Offseasons are a time to put out rankings and get fans talking, and the NHL Network has us reacting to where they ranked Nashville Predators players.
The NHL regular season is quickly approaching, and the Nashville Predators rookies report to camp in less than two weeks. It means we won’t have to live off trade rumors and offseason rankings to get our hockey fixes. However, we do have to dive into NHL Network’s players rankings broken down by positions.
We all are a little biased towards our own team. However, sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. The Nashville Predators have a roster full of great talent that has made them a perennial playoff team for the past several seasons. They come into this season with a lot of the same pieces that have made them so consistent in recent memory. But how did NHL Network rank these same players that have taken the Predators to the playoffs year after year?
Pekka Rinne gets ultimate snub
I have to begin with Rinne’s ranking from the NHL Network:
Rinne coming in at No.9 is laughable and frustrating at the same time. To think that the 2018 Vezina Trophy winner is now barely cracking the top-ten is baffling. He’s been one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders for several seasons now. The only justification I can make for them is they thin Rinne is past his prime. Before I scrutinize this ranking too much, let’s look at who is ranked ahead of him.
Ahead of Rinne at No.8 is Jordan Binnington. Binnington took the NHL by storm, like the rest of the St.Louis Blues, and played a key role in making an improbable run to winning a Stanley Cup. In 30 starts, Binnington posted a win in 24 of those games. He allowed less than two goals per game, which is astonishing. With that said, how can you put a guy with just 33 career games on the NHL level ahead of Rinne? This is an overreaction to him winning the Stanley Cup. I need a larger sample size before claiming he will keep up this pace.
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Braden Holtby and Tuukka Rask are two others I wouldn’t have ranked ahead of Rinne. Rask’s high-danger save percentage is much lower than Rinne’s last season, as is Holtby’s. How goaltenders perform in high-danger situations is important to how I rank these guys. Rinne has made a career out of making spectacular saves to allow the Predators to steal two points in the standings.
My ranking for Rinne puts him in the top-five behind Andrei Vasilevskiy, Sergei Bobrovsky and Ben Bishop. These three have proven track records and are coming off of great seasons, with Vasilevskiy claiming the Vezina Trophy. You can interchange Carey Price and Rinne for No.4 or No.5, but putting Rinne narrowly in the top-ten is downright disrespectful. For what it’s worth, the fan vote didn’t even put Rinne in the top-ten.
Where did Roman Josi rank?
The Nashville Predators have always been known for having elite defenders, and Roman Josi has been leading that charge for a while now. Ever since Shea Weber left for Montreal, Josi has taken over as the team’s leader on the ice. He has carried the “captain” title well and is easily the most recognizable Predators player nationally, with the exception to Rinne.
Now to get to Josi’s ranking from the NHL Network. He’s the one player on the Predators that seems to usually get the national respect he deserves. He checks in at No.8 on NHL Network’s top defensemen, which I actually believe is a fair assessment:
Obviously there’s a lot of competition and great defensemen in today’s NHL. Gone are the days when defensemen are just out there to be big bodies and stop the opposing offensive attacks. Josi is the prototypical offensive defenseman. His speed and skating ability makes him tough for the opposition to stop. He rushes the opponent’s zone like no other defenseman in the NHL.
Josi is that quiet assassin that will come out of nowhere to strike for a big goal. He’s played in 70-plus games in each of the last six seasons, putting up 50-plus points in all but one of those years. Where he draws criticism is from taking too many risks which leaves the team vulnerable to counter attacks.
This is one ranking I can get on board with. It’s difficult to sort out all of the league’s great defensemen. Brent Burns takes the No.1 spot, and there’s no argument from me on that choice. After him you can have a lot of debate on how to sort out the likes of Victor Hedman, Seth Jones, Erik Karlsson and many others. If Josi can improve upon his assist numbers and bolster up his power play production, it could really elevate him to a position to claim his first Norris Trophy.
I’m not shocked that Mattias Ekholm isn’t in the top-20 for defensemen. He’s drastically underrated, even by his own fans. He does all the dirty work and is a more traditional defenseman. He’s not going to get you the glamorous highlight reels, but he plays physical and doesn’t seem to ever take a play off. His offensive game has been gradually rising as he shattered his career-high in points with 44 and his plus/minus rating of plus-27. I’d put him in the top-20 and take out either Colton Parayko or Zach Werenski.
Now let’s get to the star-studded list of the top-20 wingers, according to NHL Network. There’s not a Nashville Predators player to be found on this one. Somewhat surprising to not see Viktor Arvidsson or Filip Forsberg on this list. Two players that play such a critical role in all of the recent success the Predators have had. The on-ice chemistry they have with each other is a beautiful thing to watch.
Arvidsson came in 25th in the NHL in goals with 34, but only tallying 14 assists hurts him when ranking him against so many other elite wingers. Forsberg needs to get closer to playing the full 82-game slate to really pile up his production and make a push for being in the top-20. His game is more complete than Arvidsson’s and has a better chance of being considered a top-20 winger in the future.
Finally, let’s get to the centers. Again, the Nashville Predators fail to get one player ranked. Ryan Johansen had a career high in assists with 50, but his low goal production keeps him from being in the top-20. Matt Duchene, one of the newest members of the Predators, also fails to crack the list. That means out of all of the positions, the NHL Network ranked just two players from the Predators in their rankings.
These rankings are a reflection of the Predators not being considered a top-heavy team. You’re not going to find many elite superstars, but there are plenty of high-quality players from top to bottom that collectively are capable of winning a Stanley Cup. That’s more important when building a Stanley Cup contender. Expect to see many more players from the Predators on these lists at this time next year, most notably Duchene, Forsberg and Ekholm.