Nashville Predators: Newcomers Have Spotlight in the Scrimmages

Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki (74) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki (74) Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

In this shortened training camp for the Nashville Predators, it’s going to be crucial to evaluate what’s working in the upcoming scrimmages.

The time has finally come as the Nashville Predators will take the ice for a game. It’s a game against each other, but nonetheless we’re going to get some Predators hockey as we lead up to January 14 and the season-opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Training camp for the Predators has been underway since Monday, with some key players missing for different reasons.

Luke Kunin was the major one in camp due to ongoing contract negotiations. His deal has finally been done for two years, $4.6M:

The first intrasquad scrimmage for the Predators will come tonight and offer a first look at some of things Head Coach John Hynes is trying to implement.

Seeing how the newcomers look

The obvious first thing to pay attention to is how the new players on the roster look. How will they fit into the lineup is a major key to all of this when watching these scrimmages.

Kunin is a wildcard for me. I have no idea whether to slot him on the fourth line or the third line to start the season, but he should almost certainly end up in the starting lineup.

Morning skates reveal that Kunin will be playing on Team Gold with Matt Duchene, per Brooks Bratten of the team’s official website:

Kunin has also been seen skating alongside Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok in camp. That could make a very effective fourth line options for the Predators on opening night.

Other newcomers on the team that will need to find spots in the lineup and avoid the taxi squad is Nick Cousins, Brad Richardson and Matt Benning. All of these players should get extensive work in the scrimmages.

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Mark Borowiecki comes in here with a lot of excitement as he’ll bring more defensive toughness and tenacity to a lineup that really needs it. I’ll be interested to see where he winds up, either on the second or third defensive pairing.

We can’t overlook Connor Ingram in net. He won’t initially take starts away from Juuse Saros or Pekka Rinne, but don’t count him out to be quickly called upon if goaltending becomes a major issue.

Ingram is one of the top players in the scrimmages that I’ll be tuned in on. I want to see how he performs in live action against NHL players, because in the AHL he’s been dominant and it’s time to see if that can translate to the NHL.

On a smaller scale, Matt Benning will be fighting for a spot on the third defensive pairing, which was a sore spot in the lineup all last season. Can he rectify that spot in the lineup and hold off some prospects, like Alexandre Carrier, and also Yannick Weber ( professional tryout).

Old teammates reunited

Technically Mikael Granlund isn’t a “newcomer”, but he was signed back by the Predators after testing the open market. He should be slotted in on that second line with Matt Duchene, but all eyes are on him to finally look more like the player that was in Minnesota before coming Nashville.

Erik Haula was a rather surprising late addition, and many are clamoring for him to be paired with Granlund due to their history and ongoing friendship from their Minnesota days.

Haula has missed part of camp due to the birth of his first child, but he’s a veteran who should pick things up quickly once he gets here. He should be in camp very soon.

Granlund has been dealing with immigrations issues that’s kept him out of training camp. Another important piece to the puzzle that is the Predators trying to get back to being a legit Stanley Cup contending team.

The hope is if these two can’t play in the first scrimmage that they can get work in together in the second scrimmage.  I want to see if there’s any chemistry on the ice to work with and possibly put them together on the third line.

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As GM David Poile has already emphasized, there’s a lot of roster competition and we should see that at the forefront in the upcoming scrimmages. New players on the team are on short contract deals and effectively auditioning for long-term deals after this season, if not in Nashville then somewhere else.

Tonight’s scrimmage will be broadcast on 102.5 The Game and streamed live on the team’s official website. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. CDT.