The Nashville Predators open up their season on October 3rd against the Minnesota Wild. There are several different line combinations that we could see.
What Most Expect to See
Most people expect to see the JoFA line stay entact with Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. You can’t break up this trip. Here are the other highly-probable line combinations:
Turris at wing? This is one of the most exciting aspects of this season. Can Kyle Turris up his game from last year by transitioning to wing? Turris has an excellent shot and hopefully Matt Duchene and company can set up Turris so we can see what he can really do. This second line will definitely be exciting to watch and keep an eye on.
Besides the first two lines, there are plenty of arguments in opposition to this lineup, and I foresee a couple of problems with this. The third line looks solid but has anyone other than Craig Smith shown consistency offensively?
Calle Jarnkrok appeared in 79 games but only tallied 26 points, which was his lowest total since the 2014-2015 season.
Colton Sissons has shown us that he continues to improve offensively, but can he be a big factor to the Predators’ secondary scoring woes that haunted them last year?
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Smith has proven his consistency over the years by surpassing expectations on the second line each of the last two seasons.He improves his teammates’ games and should be a dominant force on the third line this season.
The fourth line to me is the biggest question mark with Rocco Grimaldi. Grimaldi led the Predators in goals during the 2018-2019 playoffs and continues to flash and shine when the lights are brightest. In a league dominated by speed, why keep him on the fourth line?
Each time Grimaldi gets a chance to prove himself, he does. He could be poised for a monster season, and even though no one has really said much, keep your eye on him.
Defensively this lineup leaves two main questions: Dante Fabbro with Roman Josi? This is definitely probable and something fans would love to see if Fabbro can keep up. However, do not be surprised if Fabbro and Ryan Ellis are flipped in the potential roster opening night.
The second defensive question is the third pairing. Veteran Dan Hamhuis seems to be a lock but the No.6 defenseman is not. Jeremy Davies has personally been my favorite defenseman to watch throughout camp and the preseason, but with Nashville sending him to Milwaukee, we will have to wait to see him suit up in gold.
Matt Irwin seems to be on the bubble of making this roster; he and Yannick Weber have shown many similarities over the years with strong defense but weak offense. Irwin has 15 points in his last 94 games while Weber only has 13 points in his last 109 games.
Newcomer Steven Santini is also fighting for a spot on the third pair, but does not look as solid defensively as either of the two guys above. Regardless, the Predators defense needs to pick up some of the slack they will have after losing P.K. Subban via trade to the New Jersey Devils.
What I Would Like To See:
Scratches: Pitlick, Carr, Santini
This lineup gives Nashville a little bit more “flash”. This makes the third line an interesting variable that could explode or well… do nothing. With a lack of secondary scoring this third line is worth a shot. Could swap out Jarnkrok or Sissons with Bonino to add a little bit more speed and hey, what do the Preds have to lose?
The fourth line is just an absolute shutdown machine. Sissons and Austin Watson, two defensive forwards, throw Nick Bonino on here and this could be one of the best shutdown lines in hockey. (Predators could put Sissons at wing and swap Bonino and Jarnkrok respectively)
In my opinion some combination of this third and fourth line is probable, but we know that Head Coach Peter Laviolette will try 100 combinations, especially early in the season.
The Young Guys:
Eeli Tolvanen is good at hockey, Rem Pitlick is good at hockey. Tolvanen and Pitlick have been sent down to Milwaukee, which makes these roster cuts a little bit easier on the coaching staff. Both guys will definitely get playing time in with Nashville this season, just not yet.
As the final roster cuts are coming up here is who I think we say goodbye to: Matt Irwin, Miikka Salomaki and Freddie Gaudreau. These have been reliable players that I would hate to see go, but in the end why keep them over some of the younger guys when these guys haven’t improved there game much since they got here?
There are a lot of interesting possibilities and combinations with this roster that we’ll find out more about after the final two preseason games. The next preseason game is Wednesday against Carolina.