After a long wait, the Nashville Predators have released their initial starting roster that they’ll take into the 2020-21 NHL season which starts later today.
Six NHL teams open their season before everyone else on Wednesday, while the Nashville Predators will start their 2020-21 campaign on Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
There wasn’t much time at all between submitting your first roster and the season-opener. The Predators will have 23 players on their starting roster, with five players on their taxi squad, per CapFriendly:
Nashville #Predators 2020-21 starting roster:
23 players (13F – 8D – 2G)
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 13, 2021
There’s not too much that comes as a surprise in the initial NHL roster. Most of the players you expected to be in there will start off on the NHL squad. However, things are going to remain fluid all season.
The starting lineup
The Predators have a decent amount of cap space to work with as they enter the regular season, with over $4.3M according to CapFriendly. There’s only five teams that have more projected cap space.
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The top of the lineup comes as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention this offseason. The Predators will roll out with Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson (known as the JoFA line) as their top line.
This trio really needs to return to old form if the Predators are going to return to the playoffs and make any noise once they get there.
The second and third pairings were a little uncertain, but as of now those four will be Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, Mark Borowiecki and Matt Benning. A solid and deep core of defenseman that should help the Predators dramatically improve defensively.
Perhaps the biggest surprise to make the initial starting lineup is Yakov Trenin. Not because he doesn’t deserve it, but because I wasn’t so sure they’d give him the opportunity. However, I’m pleased to see him get into the starting lineup again.
Luca Sbisa and Jarred Tinordi will most likely be defensive extras on the lineup for Thursday’s season-opener. Sbisa was just claimed off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets and is purely a defensive depth piece and hopefully nothing more.
You’re going to need veterans to lean on when unforeseen things occur to some of your starters, so I somewhat understand the addition of Sbisa, but also thought there were much better options out there.
Mikael Granlund is still looking to get through COVID-19 protocols after having immigration issues. Tough break to not have him available right out of the gate:
Roster updates from Head Coach John Hynes:
– Philip Tomasino is in Nashville and quarantining. He should be back on the ice soon.
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) January 10, 2021
Erik Haula might evolve into the most impactful offseason acquisition for the Predators. He’s a net crasher that does so many little things well. He should match well with Matt Duchene on the second line, possibly along with Luke Kunin.
Taxi squad observations
The much-discussed taxi squad comes in initially with five players on it:
You can have up to six players on the taxi squad, so you’d expect Philip Tomasino to eventually be slotted in there as well.
Many roster projections throughout the offseason had Tolvanen penciled into the starting lineup, and even on the second line with Duchene. Instead he starts on the taxi squad, but he’ll almost certainly get into the starting lineup at some point.
Tolvanen might get his starting opportunity sooner rather than later if Arvidsson can’t go. He’s out of Wednesday’s practice, per Adam Vingan:
Viktor Arvidsson is not practicing today after getting “nicked up” in practice yesterday, to use John Hynes’ words. This could be an opportunity for Eeli Tolvanen to step into the top six. He is skating with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen today.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) January 13, 2021
Olivier had two very strong outings in the scrimmages last week, and he’s now been rewarded with a NHL roster spot. Happy to see him succeed and get the opportunity.
Ingram has a solid chance to get his first NHL start this season. With such an odd season we’re about to start with 56 games crammed in, he’s a solid third option for the Predators in net. And he didn’t require waivers to be on there, unlike some other players who will have to be put on waivers to go onto the taxi squad.
I love the depth that the Predators have this season. They’ve addressed a lot of their issues from last season and have done a fairly decent job at replacing what they lost in big-time performers like Craig Smith and Nick Bonino.
Now with that said, they’re still not a serious Stanley Cup contender. They have deficiencies in their forwards after you get past the top line, and scoring will often times be at a premium for them.
For the players who didn’t make the roster, many of them will get opportunities to play with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. With the Milwaukee Admirals cancelling their 2020-21 season, the Wolves are getting prospects who would’ve been normally playing for the Admirals.
After all of the madness this offseason and roster turnover, I can’t complain about this initial roster. Now let’s play some hockey on Lower Broadway.