For the first time in a few years at least, we can confidently say the Nashville Predators have a competitive lineup from top to bottom. Head Coach John Hynes has plenty of options at his disposal.
With the rather surprising decision to send Philip Tomasino to the Milwaukee Admirals to open the season, this opens up some healthy competition for who is going to play on the 2nd line with Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter.
The chemistry that Johansen and Niederreiter already have is undeniable but finding that other winger that can excel in that spot is very important if the Nashville Predators are going to hang with the top teams in the NHL.
Is it Finally “Tolvy Time” for the Nashville Predators?
In comes Eeli Tolvanen, who had somewhat of a letdown 2021-22 campaign, but all indications are that he has had an outstanding training camp and first two regular season games.
Tolvanen now has the strong chance of claiming a second line role again and capturing major ice time with two productive veterans that will hopefully bring out the best in him.
There is still the possibility that Hynes turns to Keifer Sherwood for the 2nd line over Tolvanen. As great as Sherwood looked against the San Jose Sharks, I’m still giving the nod to Tolvanen to start in that spot against the Dallas Stars on Thursday in the first divisional clash of 2022-23.
If not now, then when for Tolvanen. We have to find out if he’s ready to be a top-six player and thrive when he has effective linemates. He is much further along in his development than Tomasino is, so giving him this opportunity to prove it with this opening in the lineup makes logical sense.
I’m still keeping Sherwood as my backup plan if for some reason Tolvanen struggles, but I’m also not yanking Tolvanen out of that role with a knee jerk reaction after one or two games. Give him some time and get a larger sample size playing with Niederreiter and Johansen.
If Tolvanen on the 2nd line really sparks something, then suddenly the Nashville Predators have themselves four lines of forwards you can be extremely confident in. It’s a very deep roster all the way down to the 4th line with Cody Glass centering it, and plenty of interchangeable players that fit the 4th line role very well.
Tolvanen’s shooting percentage really suffered last season at just 7.7 percent. He made a very small impact on the power play as well, and his ice time dropped from 14:48 to 13:26. With a considerable increase in ice time, I expect to see Tolvanen’s offensive numbers blossom this season.
We’ll have to wait and see what this all means for Tomasino. I’d rather see him get the full season with the Admirals then bringing him back up midseason. If Tolvanen really shines on the 2nd line, then there won’t be a strong need to move Tomasino back up this season and you can keep bringing him on gradually.