Adding a bonafide top-six center is always a good thing. The Nashville Predators will love how the acquisition ripples throughout the line-up.
Good center depth is like good goaltending, it can cover a lot of mistakes. The best example was the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last year. The best center depth in the world covered a depleted and broken defense on the way to the Stanley Cup. The Nashville Predators have spent the last six months or so looking for an answer to their center depth issue. After protecting a center in the expansion draft and signing a center in free agency, the Predators have seemingly found their man.
Now it’s a bit presumptuous to say that Kyle Turris will fix all their problems, but he’s proven he can a 1A/1B kind of guy. Even though he has issues that Predlines contributor Michael Wade highlighted, Turris should fit perfectly as the second guy on the depth chart. But this acquisition won’t just be felt on the second line or the power play. No, this will be felt throughout the entire line-up as other centers will get more favorable matchups. So without further ado, here are my hopeful third and fourth lines, negating injuries.
Once again, I’m not accounting injuries for this article so expect to see Bonino. That said, my third line would be Kevin Fiala–Nick Bonino– Calle Jarnkrok. Here’s why, Fiala and Bonino are both left-handed while Jarnkrok is a righty. I would love for Jarnkrok to center but it wouldn’t be wise to put two lefties on the wings permanently. That said, Jarnkrok is still winning over 52% of faceoffs and should see the dot whenever it’s on his strong side.
This is a big physical high energy line who can play against other teams’ second lines in a shutdown role. Although, I’d much rather they play in a scoring role so that Fiala can regain some confidence. Fiala is a possession driver who always has his eyes focused on the enemy’s net, two defensively responsible players like Jarnkrok and Bonino might be exactly what he needs. If Bonino or Jarnkrok don’t end up working out or if the Predators want someone more offensively focused, they can plus in Colton Sissons. The righty isn’t as defensively responsible but he has better offensive instincts.
Overall this third line would dominate possession and hopefully drive scoring. Jarnkrok has found his touch over the last week or so. The Nashville Predators would hope that Jarnkrok’s recent scoring would infect Fiala. Also, I could easily see Bonino play on the fourth line to allow him an easy start after the injury. It’s so early in the season that I would allow Bonino all the time he needs to make a full recovery. Especially now that he’s not expected to fill the second center position.
The best teams in the world have a fourth line that they can count on to not give up goals and maybe contribute. The Nashville Predators will now have one of the best in the league, as long as Cody McLeod never sees it. My fourth line is Miikka Salomaki-Colton Sissons-Austin Watson.
Austin Watson needs to play in this line-up every night that’s healthy. He’s a dynamite penalty killer, adds physicality, and plays a defensively sound game. There’s a reason that Laviolette sends Jarnkrok and Watson out during the last minute of almost every game. Both are extremely solid in their own right. Watson can also bring a bit of scoring, but that’s just a bonus. Also for all those who think that this line-up needs an enforcer, Watson can fight. Although the Predators are a better team when Watson is on the ice, the same can’t be said for McLeod.
Then there’s Colton Sissons. He has four points in 14 games, but he’s been relatively snakebitten like most of his teammates. Putting him on the fourth line might help him regain his scoring touch as he can pick on lesser talent. But like I said, he can move up to the third line if Jarnkrok or Bonino disappoints.
Who’s left out?
This was tough for me because I like Pontus Aberg‘s potential and Frederick Gaudreau has been the energizer bunny recently. I think that Aberg will likely stay on the roster once the Nashville Predators activate Bonino off the IR. That, unfortunately, means that Gaudreau will return to the AHL, but I don’t think that’s smart. The Predators now have five capable centers on the roster, as well as Emil Pettersson in the AHL. I think Gaudreau should be traded for a mid-round pick or possibly in a package for more defensive depth. Especially if Alexandre Carrier cannot make his return to the NHL for any reason.
Pontus Aberg and Salomaki should work in a platoon so Laviolette can play them in favorable games. If the Predators need more skill, then Aberg is available. If the Predators need more of a physical presence, then Salomaki is ready to go. The player left out is Cody McLeod. I’ve discussed how useless he is in the past and I won’t indulge too much now. But my general thoughts are play the men that can play hockey at an NHL level, and McLeod can no longer do so. I would love to send McLeod down to the AHL so that Gaudreau can stay up, but that doesn’t seem likely.
The full line-up!
So this references my prior article, but here’s the full line-up of forwards.
extras: Aberg, Gaudreau or McLeod
This is the best forward group the Nashville Predators have ever had. The excuses are over, it’s time to win.