Pontus Aberg was a lock for the Nashville Predators third line before the pre-season began. But now, after four games, Miikka Salomaki might steal his spot.
Competition is the name of the game in the NHL pre-season, and so far there’s been plenty. Young guys like Samuel Girard and Vladislav Kamenev are working their tails off for a spot on the Nashville Predators opening night roster. But it can be difficult with such a deep roster. Especially when some more established guys like Miikka Salomaki and Pontus Aberg can barely even crack the top nine. That leads us to the prominent competition in the line-up. Will Salomaki or Aberg take the right wing spot on the third line? Well in order to determine, let’s take a look at their stats through the three games they played in.
Game one for both of these players was the three to two victory over the Florida Panthers. The Nashville Predators had a strong showing even though they iced a more “green” roster. Despite that, both Aberg and Salomaki had good games.
Salomaki put up a respectable Corsi of 50 and a Fenwick of 33.33 which isn’t exactly great numbers. Meanwhile, Aberg posted a 60 Corsi and a 57.14 Fenwick. Clearly, Aberg was the better possession driver in game one, although he did benefit from some better linemates. And to be fair to Aberg, he did play against tougher competition.
This was the game that sparked the controversy. Aberg didn’t stand out while Salomaki hit everything in sight and potted two goals.
Both Aberg and Salomaki didn’t play in game two so let’s jump on over to game three. The Nashville Predators faced off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a real test. The roster was still green while Tampa iced Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman. Once again, Aberg looked a bit invisible but did a lot of the little things right.
Salomaki hit everything that moved and put up a 64.29 Corsi and 66.67 Fenwick. Aberg matched him with a 70 Corsi and a 68.18 Fenwick. Both had some of the best scores for the team and deserved the praise they got. It seems like Salomaki got more recognition for his performance even though Aberg had better numbers. Also, they both scored zero points and had similar linemates.
This game was a bit of a doozy. The Nashville Predators beat the Columbus Blue Jackets five to three but in an unconvincing fashion. No one looked good besides a few players, one of them being Salomaki.
Aberg had a horrible night, posting a 42.31 Corsi and a 45 Fenwick score. Meanwhile, Salomaki continued to impress with a 66.67 Corsi and a 66.67 Fenwick. Both registered a goal, but it’s important to note it was Aberg’s first of the pre-season. Looking back through the game, Aberg played over 10 minutes more than Salomaki and played against tougher competition.
Should Salomaki or Aberg start on the third line?
Well if we want to look objectively, let’s consider some facts. Aberg won the advanced stats race in two out of the three games. Aberg consistently played tougher minutes against tougher competition. But some of the facts go for Salomaki. Salomaki scored more points with three goals in three games and consistently hit way more.
So, this leads to down to the question, who should start on the third line? Salomaki makes a great case for bringing a physical presence to the third line, while Aberg brings more skill. It really depends on what head coach Peter Laviolette wants from his third line.
I personally think Aberg deserves the spot, but time will tell.