashville sports. Fans who didn’t know a face off from an offsides were flocking to root for Forsberg. He has become a huge part of the franchise and what they have to sell to their fans.
At age 21 he is already becoming a legend in Nashville. His boyish good looks, nice-guy attitude and even the way he always slips in a few “Yeah” starts to his sentences during interviews makes him feel like a guy you would love to come over to the house and watch a game.
With 26 goals last year, I have every reason to believe that he will net at least 30 this year. That would be the first Predator to do that since way back in 2009-2010 when Patric Hornqvist had 30. He should make the 70 point plateau too. In 2013-14, Vladimir Tarasenko had 21 goals and 43 points in his first full year for the Blues. Last year he exploded for 37 and 73. I think Filip can do that too.
He should be even better in Lavy’s system in year two. He needs to stay healthy as he played in all 82 games last season. There is always the worry of the sophomore slump. Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner, who scored 63 points in his first full season in 2010-11 slipped to 44 points in his sophomore year. Nathan MacKinnon went from 63 in 2013-14 to only 38 this year. I don’t believe that will be a problem with Forsberg’s work ethic and maybe his desire to show that his Calder Trophy snub was a mistake.
At the end of this year he will end his entry-level contract and be a restricted free agent. The Preds have saved enough money to give him a big increase. It could be on the level of the recent contracts given to Tarasenko and Jakub Voracek. A lot depends on his play this season.
This could be a truly magical year for Forsberg and in turn the Predators. He really came out of nowhere at the beginning of last year. A lot of pundits felt he would start the season in Milwaukee. He should be even better and this town will be ready to coronate the Prince into the King of Nashville.
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