Next up on our Nashville Predators season grades is Calle Jarnkrok. He’s a player that flies under-the-radar but don’t let that take away from his importance.
Pretty amazing to think that Calle Jarnkrok has now been a regular piece to the Nashville Predators lineup since the 2014-15 season.
Jarnkrok actually made his first appearance for the Predators at age 22 by playing in 12 games and registering nine points. Not a bad start by any means, and he’s remained fairly productive as a bottom-six depth player for a while now.
However, this season the Predators called upon Jarnkrok to get a substantial amount of top-six playing times, and even saw a considerable amount of time on the top line.
Proving me wrong, for the most part
When the Predators were shuffling their lineup around constantly trying to find the right mix, Jarnkrok eventually got an opportunity on the top line.
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I’ll admit that at first I was skeptical of this lineup decision. I’ve always viewed Jarnkrok as a quality player, but in more of a role player style.
A player that will give you around 14 to 15 minutes per game, and not be the reason your team loses. But his role has always been limited. That wasn’t the case this season, and he did better than I thought he would in that spotlight role.
Jarnkrok had 15 goals on the season when the season was paused. He played in 64 of the team’s 69 games, and was right among the team leaders in goals. He also would’ve likely set a new career high in points if the season were to be completed.
This doesn’t mean that Jarnkrok is the prototypical top-line forward. Jarnkrok can definitely elevate into a 40 to 50-point scorer in the near future, but he’s not ideally a top-six player.
If the Predators can get their lineup sorted out, which they were doing before the pause, then I like Jarnkrok in the bottom-six. This isn’t an indictment that he’s played horribly this season, but more about putting every player in their most effective spot.
Jarnkrok’s role changed
For better or worse, Jarnkrok’s role and importance on the team really elevated to a much higher level this past season. Just look at his oZS%, which measures how often he was on the ice for faceoffs in the offensive zone.
Jarnkrok posted the highest percentage of his career in this category at 55.8 percent. His previous three seasons he was in the 40’s. This is why we see his goal totals go up with still 13 games left to play.
Check out this goal from Jarnkrok off the faceoff in the last game played before the pause against the Montreal Canadiens:
— NHL (@NHL) March 11, 2020
With a pretty average shooting percentage of 11 percent, Jarnkrok didn’t fold by seeing his role elevated. If you’re looking for reasons why the Predators flirted with the playoff bubble all season, you should look past Jarnkrok.
However, Jarnkrok’s more effective role is in the bottom-six. He’s a high-quality depth player, and proved that this season.
But there are some defensive concerns that limit him in critical situations late when the game is hanging in the balance. This is what really limits Jarnkrok from being a total lock to be playing top-line minutes. He’s a liability in this area, and he didn’t do much to change that notion this season.
CALLE JARNKROKC, Nashville Predators
Jarnkrok gets a slightly above average grade because he did elevate offensively in the spotlight this season. Defensive liabilities aside, he managed to score just as many goals, or more, as star players like Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen.
It’s not all doom and gloom with Jarnkrok. When injuries occur, or the head coach sees a need to make a statement, then absolutely Jarnkrok can be relied upon to be moved up.
Anyone who was on the fence about Jarnkrok going into this season should be more confident in him now. He definitely didn’t regress in any way, and if anything he showed a moderate spike as he’s approaching his eighth season in the NHL.