Next man up
Now is the time for Juuse Saros to take the throne from Pekka Rinne for good. It’s now or never for him as the Predators are already looking towards the future at goaltender with 2020 11th-overall pick Yaroslav Askarov.
But for now, it’s Saros’ net. He undeniably has the skills to be a viable starting goaltender in the NHL. If his time ends with the Predators after this upcoming season, there’s no doubt that other teams will be battling to have him.
Saros needs a full season knowing he’s the guy. Rinne started out 2019-20 on a ridiculous hot streak before fading into mediocrity, Saros then took over and eventually found his hot streak to carry the Predators to a wildcard spot.
For next season to be considered a true breakout for Saros, he’s going to need consistency. He has to avoid those stretches of allowing three or four goals per game, and definitely has to avoid getting pulled for Rinne.
If Saros can keep the confidence of the coaching staff, string together long stretches of solid netminding that helps the young Predators to some wins in the standings, then this will be a breakout season for him.
I’m looking for Saros to start three out of every four games and continue where he left off in March when he had back-to-back shutouts over the eventual Western Conference champions.
A breakout season for Saros that has him in the early conversation a top NHL goaltender can morph the Predators back into a legitimate playoff contender. But the defense in front of him will have to better as well, which the team did address in free agency.
Look for a strong season from Saros as he looks for a new contract after 2021.
There are prospects up in Milwaukee and other leagues, most notably Philip Tomasino, that could also end up breaking onto the roster and making big impacts as well.