Last season the Nashville Predators outperformed expectations thanks to several career years from key players, and the question now is can they do that again on that level?
Training camp opens later in September, as well as a four-game preseason slate against the Panthers and Lightning, followed by an exhibition against SC Bern in Switzerland on October 3.
Let’s take a took at some storylines for the Nashville Predators that will be followed during training camp and the preseason.
1. Prospects looking to make the Nashville Predators roster
Most of the starting roster looks pretty set for the Predators, but that doesn’t mean a prospect or two can’t make a huge splash and impress coaches to think twice.
Tommy Novak, who has already shown he can play effectively on the NHL level, has a chance to make a statement in training camp and reclaim a starting spot on the fourth line. He’s a prospect to keep an eye on throughout camp.
Another player who has a much lower probability of making the initial roster for the Predators, but still is worth tracking closely, is Egor Afanasyev. He likely needs another full season in the AHL before being 100 percent ready for an everyday roster spot on the NHL level, however I’m interested to see how he looks during camp.
Juuso Pärssinen also doesn’t have very far to go before being considering for an NHL spot, but realistically has at least one more season of developing. He made his Admirals debut in the playoffs this past season, and should have a full regular season slate ahead of him. Don’t be shocked if he gets a call-up at some point this season, but not right away out of training camp.
Even though the Predators have plenty of veteran options for the defensive core, a prospect such as Marc Del Gaizo is one to watch. He’s getting closer and closer to getting an NHL call up if a rash of injuries or bad play occurs.
Del Gaizo appeared in 67 regular season games and nine playoff games for the Admirals in his first year as a pro. He showed great progress.
There’s definitely a different feel going into this year’s training camp as opposed to this time last offseason. Not as much roster uncertainty and competition for starting roles, but you do have a rising prospect pool that should make things interesting.
2. The new guys in town
Obviously a lot of buzz is going to be surrounding the newcomers on the Nashville Predators including Ryan McDonagh and Nino Niederreiter. FIrst and foremost, who are their linemates in practice, and how does Head Coach John Hynes initially pair these two veterans up.
In regards to McDonagh, will he be on the top pairing or second pairing? Will he be placed initially with Roman Josi or Mattias Ekholm? It’s not an easy decision, and training camp will be a good time for the coaching staff to come up with the best answer before the regular season opener in Prague on October 7.
Niederreiter’s roster spot isn’t as complicated as the consensus seems to be placing him on the second line with Ryan Johansen as the center. Two veterans who should work well together.
“McDonagh speaks for himself. He’s got two Cups, he was a captain for the Rangers for a while and he’s had a tremendous career. As for Nino, we really helped each other kickstart our careers and get drafted. It was a long time ago, but there’s some history, and there was some chemistry and some success and he’s just a tremendous guy in the room and a great teammate and he’s going to fit in here really well.” -Ryan Johansen on McDonagh/Niederreiter joining team
Johansen spoke to the team’s official website during offseason training about the additions of McDonagh and Niederreiter:
Zach Sanford was also acquired this offseason and is vying for a spot on the fourth line. He needs a strong training camp and will be battling with several other candidates for a fourth line role.
Kevin Lankinen is the new backup goaltender to Juuse Saros and should see a couple starts in the preseason. Not a offseason addition anyone saw coming, but could be beneficial if he can take some of the workload off of Saros.
3. Is Glass ready for a full-time NHL role?
Now is the time for Cody Glass to show coaches last season was very beneficial to him in Milwaukee, but that he’s ready to be an everyday NHL starter. He’s got to show it on the ice, and it starts in training camp.
Glass is needed by the Predators to be that fourth line center that can provide offensive depth that’s required to compete with the top dogs in the NHL. We all know he has the potential to be a big x-factor for this team.
I’ve been really impressed with how Glass hasn’t shyed away from the adversity he’s faced early in his career. He has taken it all in stride. He’ll be one of the top players to watch in training camp.
Unless he has just a horrendous showing in training camp, then I can’t see how Hynes doesn’t roll Glass out as his fourth line center to open the regular season.
4. Where does Tolvanen and Tomasino fit in?
This isn’t going to be answered immediately in training camp, but it is going to be a good time to experiment with where to put both Tomasino and Tolvanen.
We’re talking about two young players trending in different directions. Tomasino is trending upward after an impressive rookie campaign that saw him tally 32 points in 76 games. He looked very comfortable on the NHL level despite being just 20-years-old and up against a lot of pressure.
On the other hand, Tolvanen is entering what you can consider a “prove it” year for him with this team. Otherwise he may become expendable, and a healthy scratch to make room for other candidates who deserve ice time.
Tolvanen needs a solid training camp to show coaches last season was more bad offensive luck than it was a sign of things to come. It’s not time for the Nashville Predators to give up on him yet, but I’ll be interested to see how he performs in training camp and where Hynes puts him in preseason action.
There’s many reasons for optimism and to have high confidence in this Predators team to compete for a second place finish in the division and be much more consistent in the regular season than they were last season.
The Nashville Predators without a doubt have a playoff caliber roster here in September, but check back with me in a few months. They have to prove it on the ice.