Nashville Predators: Rocco Grimaldi’s Roster Spot Not a Lock

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 05: Nashville Predators center Rocco Grimaldi (23) skates with the puck during the Nashville Predators versus the Montreal Canadiens game on January 05, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 05: Nashville Predators center Rocco Grimaldi (23) skates with the puck during the Nashville Predators versus the Montreal Canadiens game on January 05, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The bottom six for the Nashville Predators has a lot of question marks, and Rocco Grimaldi is a big piece of that equation.

Last season was somewhat of a coming out party for Rocco Grimaldi. His numbers weren’t eye-opening by any means, but appeared in a lot of games and became a regular towards the end of the season. He became a fan favorite of sorts among Predators fans, because everyone loves the underdog who shows more hustle than anyone else on the ice. The postseason, albeit a short stint for the Nashville Predators, saw Grimaldi really shine.

Now the question going into 2019-20 for Grimaldi is if he can be a reliable contributor and avoid falling off the everyday roster. He had never played in more than 20 games in a season before playing in 55 games last season. In those 55 games he tallied 13 points, but really caught fire in the playoffs. His raw energy that can’t always be seen in the box score really highlights his game.

Over the offseason, Grimaldi inked a new deal through arbitration, getting one-year for $1 million. This deal gives him a great opportunity to become a regular on the NHL level, and translate his solid AHL career numbers into the highest level with the Nashville Predators. He can give the Predators a lethal scoring weapon to their third and fourth lines, depending where Peter Laviolette wants to put him.

Why he’s valuable to the Predators

Grimaldi may not be a top line forward, or a blockbuster acquisition like Matt Duchene, but he’s still vital to the depth of this team. The championship-caliber teams don’t have major drop-offs from their top two lines and their bottom six. These teams can beat you in many different ways, and the Predators are sorting out their bottom six as the regular season is quickly approaching. Training camp, which has already opened, is going to be a time to sort out a lot of competition to make the NHL roster.

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The high energy level that Grimaldi brings is a hot commodity. We saw that firsthand in the playoff series against Dallas when he put up three goals. The Predators lost in six games, but they got wins in two of the games that he scored in. One of his three scores came in Game 2 when the Predators were trailing 1-0 on the scoreboard and already down 1-0 in the series. Huge momentum-changing goal.

You need energy on all of your lines, but it’s especially valuable when you can get it from guys outside of your top two lines. It’s an added bonus, and it’s something the Predators need more of this season. There was too much inconsistency from this part of the roster, forcing the top line of Ryan Johansen and company to do a lot of the heavy lifting. I like Grimaldi being that firecracker that ignites the bottom six when they sometimes seem to be asleep at the wheel. But you also have to bring more than just a lot of hustle and grit.

Sorting out the bottom six

Grimaldi isn’t a lock to be on the opening night roster. At least that’s my opinion. There’s a lot of competition going into training camp for just a spot or two on the roster. How he performs from then on will determine how long he sticks around. Yes, he just got paid by the Predators, but not for a huge investment.

We don’t have a large sample size on the NHL level to go off of in Grimaldi’s career. He has just 90 career games over five NHL seasons. His AHL career, on the other hand, is a very productive one with 76 goals on that level, good for just under an average of 20 goals per season. Can he translate even half of that production to the Predators this season?

Other locks in the bottom six heading into training camp for me are Austin Watson, Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons and Nick Bonino. That doesn’t leave much room for Grimaldi. He needs a strong training camp to hold off a surging Eeli Tolvanen, who’s making a case to make the team immediately on opening night. Then you have to factor in others like Daniel Carr and Miika Salomaki who are directly competing with Grimaldi for a spot in the bottom six.

I’m just skeptical that’s there’s enough room on this roster to have a spot for Grimaldi. He puts a lot of pucks on the net, which casual fans love. But his value doesn’t go much past that, along with his high energ. There’s more to hockey than that, and his game has to round out more for me to be totally confident that he comes anywhere close to another 50-plus games for the Predators this season.

Grimaldi is one of the most likeable players on the team, so hopefully I’m pleasantly surprised that he finds the back of the net more often and sticks around. He’s one of the top players to watch in training camp and the preseason to see if his hot streak from the playoffs has carried over to 2019-20.