Nashville Predators: Full Breakdown of Their Opening Night Roster

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) is hugged by teammates after a shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes in what could be his final game at home at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) is hugged by teammates after a shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes in what could be his final game at home at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The season-opener for the 2021-22 Nashville Predators season is quickly approaching, and they have their 23-man roster set after making a couple last minutes decisions to get it completed.

This was an offseason that saw a lot of roster movement for the Nashville Predators, making these roster cuts all the more difficult heading into training camp.

There were a lot of positive outcomes from training camp and the preseason and assisted Head Coach John Hynes in not only deciding who will be on the roster, but also how those line combinations will come together.

Hynes’ comments on regarding the training camp intensity level and his optimism are encouraging, and probably made his roster decisions even harder.

 “[I’m] really optimistic by a lot of individual performances throughout the preseason, very optimistic about the team chemistry and how guys have worked together and pushed each other, and the environment around the team is positive”-Head Coach John Hynes

Time to go through this entire roster in detail and see what they have going up against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.

The forwards bring the Nashville Predators a blend of youth and veterans

The group of forwards really came into a clear picture for the most part after a successful preseason, saving us a lot of suspense leading up to the deadline. However, there was one last spot that was uncertain up until it was made official. Here’s the final group of forwards heading into opening night:

Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, Mikael Granlund, Luke Kunin, Eeli Tolvanen, Cody Glass, Philip Tomasino, Nick Cousins, Tanner Jeannot, Colton Sissons, Yakov Trenin, Rocco Grimaldi

The decision all came down to if Tomasino would make the roster or not. He definitely gave coaches every reason to see that he’s NHL-ready and can help this team win games immediately.

The injury to Mathieu Olivier more than likely played a hand in this decision as he’s going on IR, paving the clear path for Tomasino to definitely make the roster. It made Hynes’ decision a little easier.

Tomasino is going to bring offensive upside to a team that really lacks it once you get past the core veterans of players like Forsberg, Granlund, Josi and Duchene. This is why Tomasino making the roster was a clear-cut answer for me.

The expected top line of Forsberg, Johansen and Duchene gives some cautious optimism that the three of them can quickly find chemistry and return to their past levels of success.

There really isn’t any other major surprises among the fowards. It’s awesome to see Glass easily make the lineup with no questions about it. He was acquired through the Ryan Ellis trade, and he’s going to be leaned on to also boost the offensive upside of the Predators and help the power play.

Speaking of the power play, Tolvanen definitely hasn’t had any regression, which is awesome to see. He’s expected to take another major step forward as an everyday NHL player.

The defensive core

The Predators, to the dismay of many, are carrying eight defensemen into the season-opener. That also shouldn’t have come as much of a shock to anyone as this team is going to lean on it’s physicality and defense to win a lot of low-scoring types of games.

Roman Josi, Alexandre Carrier, Mattias Ekholm, Philippe Myers, Dante Fabbro, Ben Harpur, Mark Borowiecki, Matt Benning

Much like the forwards, the defensemen came down really to one last spot and if they would indeed carry eight players in this position group. Once again, if the Olivier injury that sends him to IR doesn’t happen, then maybe he takes a spot from one of these players.

As it stands, you see a rugged group of defensemen with not much offensive flash after Josi, Carrier and Ekholm. This team is going to hang their hat on being a rough and physical type of team that blocks a lot of shot, protects their goaltender and performs well on the penalty kill.

The real question comes down to who starts on the third pairing, and even to narrow it down more, who gets the sixth spot in the starting lineup on Thursday?

If you ask me, I’m going with Borowiecki over Harpur or Benning. Borowiecki brings a veteran leadership and appears to be ready to start fresh again after having a challenging first season in Nashville both on and off the ice.

I can trust Borowiecki to make the right decision while out there, be a leader for his linemates and even chip in on the penalty kill.

The defense seems like a pretty fluid situation, so don’t be surprised at all if this group struggles on the back end. That will prompt Hynes to make a call-up eventually to either a Jeremy Davies or David Farrance, who are next up if these depth struggles on the third pairing.

The Predators are really banking on the young trio of Carrier, Fabbro and Myers to all continue to progress in their respective careers and play valuable NHL minutes as part of a defensive-minded team.

Related Story. Remaining Veteran Core Has Lots to Prove for Nashville Predators. light

No surprises at goaltender

There were thoughts that Connor Ingram would push for the backup role to Juuse Saros, but that was before David Rittich was signed at the end of July.

So the tandem of Juuse Saros and Rittich is what the Predators are going with, with Saros obviously prepared to be the workhorse. I can easily see Saros eclipsing 50 starts this season as long as he avoids injury.

Rittich is going to be vital on back-to-backs to hold serve and not be a liability in net, which I don’t think he will be. He can definitely be a worthy backup that will give Saros that vital rest to keep him fresh throughout the 82-game season.

Any analyst who is projecting the Predators to even sniff the playoffs again this season, it’s largely due to what they’re going to accomplish in net and if Saros can push for his first Vezina Trophy. But Rittich can’t be overlooked in this case as he’ll be in the neighborhood of 20-plus starts and will play a role if the Predators are near that playoff bubble.

The healthy scratches won’t be announced until gameday, but I’m going to expect to see Grimaldi scratches from the forwards, paving the way for Tomasino to get the start on the third line. I would prefer Borowiecki to get the sixth starting spot on defense, but Harpur seems like the most likely starter, making Borowiecki and Benning the other two scratches.

Overall, I’m pleased with how the roster has come together after an offseason that was pegged as the start of a “competitive rebuild”.

After all of this, it’s important to remember that the Nashville Predators are going to be the type of team that probably leans heavily on making necessary call-ups throughout the season. I’m looking at you, Egor Afanasyev.