Changes are coming for the Nashville Predators, and it’s expected that an injection of youth will be in the starting roster on opening night.
If the Nashville Predators are going to avoid plunging into a dreaded rebuild, then some youth and inexperience is going to need to take charge next season. It’s the only way the Predators are going to remain relevant in a Central Division that keeps getting better.
Free agency most likely isn’t the path to success for the Predators this offseason, with the exception of making a conservative addition or two. Nothing major will happen most likely due to the cap situation.
So this leaves the door open for prospects to make a splash and make their dreams come true in the NHL. We’ve been hearing about some of these prospects for a couple seasons now, like Alexandre Carrier and Eeli Tolvanen.
The hope was that some of these guys would’ve gotten a chance in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, but Head Coach John Hynes decided to keep the starting lineup the same through all four games.
New faces in the lineup?
Carrier and Tolvanen have the best chance to immediately make an impact on the starting lineup going into the season-opener of 2020-21. If they’re not ready now to make an NHL splash, then when will they ever? They’ve both had ample time to develop in the AHL.
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Tolvanen has to prove he’s a well-rounded player that can handle bigger defenders physically and be more than just a power play specialist. If he can put in valuable minutes much like a Rocco Grimaldi does, then he’ll have a full-time place on the roster.
As for Carrier, I’m really excited to see what kind of offensive flare he can bring the bottom defensive pairing. The Predators got virtually zero offensive contributions from their third-line defenseme last season.
Carrier can solidify a spot for himself in the starting lineup for the Predators if he can even do half of the offensive production he’s done with the Milwaukee Admirals in the last two seasons.
Despite the shortened AHL season, Carrier had 37 points in 55 games and looks ready to get his chance in the Predators’ starting lineup. He can add a new blend of speed and offensive skill that’s been lacking there for a while now.
Philip Tomasino is the prospect that’s going to catch everyone’s attention going into preseason training camp. He’s a dynamic player that can hopefully find a spot on Nashville’s second line next season with Matt Duchene.
Trenin needs to absolutely be in the starting lineup for the season-opener. He’s already proven that he’s ready for NHL ice time on a regular basis and can bring a physical element that was missed last season.
Others with a chance to start
Pitlick will be in the running for a starting spot, but it depends on what happens with pending free agents such as Mikael Granlund, Craig Smith and Colin Blackwell. Two of these three probably aren’t returning, and to free up cap space I’d expect it to be Granlund and Smith who don’t return.
Many think that Allard deserves a hard look at getting into the Predators lineup. He does a lot of the little things very well and just needs more development. He’s got a bright future for sure.
After looking through all of these prospects, what’s clear is the Predators are about to be much younger. They were one of the oldest teams in the 24-team playoff field this past season.
If these prospects can quickly adjust to the NHL and know their roles behind the top players on the roster, then the Predators can still compete for a playoff spot.
There’s a foundation to build around, but youth and inexperience will have to be leaned on more than it has been in quite a while in Nashville. Combine that with a head coach going into his first full season with Nashville and you’ve got the makings of a much different team than we’ve seen in recent years.
Opening night of next season for the Nashville Predators will be very interesting to see what Hynes and GM David Poile decide to roll out, and what prospects they give NHL opportunities to on a more permanent basis.