Nashville Predators: Youth Movement Features New Strengths

Nashville Predators (Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)
Nashville Predators (Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports) /

By virtue of their own decisions and the forcing of their hand, the Nashville Predators have finally unleashed the youth this season, and it has given fans reason to be optimistic for the future.

First and foremost, this heavily inexperienced squad has won six in a row and seven of their past eight games, and who knows what they can pull off as they progress.

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What I will focus on is the talent that some of these youngsters have brought to the table. They show me strengths that I have not seen in even the most prominent players that have come and gone through the organization.

Here are the reasons I think this new era of Predators hockey has a chance to be more exciting than previous ones.

A Bonafide Shooter

One of the main reasons for the Predators’ continued offensive woes has been their lack of a consistent shooting presence.

Yes, Shea Weber and P.K. Subban, who have two of the NHL’s hardest shots, played for the team.  But they are defensemen and thus limited offensively, especially when it comes to putting pucks in the back of the net.

Filip Forsberg has a pretty lethal shot himself, but would you recognize him as elite in that department?  No, you wouldn’t.

Enter Eeli Tolvanen, whose ability to put the puck in the net from far out is already injecting fear into goaltenders across the league.

I mean, just look at this absolute rifle he fired against the Stars earlier in the month.

Not even two full months into assuming a full-time role at the NHL level, he is already making a difference, transforming the team’s power-play from one of the worst units in the league to one that is at 20.2 percent in a little over a month.

His eight goals in 27 games this season are another huge bright spot.

Tolvanen has room to improve as a playmaker and at even strength and is sure to do so as he gains more experience.  He even made two spectacular passing plays to set up two five-on-five goals this past weekend in Chicago.

With time to diversify his game, there is a chance that he could become a 40-goal scorer in his prime.  The Predators have never had one before, and along with his shot, Tolvanen has the opportunity to be the catalyst that could take the team’s offense to the next level.

Grit and Forechecking

Another area (or lack thereof) of the game in which the Predators have struggled over the years has been physicality.  Outside of a few players here and there, such as Austin Watson, they have not had many imposing players who have been able to frustrate opposing teams.

A lack of effort could also be attributed to this, as I remember several games that I have been screaming at my television that nobody was forechecking.

That was until the “Herd” line, consisting of Yakov Trenin, Colton Sissons, and Mathieu Olivier, came along.  If you follow my Twitter, and especially if you look at my live tweets from Saturday night’s game, you can see how enamored I have been with this trio.

Not only are they big bodies, but they have been exceptional at creating opportunities from down low as a result of aggressiveness.  Even if their rushes have not resulted in many goals, the sheer effort they have given on a nightly basis has been inspiring.

I cannot remember off the top of my head when the Predators had a full line of players that could consistently rough up their opponents, and that is what the “Herd” line looks like they will be able to provide for the future.

New Offensive Identity

When the Predators were at the height of their Stanley Cup contention, their forward core was known more for its depth than anything.  Unfortunately, none of those players were or are game-changers, and when it came to their actual style, they became bland and easy to figure out.

With Tolvanen in the lineup, the Predators have a chance to have an elite offensive player for the first time in their existence.

The “Herd” line is already making them a little harder to play against, which is part of what is needed to be a perennial Cup contender.

This new and revamped Predators offense will be able to beat other teams in more ways than one, and this much harder to decipher.

I do not want to get too far ahead of myself, but based on what I have seen from the youth, I cannot help but be ecstatic about what they have a chance to bring to the table.

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