Nashville Predators: Which Predator Will Be The Next James Neal?

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators will miss the goals scored by sniper James Neal. Who will step up and replace his production? There are plenty of candidates.

The Nashville Predators will certainly miss the biscuit cannon that was James Neal. The former Predator and newly selected member of the Vegas Golden Knights tallied 77 regular season goals and 14 playoff goals with Nashville over three years.

As the team looks forward to the fast approaching season, a new team sniper must be named. Here are three candidates poised to claim the title.

Calle Jarnkrok

GM David Poile had a choice to make during the Expansion Draft protection process. James Neal or Calle Jarnkrok? David chose the younger Jarnkrok and left Neal unprotected. This could signify an increased role for the young Swede this season.

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Jarnkrok has fired some wicked wristers over the past couple of seasons, going bar down surprisingly often. He possesses excellent shooting form and does a good job setting his feet during his shots.

The biggest criticism of Jarnkrok is that he doesn’t shoot as much as a prototypical sniper. Look for that to change as he develops more confidence, getting opportunities to be a shooter rather than a playmaker. Giving him more power play time should help.

Kevin Fiala

Boy, could the Predators have used Kevin Fiala in the Finals. He was getting hot at just the right time when he was injured going into the boards on a hard rush to the net. Luckily, the 11th overall pick in the 2014 draft will likely be ready to play at the start of the season.

Fiala is probably a more dynamic shooter than Neal. He uses his body well to stretch the angle, making him much harder to stop. Fiala’s speed also gives him an advantage, getting to open ice quicker, something Neal occasionally struggled with.

If Fiala can work on getting open in extended offensive zone time instead of relying on rushes to score goals, he is poised to be a feared sniper.

Frederick Gaudreau

This one might be a stretch but hear me out. Frederick Gaudreau was around the puck non-stop during the Stanley Cup Final series against Pittsburgh and had a great fast-break snipe as he dodged Ian Cole during Game 3. He has great hockey sense and seems to know where to place shots.

There isn’t as much tape on Gaudreau and it may be hard for him to work his way into the main rotation for this year’s roster. However, he did manage to net three Stanley Cup Final goals. Anything is possible for this guy. If head coach Peter Laviolette gives him a chance, I expect big things from this kid.

The roster has guys ready step into the shoes that James Neal left. The Nashville Predators certainly have the talented prospects. While the power play may be just as dynamic without Neal, a sniper can really help stretch the defenders.

Next: The Biggest Hurdle For The Predators Won't Be Chicago

The Nashville Predators will look to get the offense off to a quicker start this season and will expect a lot from their forwards. As long as they’re shooting, they will be just fine.