Forsberg enters the season under the spotlight more so than every before in his NHL career. He’s always been a focal point as the team’s best forward, but it’s multiplied exponentially now.
Criticism will come fast and furious if Forsberg opens up the season on a drought, which can happen to the best of them, and also if the team stumbles as a whole.
If that happens, is Forsberg prepared to work through the outside noise and show everyone that the Nashville Predators were wise to bring him back on an eight-year deal?
Nashville Predators need Forsberg to play at elite level
It goes without saying that Forsberg can’t just be a decent, quality player anymore. He has to be on that superstar level, or very close to it. We all know he has the skills to be on that special tier of players.
When you see Houdini style goals like the one Forsberg scored against the Golden Knights last season, you understand why he’s held in such high regard as a top tier talent in this league:
Watching Forsberg last season score at such an efficient pace last season was truly something to behold if you’re a lifelong fan of the Nashville Predators. We’ve just never seen forwards go on prolific offensive runs with this franchise.
Forsberg hit while the iron was hot in his contract year. He couldn’t have timed it out any better and put the Predators front office into a situation where they had to pay him. The fact that Forsberg took a team-friendly deal was refreshing to see.
The table is set for Forsberg to have another highly productive offensive season for the Predators. Expect him to play with Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund as the top line of the team, and this trio’s chemistry will be the engine of the team.
Forsberg set career highs in points (84), goals (42), assissts (42), and power play points (27). Not to mention the defensive aspect of his game didn’t slow down, either, with his second-highest career total in hits and a career high in blocks.
It’s going to be a tall order to repeat this, but Forsberg needs to at least come close to this kind of production. He can’t slump down to a sub-70 point scorer. That will be a bad sign.
Forsberg should be able to play a lot more loose and free this season with the contract behind him, and the Predators improving their top-six by adding Nino Niederreiter. The Predators have two top forward lines they can roll out that can be productive, meaning all of the scoring pressure doesn’t have to be on Forsberg’s line.
Impressively, Forsberg was among some of the NHL’s most elite goal scorers last season in terms of Goals Per 60 Minutes. He was third in the category according to MoneyPuck.com, on a top-10 list with players like Leon Draisaitl, Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews and Chris Kreider.
More importantly, it really comes down to Forsberg producing under the bright lights of the postseason. He has had two consecutive playoff showings that were less than ideal. Just one point in four games against the Avalanche, and three points in six games against the Hurricanes the year before.
In the regular season Forsberg is at 0.82 points per game for his career, but in the postseason he slips to 0.70 per game. Not a huge drop off, but you’d like to see that if anything else increase when it really matters.
Can Forsberg bottle up whatever that was that launched him into elite status last season and take it into 2022-23? I think he can come very close to that production thanks to the stability this team is building around him.
Predictions for Forsberg in 2022-23
I’m probably being a little conservative here with my prediction, but I have Forsberg falling in the 70-point range, but still having a very strong season for the Predators.
Last season a lot broke perfectly for Forsberg with the emergence of Duchene on the other wing, and Granlund returning to the team in free agency when it looked like at first he was gone. An improved power play boosted his numbers, so we’ll have to see if that also repeats itself.
It’s impossible to predict injuries, but a big reservation I have about Forsberg reaching the 90-point plateau for the first time in his career is that he just hasn’t been able to get a full season under his belt since 2016-17.
If Forsberg avoids a long-term injury stint then 90 points is conceivable. That’s just a really tough feat to accomplish for anyone to stay healthy for the full season.
Finally, the reason I have Forsberg’s production slightly regressing is I don’t see him replicating a 18.6 shooting percentage. I’ll go with 38 goals, 35 assists for 73 points. That would still be his second-highest point output of his career, and I’ll be satisfied with that.