Nashville Predators Have Reloaded Their Defensive Core Again

Nashville Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier (45) talks with Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier (45) talks with Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Stop and tell me if you’ve heard this before about the Nashville Predators; they’ve once again figured out a way to stockpile promising young defensemen to go along with their veterans.

The Predators have always been really successful at developing homegrown defensemen to come through the prospect ranks and eventually make a sizeable impact on the NHL level.

It all really started with Shea Weber all the way back in January of 2006 when he made his NHL debut. Since then, the Predators have brought up numerous defensemen to help them rise into being a legitimate contender in the playoffs.

I have to be honest; it looked grim after last season when it came to the future of this position for the team. There was a bunch of unproven talent in the AHL, but for the most part it was a defensive unit that leaned heavily on Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis to carry them.

With the team looking to avoid a rebuild and even make a splash in this year’s playoffs, it seems that they’ve yet again got their defensive unit built back up into a strong one.

Nashville Predators have reloaded defensively

Although the team has taken a considerable dip over the past couple of seasons, the defensemen group has been reloading. We’ve gotten a chance to see it firsthand this season with young players like Alexandre Carrier, Ben Harpur, David Farrance and Jeremy Davies.

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Harpur came over in an under-the-radar trade in February 2020 that sent Miika Salomaki to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Harpur has ended up making an unforeseen impact on the third defensive pairing thanks to all of the injuries that have mounted up.

Carrier has had promise for a while now in the AHL ranks, and finally got his opportunity and thrived in it before taking an unfortunate injury that still has him sidelined. His future looks very bright for the Predators as possibly a top-four defenseman.

After mentioning all of those young defensemen, I still haven’t even mentioned Frederic Allard. Another rising defenseman with a ton of promise as he’s made his NHL debut earlier this season.

Through all of these injuries to players in their defensive corps, the Predators have discovered they have a stockpile of promising defensemen to lead them through what might be a minor rebuild. There’s a lot of contracts to sort out among their forwards, and also with veteran defenseman Mattias Ekholm.

The Predators are going to try to re-sign Ekholm I’d presume, and are more likely to lose a forward like Colton Sissons or Calle Jarnkrok in July’s expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken.

You can even include Dante Fabbro in this conversation of “young” defensemen on the rise as he’s just in the midst of his second full NHL season at age 22. Some people are giving up on him way too soon in my humble opinion.

This could be a much more unsettling situation if the aforementioned young defensemen failed miserably in their call-ups to the starting roster earlier this season. It would leave the Predators wondering what their future looks like at the position.

Now the Predators at least have actual NHL game experience to go off of, and can focus on other areas of the team to get back into being Stanley Cup contenders sooner rather than later.

What to focus on to be a more complete team

The Predators need pure goal scorers badly, and they have a few rising through the ranks in that respect as well with Philip Tomasino, Eeli Tolvanen and Rem Pitlick. But aside from those three, there’s still a lot to figure out when it comes to offensive playmakers coming through the prospect pool.

Sure, the Predators still have Filip Forsberg as their top dog to score goals and could eventually hit that 40-goal mark we’ve all waited on him to reach. But the Predators need more that just Forsberg to turn into a dynamic scoring offense and be a more complete team.

When this team lost Craig Smith for basically nothing over the offseason, they took a big blow in terms of losing a pure goal scorer.

The defense is going to be this team’s bread and butter for the near future, which is fine by me. I’d rather have a team to build around strong defensive play than the other way around.

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Now we know what to build on around a strong crop of defensemen and what we expect to be stable goaltending with Juuse Saros, and his backup which still needs to be determined as well in the offseason.

The Predators find themselves in a promising spot that could keep them from diving into a massive rebuild thanks to the rise of these young defensemen this season.