Perhaps no Nashville Predators player made a bigger leap than Filip Forsberg did last season. He’s trending into superstar territory.
A major reason the Nashville Predators are a top-tier team is due to their top line, the JoFA line. Filip Forsberg leads that charge along with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. All three had solid seasons as the Predators won the Presidents’ Trophy, but Forsberg finds himself on another level. His game became more complete and consistent.
There’s never any doubt that Forsberg is a pure goal-scorer. We’ve known that from the beginning. However, last season showed me he can make waves in other areas of the game as well. His 2017-18 numbers are impressive, especially considering he only played in 67 games. That’s efficient work as he finished as the team leader in points with 64. That’s also a first for the franchise to see a player eclipse 60 points in such a few amount of games, per David Boclair of the Nashville Post.
Another area I like to see developing for Forsberg isn’t measured in the box score. That’s his swagger and poise. This guy stays calm and collected in the most intense situations, and really feeds off the fans. Sometimes he makes the toughest, most-skilled plays look entirely too easy. We saw plenty of that in Forsberg’s sixth season in the NHL.
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Forsberg sets several career-highs
I like to see how players are trending in their careers. Are they plateauing, heading in the wrong direction or still peaking? In Forsberg’s case, he’s definitely trending into superstar status. In 2017-18, Forsberg set career-high marks in numerous categories. The most uplifting one for me is how he’s becoming a better passer. He’s not just relying on scoring goals to impact the team.
Forsberg’s 38 assists narrowly topped his previous career high set back in 2014-15, when he played all 82 games. That’s an important note to remember. With 15 more games played, Forsberg’s totals really could’ve ended up being special.
Another encouraging new career high for Forsberg is his 13 power play goals. That puts Forsberg in the top 20 of the league, with the leader being at 20. Again, who knows where Forsberg ends up with 15 more games under his belt. I’d venture to say he’d be near the top. Him becoming such a lethal threat on the power play is a great development for the Predators heading into next season.
Other career-highs set for Forsberg this past season is his plus/minus rating, shooting percentage, and total points. All in 15 fewer games than previous seasons. The Predators regularly had the upper hand on the opposition when Forsberg was on the ice. His plus-27 mark shows his dominance on the JoFA line. A major luxury for the Predators. I think it’s safe to say the best is still yet to come for Forsberg.
Forsberg misses all of January, gets suspended
An upper-body injury ends up interrupting a productive season for Forsberg. That injury came in a game against Minnesota in late December. The Predators managed to go 7-4 without him anchoring the top line. A seven-game goal drought leading up to the injury is a big factor into why his goals were down. His lowest total since his first full-time season when he also scored 26 goals.
The controversial three-game suspension is still perplexing for me. Shortly after Forsberg’s return from injury, he gets suspended by the league for a “head blow” to the Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey. The Predators go 1-2 in that span without him. This suspension just highlights the inconsistency that the NHL has when making these decisions. I hate the suspension, but love the fact that Forsberg is adding a physicality presence to his game.
If Forsberg plays all 82 games and keeps the same pace, he’s easily near the top of the NHL in points at season’s end. That’s how great of a season he had. Next season is when he could end up erupting into an elite scoring threat. We shouldn’t use the term “elite” lightly, but that’s where he’s heading.
If you have to pick a team MVP, outside of Pekka Rinne, it’s hard to leave out Forsberg. When he’s on the ice, he usually shows up to make big things happen. He nearly averaged a point per game in the season. His dramatic spike in power play production and his plus/minus rating are my two biggest takeaways from his season.
Very seldom have the Nashville Predators had players who reach elite status on a league-wide level. You can say that Rinne is that, but a goal-scoring forward to reach that status is rare for this franchise. Forsberg is approaching that elite level. He’ll get there sooner rather than later if we keep seeing more highlight-reel goals like the one from the first round of the NHL playoffs:
I’m as excited about Forsberg’s future as I am any current player on the Predators. He hasn’t reached his peak yet. He has more to accomplish on a personal level, as well as winning a Stanley Cup for the Predators. Him surpassing the 80-point mark and 40-plus goals is not all that far-fetched after watching the progress he made in 2017-18. That’s obviously assuming he plays all 82 games, and avoids the NHL’s wrath on controversial suspensions.