The time is almost here for the revamped Nashville Predators to hit the ice in preparation for the 2022-23 NHL regular season.
Last season the Predators surprised a lot of people, but the end result was still an ugly one as the franchise suffered its first postseason sweep ever. Albeit to a ridiculously good Colorado Avalanche team that eventually won the Stanley Cup, but still a horrible way to end the season.
In response the Nashville Predators front office and General Manager David Poile had a busy offseason to make this team better and more competent against the top tier teams like the Avalanche.
The core of the roster is secured and training camp for them will be figuring out line combinations and building quick chemistry with the newcomers on the roster like Nino Niederreiter and Ryan McDonagh.
Here are my four players who have the most to gain in training camp, whether that’s moving up the depth chart or moving out of being a fringe player and into a starting role on opening night against the San Jose Sharks on October 7.
1. Tommy Novak
Bad luck hit Novak last season as he was playing extremely well in his first season in the NHL, but then landed on the Covid-19 protocol list and never made it back into the Predators lineup.
Novak actually tallied his first NHL goal in the last game he appeared in, and he should be considered a front-runner to earn his way into a starting roster spot in training camp.
It’s been well-documented that the fourth line has some position openings to be had in training camp, and Novak is a great candidate to get one of those coveted spots.
Novak can play wing or center, which makes him very appealing. He brings a defensive element to his game as well, and can be an effective puck distributors. Both important qualities for a fourth liner.
What is really impressive and jumps off the page when you look over Novak’s 27 games last season is his high Corsi rating of 59.8 in all situations. An insane number for a rookie that showcases how comfortable he was out there.
There will be no reason to be overly surprised if Novak stands out in training camp and gets himself a starting role alongside my next player on this list.
2. Cody Glass
The leading candidate to be the fourth line center has to be Cody Glass. If it’s not now for him, then when will it be? He showed in his full season with the Milwaukee Admirals that his game continues to evolve and improve.
Glass can transform this team into a quality postseason team and stay near the top of the division if he breaks out this season.
A combination of Glass and Novak is an extremely enticing proposition to open the season. They would complement each other’s games very well, and give the Predators a jolt of youth. It’s a good spot for both players to get their NHL feet wet some more, while also not being thrown to the wolves.
Glass led the Admirals in points with 62, assists with 48, and shots with 165. The offensive driver of the team, and now he needs to translate that into training camp to claim that fourth line center role. It should be his to lose.
3. Eeli Tolvanen
It’s not ideal that we’re still talking about Tolvanen needing to prove himself in a training camp setting, but here we are. He’s another player that doesn’t have a set place within this lineup.
Could Tolvanen have a really great training camp, show out in his preseason action and get a top-six role again? Sure, he can, but it will take him beating out his teammate Philip Tomasino who is the more likely choice for a top-six role with the core veterans.
Tolvanen’s role is likely going to shrink to fourth line minutes, making it difficult with decreased ice time to really make his offensive presence felt to break out of his offensive funk that plagued him all last season.
The book isn’t anywhere close to being fully written on Tolvanen’s time with the Nashville Predators, but we are getting into crunch time. He can prove a lot to coaches in training camp that last season was just a blimp on the radar, and that he’s ready to hit his high ceiling that he’s carried since being drafted in 2017.
4. Jeremy Lauzon
Even though the front office has invested considerably into Jeremy Lauzon to the tune of a four-year contract, he still needs to build that confidence in training camp that he can be the everyday third pairing defenseman.
This part of the depth chart has been a conundrum for the Nashville Predators for a few seasons now. A lot of shuffling, and a lot of underwhelming results.
Matt Benning was terrible by any means, but his ceiling was pretty low. You knew what you were getting, and since he wasn’t retained this offseason, it tells me the team sees more potential in Lauzon.
I’m hoping to see Lauzon show us some flashes of a little offensive abilities sprinkled into his game in his preseason action. We know he can hit hard and do the dirty work. That’s most important for the third pairing, but if he can provide a little bonus offensive upside along with his likely linemate in Dante Fabbro, then we’ll have ourselves a decent third pairing.
Lauzon also has to show some maturity in his game. Avoid being too reckless to the point that it hampers the team into more penalties. That needs to be a focal point from coaches when watching him in training camp.
If for some reason Lauzon doesn’t look ready, then Mark Borowiecki is there to take his place. It would take a really bad camp showing, but don’t discount it completely. Coaches need to see that Lauzon is ready for that role.
These four players have the most to gain at Nashville Predators training camp and are extremely important to the depth of the team in 2022-23.