The Nashville Predators have made the necessary cuts to their roster. After the dust has settled, Predators fans can expect serious production.
The Nashville Predators have a reputation in the NHL for having a truly elite group of defensemen. You know the saying, “Offense wins games; defense wins championships.” Well (like most sports), in hockey, you need to win the games to get to the championship. Luckily for citizens of Smashville, the Predators are boasting a pretty impressive offensive core as well. With preseason cuts now in the rearview mirror, here’s a look at the slimmed down group of forwards.
Several roster selections for the Predators were absolute no-brainers. Among those are Ryan Johansen and Nick Bonino. While Bonino missed the entire preseason due to a lingering injury, he is a tested NHL center who is ready to contribute. Johansen, of course, is essentially the building block for the entire Predators offense.
Notable selections in the group of centers are Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok. More likely than not, they’ll occupy the third and fourth lines, respectively. In terms of preseason performance, here’s how this group did:
All in all, I think the Predators made the right decisions here. I’m a little wary of Sissons’ appeal being inflated by his postseason. Additionally, placing Jarnkrok at fourth center makes his expansion-draft-protection over James Neal seem awfully expensive. That said, both guys have shown they have the potential to succeed at the NHL level. I have high hopes for this young group of centers.
This group of players will, in my opinion, populate the first and second lines. Fans will have extremely fond memories of the so-called “JoFA” line from last year, but I think the Nashville Predators can be smarter this year. The four most dangerous wingers on the Predators’ roster right now are Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Kevin Fiala, and Miikka Salomaki.
For consistency’s sake, here are the pre-season numbers for these guys:
I cannot express enough how excited I am for Kevin Fiala. Here’s what’s really interesting though: the majority of Fiala’s pre-season was spent alongside Filip Forsberg. Because the Predators have worked to address their depth at center, I want to see Fiala stay on the first line with Johansen and Forsberg. Arvidsson can move to the second line with Bonino and drive the second line’s production, while Fiala continues to develop alongside top talent.
A final note here: don’t be surprised if Craig Smith replaces Salomaki on the second line.
A team’s less-talented, untested, or more physical players typically occupy the third and fourth lines. The bulk of the Nashville Predators’ tough roster decisions came from this group, which includes Pontus Aberg, Craig Smith, Austin Watson, Scott Hartnell, and Cody McLeod. Here’s one last look at some preseason numbers:
In an attempt to avoid profanity, I’ll say this: I am incredibly confused by a couple of these choices. Aberg underperformed in the preseason, but he will bounce back quickly. Smith has the potential to be a top-6 player again. Hartnell offers a good presence on the power play, and will definitely be a good voice in the locker room.
Trust me, there are no two guys on the Nashville Predators’ roster that I’d rather get a beer with than Cody McLeod and Austin Watson. But let me be clear – with Frederick Gaudreau and Vladislav Kamenev as the alternatives, this was the wrong decision. Again, I personally love our fourth line grinders, but the team missed a big opportunity here.
I have a strong feeling that the decision came down to waiver exemptions. Neither Gaudreau nor Kamenev can be claimed by another team, so it makes sense to leave them unprotected. However, in terms of making the Nashville Predators the best hockey team they can be, this is simply a case of ignored potential.
The Nashville Predators begin their 2017/18 season on Thursday night with a really solid group of forwards. The center core is better than it has ever been. The speed and talent of Forsberg, Fiala, and Arvidsson will decimate opposition on a regular basis. Though, the team did miss the mark with a couple of the bottom-six players. That said, production is not going to be an issue for this offense.
Consistency is key. If these players can stay aggressive and motivated throughout the season, few teams will be able to slow down the Nashville Predators.