Nashville Predators: Which Player Will Step Up?

Feb 20, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) tries to look around a screen by Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) tries to look around a screen by Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks are very evenly matched in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

When teams are as evenly matched as they are, it can take only a player or two to step up and increase their play to make a huge difference in a short series. The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are littered with players that have done just that and most were surprises.

Joel Ward, formerly of the Nashville Predators was always a “step up in the playoffs” guy.  Last year the “Triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat scored like crazy in the playoffs.  And Colin Wilson of the Nashville Predators scored five goals in only six games after scoring 20 in 77 during the season.

The Predators need to count on their big scorers during the playoffs.  They have two 30-goal scorers for the first time since 2005-06 in Filip Forsberg (33) and James Neal (31). Roman Josi and Shea Weber were incredible in both goals and points. Craig Smith chipped in 21 goals and Mike Ribiero hit 50 points.

Those players along with Ryan Johansen who had 34 points in 43 games with the Preds are your bread and butter.  If you don’t get any scoring from them you are in trouble.  These are the guys you go to war with.

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But what about that guy that comes from nowhere and lights it up in the playoffs?  That can be the big difference between winning and losing a series.  We are going to take a look at some players who could be that break-out kind of star that makes a name for himself that could be remembered forever depending on how far it carries the Predators.

Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis

Both of these players made big jumps in points from last year to this year and will get a ton of playing time in the playoffs.  Either could really jump up and get hot and score a bunch but it is expected that both will be chipping in and should help out.  They are really not the kind of surprise we are looking for.

Colin Wilson

It pains us to even mention him in this regard but he certainly has the talent.  He only scored six goals all season after scoring five in the playoffs alone last year. He got a nice payday in the offseason and was expected to score 20 this season.  He was mostly invisible but did play better the last 15 games or so.

It would be a great story if Wilson could take the team on his back and carry it to the promised land after such a frustrating season. Maybe he will be their “Joel Ward” of the playoffs and step up on the big stage.  We certainly won’t complain but don’t expect it either.

Viktor Arvidsson or Miikka Salomaki

These two kids have been such a pleasure to watch all season.  They play the game with an edge and a hunger that seems like it can only come from someone that has been experiencing the Big Show for the first time. They have 13 goals and 26 points between them and Salomaki adds grit and physicality that can be so huge in a series.

Arvy never met a shot he didn’t like and shoots on net from crazy angles and averaged nearly two and a half shots a game.  He only had a 5.8 shooting percentage and the league average is always around 9%.  If he just evened things out and got a little hot, we could all be climbing on Arvy’s Aardvarks bandwagon.

Calle Jarnkrok

This is who we are choosing to light up the lights on Broadway. The guy that no one outside of

Nashville Predators Calle Jarnkrok
Nashville Predators center Calle Jarnkrok (19). Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Smashville has ever heard of but might make a big name in the playoffs for himself.  He improved from seven goals last year to 16 this year and eight of those were in the last 30 games.  If he had scored all year like that, he would have had 22 goals, good for third on the team.

He has been playing on the top line with Neal and Johansen and is probably the happiest person in Nashville that a certain College Kid turned the Preds down.  Now is his time to show that was the best thing that could have happened by turning it up in the playoffs.

In some ways, you could make a case for this kid as one of the most important Predators this season and he should definitely get the Unsung Hero award.  He plays on special teams, has the least penalty minutes per game of any regular and plays defense like a wolverine in his den.

He is always mentioned as one of the smartest players on the team and continues to get better and better.  He may not measure up to Poile’s trade for Filip Forsberg but getting Jarnkrok for Legwand was a steal too.  If he can light the goal lamp a few times, Nashville songwriter’s may be making a new tune.  What the heck rhymes with Jarnkrok, anyway?

Next: Our Ultimate Fan's Guide to the Playoffs

Regardless of whether it’s young Mr. Jarnkrok or another of the aforementioned players, we’ll be more than happy to sing their praises if they can carry us to the promised land of Lord Stanley’s Cup!