Nashville Predators: Best American Predators of All Time

2002 Season: David Legwand. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
2002 Season: David Legwand. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images) /

We celebrate America’s birthday by taking a look back at some of the best Americans to play for the Nashville Predators.

Like most hockey teams, the Nashville Predators have seen a wealth of talent come from other nations. If you take a look at the current roster you’ll see a ton of Canadians, a good number of Swedes, two Finns in goal & a couple of Czechs on defense. These are countries where hockey is the sport of choice during the winter, though it seems that Canada finds more success in basketball these days.

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, I can think of no better time to look at some of the great Americans that have played for the Nashville Predators. They’re not as great in number as the Canadians, Swedes, Czechs, Finns or even Russians, but the Predators have seen their fair share of American excellence.

Nashville Predators
(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images) /

5. Mike Dunham

The first goalie to don the Predators sweater hailed from Johnson City, New York & came to Nashville through the Expansion Draft. Mike Dunham was Nashville’s starting goalie for a good portion of the franchise’s first five seasons. He split time with Tomas Vokoun & assorted others in goal while the young Predators tried to figure things out and become a competitive hockey team.

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By most metrics, Dunham rates as the third-best goalie in Nashville Predators history. He’s played in the third-most games & has the third-most wins. He has the worst winning percentage & worst GAA of Nashville goalies that started more than 25 games, but can you really blame him? It was an expansion team back when the NHL didn’t make things easy for newcomers.

Nashville Predators
(Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) /

4. Colin Wilson

You don’t really think of Greenwich, Connecticut as a sporting mecca. However, they’ve given us Donovan Mitchell & Colin Wilson in recent years. Like current Predators phenom Dante Fabbro, Wilson played his college hockey at Boston University. He was selected seventh overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft & spent most of the next eight seasons in Nashville.

Wilson is most remembered by Predators fans for his playoff exploits. He never quite lived up to his high draft status during the regular season, but a different Colin Wilson would show up during the playoffs. He scored five goals during Nashville’s first-round series with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2014-15 playoffs. The Predators’ 2015-16 playoff run can largely be credited to Wilson’s play. In 14 games, Wilson scored five goals and had eight assists for a total of 14 points. He had a grand total of 6 goals & 18 assists spread out over 64 games during the regular season. Playoff Colin Wilson was widely beloved in Nashville.

Nashville Predators
.(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

3. Ryan Suter

You almost forget that Suter started his career with the Predators. (I’m joking, based on the crowd reaction he still gets at Bridgestone Arena, Predators fans haven’t forgotten or forgiven him.) Nashville selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He made the league in 2005-06 & became part of Nashville’s top defensive pairing with fellow 2003 Predator draftee Shea Weber for most of the next several years.

Suter was very successful during his time alongside Weber. Weber was the scorer while Suter fed everybody the puck, ending up with 200 assists in his seven seasons with the Predators. He’s continued to improve after signing with the Minnesota Wild, and honestly, it seems like the Wild have as many former Milwaukee Admirals as the Predators do these days.

Nashville Predators
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

2. Craig Smith

Just like Suter, Smith was born in Madison, Wisconsin & played for his hometown university. He made it to the Predators straight out of UW-Madison & has played nearly 600 games over the course of 8 seasons. His first point in the 2019-20 season will be the three hundredth of his career. Smith’s 144 goals are the fifth-most among Nashville Predators.

The Predators have an extra gear when Smith is on his A game. His line with Kyle Turris & Kevin Fiala helped lead Nashville to the Presidents Cup in 2017-18. They weren’t as successful in 2018-19, and Nashville’s win-loss record wasn’t as good. One of the keys to Nashville’s 2019-20 season will be Smith finding his groove & scoring more than twenty goals. He’s done it more often than not.

Nashville Predators
. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

1. David Legwand

The original Nashville Predator still holds ownership of much of the club’s record book. His 956 games played are the most by almost two hundred. His 166 goals, 356 assists & 566 points are all team records. Legwand has the fourth-most penalty minutes, the eighth-most power play goals, the second-most shots on goal & the second-most short-handed goals.

Legwand was a vital part of the first fifteen seasons of Nashville Predators hockey. He served as the face of the franchise. In 2014, he was part of a trade deadline deal that sent him to his hometown of Detroit. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, his homecoming wasn’t much to write home about, as he was held pointless during Detroit’s first-round exit from the playoffs.

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As for Nashville, one of the players acquired in the trade was Calle Jarnkrok. Predators fans were sad to see Legwand go, but at least David Poile got something for him.

(h/t to Hockey Reference, who provided every single stat I cited in this column.)