#3: Nashville Predators
(Roman Josi, Ryan McDonagh, Mattias Ekholm, Alexandre Carrier, Jeremy Lauzon, Dante Fabbro, Mark Borowiecki)
Adding Ryan McDonagh over the offseason put this unit as maybe a top-10 in the entire NHL. I’m putting them modestly at No.3, but you can make an argument to move them up to No.2.
Roman Josi is obviously elite level and one of the best, so that speaks for itself. Hands down the best offensive defenseman in the NHL.
McDonagh gives this unit a championship pedigree, veteran experience, and wise penalty killing to protect the goaltender.
Ekholm has been vastly underrated outside of Nashville Predators circles for a while, but people who follow the game closely know how valuable he is and how many teams would go to great lengths to have him on even their top pairing in some cases.
Carrier is still very young by NHL standards, but really shined in his rookie season. He’s only going to get better, you would expect at least.
The only thing keeping me from putting this unit in the top two of the division rankings is I can’t fully entrust in the third pairing until I see results on the ice this season. A trio of Fabbro, Lauzon and Borowiecki can be a quality combination for a third pairing, but they have to avoid costly mistakes and too many penalties for a team that commits a lot of them.
Overall, the Nashville Predators have a more than commendable defensive core that can go toe-to-toe against the majority of the other units in the NHL.