Nashville Predators: Are They Really Destined to be a Lottery Team?

Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in game four of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Luke Kunin (11) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in game four of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

With the rebuild term being thrown around a lot this offseason for the Nashville Predators, it’s only natural to think that they’re going to be near the bottom of the NHL standings and get a lottery pick.

The NHL Draft Lottery rules have went through some changes in recent times. Most recently the odds have been shifted to more heavily favor the last-place team in the regular season standings from plummeting backward in the draft order.

Other changes include not letting the same team win it more than twice in a five-year period, but that won’t starting adding up until after the 2022 lottery.

Most of the standings projections I’ve come across have the Predators finishing anywhere between fifth to seventh place in the division.

One thing we know about the NHL is there’s usually at least a couple teams that outperform their preseason expectations, and the Nashville Predators are a team that still has plenty of veteran talent at the top that can push this team farther than any of us are expecting right now here in August.

The Nashville Predators are very different from 2020-21, but can we expect the same disappointing results?

Surely the Nashville Predators aren’t going to be this bad, right? Teams that miss the playoffs get a percentage chance, for most pretty miniscule odds, to win the lottery based on the final regular season standings.

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If the Predators end up being one of the bottom 11 teams in the standings, then they’ll have a chance at the No.1 overall pick, which they’ve never had in their franchise’s history.

Now how high of percentage that chance will be for the No.1 overall pick will be determined by just how bad they actually end up being.

It’s definitely fair to say that the Predators will end up being one of these non-playoff teams in 2021-22. But falling in that small group of horrendous teams that will have the best odds at a top-three pick? I don’t think they’ll be quite that bad.

The next draft class is expected to be much more loaded with talent than this past one, and I know Predators fans are sick of seeing the same result where the team makes the playoffs, but loses in the first or second round and falls back in the draft order to miss out on drafting one of the top prospects of the draft class.

This fanbase is so hungry for a Stanley Cup, and unfortunately the team has gone completely in the wrong direction since 2017, and it’s going to take time and patience to build it back up.

Where do the Predators fall in the Central Division?

With the Central Division returning back to it’s normal set of teams, the road to the playoffs looks more daunting than ever for a young, rebuilding team like the Predators are. The wildcard format returns, and that’s the only way they’re going to sneak in once again. That top-three finish looks unattainable.

Let’s go ahead and say unequivocally who is better than the Predators in the Central Division currently as the season-opener is about a month and a half away when they open against the Seattle Kraken at Bridgestone Arena.

The Colorado Avalanche are the best team in the division, hands down. They’re my pick to win the division, and I really didn’t have to think about it for too long. Call that going chalk, but I can’t pick against such a loaded roster.

There’s actually a considerable drop-off from them to the other teams in the division that will be battling for a top-three spot and automatic playoff berth.

I have the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets interchangeable at the No.2 and No.3 spots in the early Central Division pecking order. Both teams have gone through some changes but should still be much better than where the Predators are at right now.

That leaves the rest of the division battling for the two wildcard spots along with the much weaker Pacific Division. The Dallas Stars are another team that may have gotten a little worse over the offseason, but should still be viable contenders for at least a wildcard spot.

The St. Louis Blues are nothing too impressive, while the Chicago Blackhawks have been in a rebuild of their own for a while now, but seem to be poised to finally make some noise. I put the Predators in this grouping with Chicago and St. Louis. A painfully average grouping at that.

The Predators aren’t going to be a doormat. They’ll pull off their share of upsets, and should have enough on their roster to be in the wildcard hunt post All-Star break. Do they have enough to outlast a team like the Stars or Blues? That’s a tall order and a leap of faith I’m not ready to take.

This season really is all about letting your youth develop and build that valuable NHL experience, while also hoping that your veterans that still remain come out with career-high type of seasons.

Juuse Saros alone will steal some big wins for this club, and I actually think the power play will show some decent improvement as they switch up some personnel.

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This team is honestly extremely hard to put a peg on right now. It could end up going surprisingly well or be a complete disaster the likes of what we haven’t seen in over a decade with this franchise that’s usually always a lock to at least make the postseason.

The Predators are going to finish in the mid-80’s in points if I had to place a bet, with their ceiling at the 90-point mark, That would still more than likely be short of a playoff berth, but I also don’t think they’ll be down there with the likes of the Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes and Ottawa Senators as one of the worst teams in the NHL.

However, there does seem to be a solid chance that the Predators will have a top-ten pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, which would be their firs top-ten overall pick since they took Seth Jones in 2013.