A good fourth line can be the difference between a Stanley Cup and a third round exit. The Nashville Predators seem to have a slight issue with theirs.
The Nashville Predators actually have quite an envious issue. One that almost every team in the league would be begging for. The Predators have too many good players to put on their fourth line. I think we can all agree that Miikka Salomaki has played his way onto the roster during the pre-season. He hit everything in sight, posted good possession numbers, driven play, and potted a few goals for good measure. But the question remains, whos spot will Salomaki take, if any?
The Current Fourth Line
There’s a lot of difference in opinion when it comes to bottom sixes and especially fourth lines. Old school heads will say the fourth line needs to bang bodies and play with an aggressive edge. While the new age will say that big guys aren’t necessary to winning anymore. And they’ll most likely point to the Penguins or Blackhawks as they say it. As always the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but for now, the Predators have a decent mix.
Austin Watson on the left, Frederick Gaudreau at center, and Colton Sissons on the left are currently the fourth line. They’re a big group as the smallest of them is 6’0 tall, but none of them are the stereotypical slow skaters. Watson is the biggest but he’s consistently moving his feet and using his speed and physicality to make plays happen. Frederick Gaudreau is a bit of an unknown commodity but has had some good seasons in the AHL and will look to impress in his first full season. Meanwhile, Colton Sissons has spent 58 games in the NHL but hasn’t looked too impressive until the playoffs. A 15 or more point campaign will solidify will status, but who knows if he’s capable of hanging with the big boys.
Well, he’s not exactly a newcomer but Miikka Salomaki looks to take a place in the line-up. The top nine is fairly cemented but the fourth line is still unclaimed territory. Salomaki can easily step in and fill in on either wing, although he’s usually a right wing. He already has a full NHL season under his belt but lost his usual spot last year due to injury. Well, now Salomaki’s back and he looks ready to reclaim his rightful spot.
Who’s The Odd Man Out?
Well here’s the tough part. I think Austin Watson is unmovable on the roster, as he’s been a consistent power forward who can do anything that’s asked of him. Watson plays decent even strength minutes, penalty kill, and he can score upwards of 15 points. Sissons and Gaudreau are not so cemented. Gaudreau is unproven and young, but he is a center so Salomaki might not be up for his position (that might be Kamenev’s future position). So that leaves Sissons. Sissons has never really posted good stats, simple or advanced. Besides some post-season heroics, Sissons hasn’t really done much at all. Salomaki could easily come in and replace Sissons with ease.
The Nashville Predators boast a great number of NHL worthy forwards, now they just need to figure out where they go.