For the Nashville Predators to remain top contenders, the bottom six has to continue to grow. Colton Sissons fits into that equation.
There are a lot of intriguing qualities about the Nashville Predators that make them a fun team to watch, most notably because of their top line and their stellar goaltending. But the bottom six has been under scrutiny for not producing enough, and players like Colton Sissons have to keep showing growth into next season.
Focusing on Sissons, here’s a guy who is really entering the peak of his career. He’s been on the NHL level since 2013, but hasn’t really broken through to the next level yet. He’s shown glimpses, like his hat trick in the 2017 Western Conference Finals to eliminate the Ducks and send the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final. That seems like ages ago, and now Sissons is still trying to make the next big leap in his career.
Now Sissons is in arbitration and will hopefully come to an agreement soon with GM David Poile. This is getting lost due to the bigger priority at stake, which is getting a new deal done for captain Roman Josi. Most arbitration cases are settled before it gets too dramatic, so let’s hope that’s the case for Sissons. He’s a big part of keeping the bottom six productive, while there’s also still some hope that he makes a big leap forward in the coming season. Let’s grade his season.
Sissons has played in 156 of 164 possible regular season games over the last two seasons, including 75 in 2018-19 . Durability is a valuable asset to have. He’s become a regular of the Predators’ lineup, mainly in the bottom six. Does he do anything at an elite level? Not yet, but he’s just 25 and has had plenty of stellar moments that you hope become more of the norm in the upcoming years.
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As for last season, Sissons upped his production by setting career highs in goals and plus/minus. He’s a guy that flies under the radar, but provides valuable ice time to the bottom six. He gets overlooked by all of us because he’s not really in the spotlight. However, he’s a guy that is gradually showing improvement. Not all players are instant superstars like Filip Forsberg. In the case of Sissons, he’s continuing to show improvement and illustrated that this past season.
Notching 15 goals is solid production from a bottom-six center, and I fully expect him to be the third line center at the start of the upcoming season. With Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene leading the way at the center position, Sissons fits into the role nicely on the third line. Last season’s performance from him makes me confident in saying that. He’s a critical piece of the future of the Predators if they want to avoid rebuild mode.
Another area that really stood out last season from Sissons is his leadership and versatility. He was called upon by Peter Laviolette to move all throughout the lineup due to injuries. He even saw time on the troubled second line, and performed admirably. With Duchene in the picture, now Sissons can really make a regular impact on the depth of this squad. His 2018-19 production can easily be repeated, but his assist numbers need to continue to climb. I can live with 15 goals on the third line from him, but getting his wingers involved and putting them in better scoring scenarios is where he can really make a leap next season.
How he can get better
The biggest thing with Sissons is keeping on the path he is already going on. When I think of the downfalls of the Predators last season, Sissons doesn’t come to mind initially. He, along with most of the team, didn’t show up in the first round of the playoffs against Dallas. We can blame a lot of factors on that, but it was a team effort on not showing up.
Sissons is entering a huge year for his career. Once his new deal gets hammered out, it will be time for him to prove he can sustain the responsibilities of being the most important bottom-six player on this roster. Last season he took a step forward in many areas, and now he needs to sustain that. Where he can really leap forward is improving his assist numbers and his possession metric. He posted just a shade under 50 for his Corsi percentage, which is very average. I want to see him control possession more and take over shifts.
Josi is obviously the biggest priority right now, but Sissons isn’t far behind. His ceiling keeps rising and he’s just now reaching his peak years. Last season reaffirms that. As with a lot of current players on the Predators, we need more consistency. But when looking at trends, Sissons is certainly going in a positive direction. His season grade is a B+, and look for him to play a vital role on the third line to start the regular season.