Nashville Predators Training Camp Primer 2021: A New Beginning

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 /
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Every year training camp feels like a “new beginning”, but this year particularly more than others feels like a fresh start for the Nashville Predators.

The time is finally here with NHL training camps starting back up. We’ve gotten some appetizers with the prospects participating in the development camp and the Prospect Showcase in Tampa Bay, but now the real deal begins. The journey for a Stanley Cup.

I know what you’re thinking; The Nashville Predators aren’t winning the Stanley Cup this season, but hey, that’s why they play they games. You never know in this crazy sport we call hockey.

The first practice won’t occur until tomorrow (Friday), but the players have already appeared at Centennial Sportsplex where training camp will be held over the course of three weeks in preparation for the 2021-22 season-opener at home against the Seattle Kraken.

The 2021 Nashville Predators Training Camp Roster

The training camp roster was announced on Wednesday with not many surprise invites on there. There are 55 players invited, and the roster will eventually be trimmed down to 23 players for the first starting lineup against Seattle on October 14.

Many of the players invited also just participated in the Prospect Showcase, which showed mixed results but did end in exciting fashion with a win over the Carolina Hurricanes prospects in overtime with a goal from Tommy Novak.

Here’s a full look at the training camp roster per NashvillePredators.com:

Perhaps what’s more interesting about the training camp roster isn’t the well-known veterans like Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, Matt Duchene and others. It’s the young and talented prospects who are fueling this “competitive rebuild” and have decent chances at making their presence known on the NHL roster as soon as the season-opener.

Of course the first player that jumps to mind in that regard is Philip Tomasino. Many feel strongly about his chances of earning a starting role out of training camp, so seeing how he performs in this camp and in the six preseason games is going to be something to focus on.

Another rising prospect is David Farrance. He deserves just as much attention on him in this training camp to try to earn a starting spot. He probably has more to prove than Tomasino as there’s less roster room with the defensemen, but it’s still worth keeping tabs on.

Not to be overlooked is the other prospects who may be still a little ways away from cracking the NHL roster, but should still gain plenty of attention as they compete with their fellow veteran players who have been the subject of scrutiny for the past postseason failures that has plagued this Nashville Predators team since their 2017 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Key veterans who need to to bounce back and have something to prove

When it comes to the core veterans who still remain, it’s vital that they have a strong and energized training camp. Lackadaisical effort will be a bad sign, and in no way do I think that will be the case. These players have to be hungry after doing the unthinkable down the stretch of last season to make the playoffs, and actually give the Hurricanes a bit of a scare in the first round.

With that said, let me circle back to Forsberg. He’s got to be the leader of this team, alongside Josi. It’s crucial that he takes that next step into elite status.

Speaking of Josi, it may have seemed like he had a “down year” last season, but that was really only by his elite standards. His point efficiency was down a bit, but I fully plan on him having a tremendous bounce-back year as one of the top defenseman in the NHL.

Outside of those two veterans, some questions and concerns start to arise. It won’t take long at all for the criticism to swell if Duchene and Ryan Johansen get off to another slow start. They need to also have a strong camp showing and look like veteran leaders.

Mikael Granlund came back after once again testing free agency. That was a big deal to get him to come back to be another key piece to the top-six for a team that’s probably going to struggle to generate a lot of goals.

And finally, all eyes will be on how Juuse Saros looks in his preseason action as it’s now fully his team between the pipes. Pekka Rinne has retired, while David Rittich has taken on the backup role. Saros has pressure on him now that he’s the top starter, taking over for a glorious Hall of Fame worthy career from Rinne.

Starting lineup projections

Training camp needs to settle the uncertainty of what the starting lineup will look like to open the season against the Kraken. It’s very much up-in-the-air as training camp open. Even the players we know are locks for the starting lineup don’t necessarily have absolute lines they’ll be on.

Even the top line is up for debate and might come down to how Head Coach John Hynes feels like training camp went. He might have an idea of what he wants, but strong or poor showings in training camp can definitely end up altering his stance on that.

The third line really gets tricky and has the most room for roster competition. This is where Tomasino’s landing spot could possibly come, and also you have to factor in Cody Glass.

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It’s a hard sell for me to think that Glass won’t be in the opening night starting lineup. He was one of the players the Predators got in return for trading Ryan Ellis away, and I just can’t see him starting off on the bench. Plus, he brings offensive upside and hopefully help on the power play.

Rocco Grimaldi fits into this roster competition debate, although it’s not due to anything wrong that he’s done with his play. Unfortunately, it might be difficult to find roster space for him when you look at players like Glass, Nick Cousins, Mathieu Olivier, Yakov Trenin, Tanner Jeannot and Tomasino also battling for those coveted spots.

It’s hard to remember a training camp roster with this much room for debate on who should start, who should be a healthy scratch and who should be in the AHL to start.

Nashville Predators Preseason slate

We don’t have to wait long  at all to see the Predators debut in the 2021 preseason schedule. They’ll get it going with a doubleheader on Sunday against the Florida Panthers, a team they just saw in the Prospect Showcase with many of the same players who will be in training camps.

After that, the Predators will come back to Bridgestone Arena for a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday September 30. It’ll be awesome to see fans back in Nashville cheering on the Predators against the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.

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They’ll face the Lightning again that following Saturday for a road game before wrapping up the preseason with two games against the Carolina Hurricanes. So all four of these teams are getting plenty of time spent together in exhibition games with the Prospect Showcase and the preseason.

These are three high quality opponents for the Predators to test themselves against and get a measuring stick for the coaching staff.

Rejoice, hockey fans. It’s finally back and we’ve made it through the desert that’s the NHL offseason. Nashville Predators hockey is here.