Nashville Predators: Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino key to defending Central Division

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It is the first time the Nashville Predators will ever defend a division title. Their success depends on how Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino perform.

There is no doubting the historic season that was 2017-18. Coming into the season, eyes were on the Nashville Predators. Could they continue the success that led them to their first Stanley Cup Final? Would it be the year they won their first division championship? The Predators were in the “contender” column of the NHL conversation.

Much of the season lived up to the hype. Nashville achieved their best record in franchise history. Pekka Rinne won the team’s first performance-based award. When the regular season was complete, the Predators won the Central Division crown and the Presidents’ Trophy.

The curtain opened on the playoffs and the Predators’ train was filled with analysts and pundits who believed they could win it all. The rest of the story is well documented.

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There is no doubting the Central Division is going to be difficult. Players like Patrik Laine and Nathan MacKinnon seem to grow on trees here. The Winnipeg Jets are the favorite this season, and it is a well-deserved honor. Colorado is making strong headway as a team and look to be a rival on the rise. Then, you have teams like Dallas and St. Louis that just will not give way to anyone. Plus a strong Minnesota squad.

Am I missing someone? Hmmm……

With the strength of the division, the Nashville Predators will have a tough road to repeat as the champion. To do so, Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino must step up. And big.

Centers of attention

There is no questioning the depth the Predators hold at the center position. Ryan Johansen is arguably one of the better top-line centers in the NHL. Of course, being flanked by Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg doesn’t hurt. The leaders of the second and third lines are somewhat in question.

For all intents and purposes, Turris has a solid season for the Predators last year. With 13 goals and 29 assists wearing the gold sweater, Turris finished eighth on the team in points. However, when and where are a concern. Twenty-four of his points game in December and March, combined. Yet, only eight points were tallied in the total of January and February.  When Turris scored, his team won 49 games (including his time with Ottawa). However, Turris only had four points in all the losses he witnessed this year, and five when the team tied in regulation.

At home? The Predators second line center earned 22 points. That number increases to 29 on the road, in 8 fewer games.

The long and short of it can be witnessed with this stat. While Turris was eighth on the team in overall points, he was tenth among forwards in primary points per 60 during 5v5 action. Turris needs to produce more during even strength.

As for Bonino, the story is a bit different. His 25 points on the season were the lowest he earned in the last five seasons. Part of the issue was injury keeping him out of training camp and early games. It took time for the Nashville Predators to find their groove with Bonino on the ice. It doesn’t help that he was deployed in the offensive zone only 36.2% of the time.

The Predators relied on Bonino for defense more than scoring. The 64 takeaways he earned were a career high. However, the team had a +1 goal differential when Bonino was on the ice. For comparison, Turris finished the season with a +21 differential, Johansen was at +12.

There is great speculation about who will play on the third line next year. Does Eeli Tolvanen find a regular place there or on the fourth line? Will Austin Watson miss significant time? Who plays around Bonino will matter.

Next. For better, while worse. dark

There is potential for great play from the center position for the Nashville Predators. Turris and Bonino are proven players. However, if the team wants to retain their Central Divison title, both Turris and Bonino need to produce more offensively.  With the right players around them, it can happen.