Nashville Predators: Forsberg, Johansen in NHL’s Top 50 current players

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The NHL has begun releasing its top 50 current players, starting with numbers 41-50. So far, two Nashville Predators are on the list.

The NHL Network is certainly not shying away from controversy as it attempts to keep fans satiated during the offseason. In the past month, they have released a top 10 for each position, and now a top 50 overall, for current players. These lists undoubtedly create arguments and discussion, as it is never possible to definitively rank athletes.

In the first round of top 50 players, numbers 41-50 were presented. Two Nashville Predators, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg, were among those included.

Number 48: Ryan Johansen

Here’s what the NHL Network had to say about the Predators number-one centerman:

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"Johansen has thrived as Nashville’s top center with 95 points (22 goals, 73 assists) in 124 games since being acquired in a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Seth Jones on Jan. 6, 2016. He tied for the Predators lead with 61 points (14 goals, 47 assists) last season and had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 14 playoff games before having emergency surgery for acute compartment syndrome in his left thigh. Johansen, 25, won 54.6 percent of his faceoffs last season and has won at least 50 percent in each of the past five seasons."

In typical NHL Network style, the emphasis of their description is entirely on production statistics (goals and assists) and (groan) faceoff percentage. In these categories, the NHL Network is correct in placing Johansen at number 48 overall. However, when possession metrics are considered, which are infinitely more descriptive than those referenced above, Johansen becomes much more valuable.

His regular season Corsi percentage of 56.44 was tenth-best for all skaters who played over 60 games last season. If you adjust for skaters who played all 82 games, he is the breakaway leader. What does that mean? When Ryan Johansen is on the ice, chances are, it’s his team enjoying the shot attempts. For centers, I’d argue there are few traits of more importance.

The good news for Johansen fans who subscribe to the more traditional analytics – goals and assists – is that an increase is likely. Across the board, his possession statistics indicate that he is only improving as he plays more minutes with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. The Nashville Predators will likely reap the rewards after signing their number-one centerman to a hefty eight-year contract.

Number 43: Filip Forsberg

After a relatively subdued season from Filip Forsberg, here’s why the NHL Network placed the Swedish winger at #43 overall:

"Forsberg, 23, burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2014-15, when he had 63 points (26 goals, 37 assists) and finished fourth in voting for the Calder Trophy. He followed that with 64 points (33 goals, 31 assists) in 2015-16 and had 58 points (31 goals, 27 assists) last season. Forsberg was tied for second in the League with nine game-winning goals and tied for fifth with three shorthanded goals in 2016-17. He had back-to-back hat tricks Feb. 21 and 23 during a stretch when he scored 10 goals in five games. Forsberg’s nine goals and 16 points led the Predators during the playoffs last season, when he helped them advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since entering the NHL in 1998."

The Nashville Predators’ first line, the “JoFA” line, became one of the NHL’s premier offensive powerhouses during the 16/17 season. It is no surprise, then, that at least two of its members find themselves in the NHL’s top 50. Filip Forsberg has been an offensive asset for the Preds since being acquired from Washington in 2012.

The 2016/17 season saw a late arrival of Forsberg’s true scoring potential. He and Viktor Arvidsson each contributed 31 goals during the season, tied for most on the team. It is no question that Forsberg is essential to the success of the Nashville Predators offense. His above-league-average Corsi is consistent with his usual linemates: if you want shot production, put this guy on the ice.

Unlike with Johansen, I think the NHL got it about right with this one. Forsberg’s potential would place him in the top 30, but his career performance has not quite matched that potential.

Next: Five Most Anticipated Home Games of 17-18 Season

So far, the Nashville Predators are represented twice in the NHL’s Top 50 players. Young firepower and league-leading defensemen will see the Preds featured more in the coming days.