It’s going to be a fluid situation all season long for the Nashville Predators and their taxi squad. But who starts off there is an interesting debate.
The season-opener for the Nashville Predators is now under a week away despite not even being a full week into training camp. It means decisions have to be made fast by this predominantly new coaching staff.
Head Coach John Hynes is going into his first full season behind the bench for the Nashville Predators, and he’s tasked with sorting out a roster full of healthy competition. It’s not a bad thing to have so many roster spots up for grabs, but one that will require some tough decisions to make.
The biggest area to sort out naturally is the taxi squad that’s serving as somewhat of a backup plan or practice squad due to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’re already seeing our first couple of team outbreaks with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars:
The Predators are slated to play the Blue Jackets in their season-opener, so we’ll have to wait and see if that game is rescheduled.
The taxi squad will almost certainly be called upon at one point or another by pretty much every team in the league. If not due to COVID-19, it could be for poor play on the starting roster or a non-COVID related injury or absence.
So where do the Predators stand with their taxi squad? They have plenty of options that will hopefully be sorted out through their scrimmages and the remainder of training camp practices.
There are no preseason games to assess the team against another opponent.
The leading candidates
Let’s start with one of the more obvious choices, and that’s Philip Tomasino. A rising prospect that’s been all over everyone’s radar since he was drafted in 2019 in the first round.
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Tomasino just finished off an impressive showing at the 2021 World Junior Championship for Team Canada, so he hasn’t been able to participate in training camp yet.
Even with the missed training camp time, he should be an absolute lock to start the season off at least on the taxi squad. There’s high probability that the OHL season will no happen, so Tomasino needs some way to continue his development through games and practices.
Another highly likely taxi squad choice is defenseman Alexandre Carrier. A player that’s made a name for himself in the AHL for the Milwaukee Admirals, but has never been able to crack the Predators roster for an extended amount of time.
Carrier was drafted in 2015 and has appeared in just five NHL games. His time has to be now or maybe never in the NHL. And on the plus side, Carrier actually brings an offensive element to his game that other bottom pairing defenseman for the Predators haven’t brought.
Another defenseman I like to start off on the taxi squad is Jarred Tinordi. Some fans may cringe at that thought, but he has NHL experience from last season with the Predators, and he’s a serviceable backup plan if all else fails.
Connor Ingram is virtually a lock to be on the taxi squad at goaltender. If either Juuse Saros or Pekka Rinne struggle dramatically and start costing the team games, then Ingram could very well be called upon. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Other possible candidates
Michael McCarron is a popular and logical choice for the taxi squad. A player that you feel is on the cusp of making the full-time jump to the NHL. He has 69 games of NHL experience with the Montreal Canadiens, but only managed eight points in those games.
There’s a strong possibility that Eeli Tolvanen doesn’t show coaches enough in training camp to start him initially in the opening night lineup. He’s certainly rounded out his game over the last year, but with so many roster additions this offseason there might not be room for him.
Rem Pitlick has always been another prospect trying to work his way up to the NHL roster. He’s probably not quite there, but a strong camp could possibly entice Hynes to make a bold move there.
These taxi squad decisions are vital for many reason, but a big one is sending a player to the taxi squad is just like sending them to the minors. They may have to clear waivers if eligible, so you have to be willing to possible lose that player if you send them to the taxi squad.
This might change after seeing the remainder of training camp and the scrimmages, but here’s my current taxi squad:
- Connor Ingram
- Philip Tomasino
- Eeli Tolvanen
- Alexandre Carrier
- Rem Pitlick
- Michael McCarron
These GM’s and coaches have a tall order in hand this season to manage all of this. Some teams are going to get burned through this, while others will make the tactical decisions to put forth the best roster to handle this condensed 56-game schedule.