A month ago, the Nashville Predators were not playing their best hockey of the season. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that they would be heavy sellers at the trade deadline, with Mattias Ekholm being one of the most coveted prizes on the trading block.
Upon his return from injury, Ekholm’s trade stock rose, scoring six points in three games. The fan-favorite seemed to be on his way out of Nashville, with teams like the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs as possible destinations.
More from Predlines
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Kiefer Sherwood
- Captain Candidates if Nashville Predators Didn’t Have Roman Josi
- The All-Time 25 Games or Less Nashville Predators Lineup
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Cody Glass
- Joakim Kemell Flashes his Offense in Nashville Predators Loss to Tampa
What a difference a month has made. The Predators went on a six-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 12 games. Their recent winning surge has quelled the call for a massive rebuild.
The calls for trading Ekholm have also subsided a bit, with many looking for the Predators to keep him on the team for the remainder of the season, extending his contract and protecting him from being taken in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
A player of Ekholm’s caliber is a coveted asset in the NHL. If he were on any other team, he would be on their first defensive pairing.
While we still have no idea what GM David Poile will do at the trade deadline, it appears that he is going to make the smart decision and keep one of the Predators’ leading impact players.
Great Career With The Nashville Predators
The Predators chose Ekholm in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft with the 102nd pick. He has since played 571 games and has 211 points (50 goals, 161 assists).
Ekholm’s best season so far was the 2018-19 campaign, where he scored 44 points (8 goals, 36 assists). His production has ebbed and flowed a bit but 30 point or above seasons are usually the norms.
This year’s short season and missing games due to injury have kept Ekholm in 7th place for the Predators with 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists). Normal circumstances would find him with many more points.
With an average of over 22 minutes on the ice per game and a Corsi rating hovering around 53%, it is clear why the Predators need to make sure that Ekholm remains on the team, especially if they are going to try to make a playoff push this season.
The Defensive Mindset
If the Predators are to continue using “The Predator Way’ as their team mantra, Ekholm will be crucial to continuing and maintaining their defensive mindset.
The Predators suffered from lacking the needed grit to take on bigger teams in the league in the past. They have done a better job this season of getting back to that mindset, and having Ekholm has been a contributing factor.
At 6’4” and 215 lbs, Ekholm is a tough customer to go against on the ice. While not always his forte, his ability to score, usually near the blue line, is a bonus to his defensive capabilities.
Ekholm Is A Keeper
There are many contributing factors to make a case for keeping Ekholm on this Predators team, regardless of what you could get for him on the trade block. His stock is high, but the need for veteran leadership and consistency is a must if they go through some sort of mini rebuild.
Ekholm’s consistency, defensive prowess, and aversion to missing games due to injury make him an asset that should be kept at all costs, even if it means other players could be traded or exposed in the expansion draft.
The Predators have an excellent defensive core that only keeps getting better. With a few adjustments and the continued development of Fabbro and Alexandre Carrier, they will help lead the Predators into the future.
Ekholm is a vital component of this team, the only one for which he has ever played. And while it is evident that Poile needs to make some adjustments to the roster, such as permanent roster spots for the younger players, Ekholm should not be a part of that conversation.
At 30 years old, Ekholm’s best years could be in front of him. With continued consistency in a linemate and the Predators’ growing defensive prowess, he could be a formidable force on the roster for many years to come.