New-Look Nashville Predators Will be a Blend of Mentors and Students

Ryan O"u2019Reilly #90 of the St. Louis Blues holds the Conn Smythe Trophy during a pre-game ceremony prior to playing against the Washington Capitals at Enterprise Center on October 2, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Ryan O"u2019Reilly #90 of the St. Louis Blues holds the Conn Smythe Trophy during a pre-game ceremony prior to playing against the Washington Capitals at Enterprise Center on October 2, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

A primary reason why the Nashville Predators are such a hard team to figure out coming into 2023-24 is the roster turnover since March followed by not knowing exactly how quickly the mentorship from veterans will translate to success on the ice.

General Manager Barry Trotz’s plan to add veteran leadership in the offseason came into full effect by adding Ryan O’Reilly, Gustav Nyquist and Luke Schenn in free agency to partially replace the departures of veterans such as Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen and Mattias Ekholm.

How quickly can we expect this all to come together? This is why the expectations are tempered in what the Nashville Predators are going to be able to accomplish in Trotz’s first year as General Manager.

Nashville Predators Have a lot of Proven Veterans to Lead the Way

Nyquist in his recent media availability spoke about how exciting it is to join a “remodel” that will be key on leading the younger guys on the team, in particular Cody Glass.

Trotz, speaking in reference to Nyquist’s value to the team, said that having an experienced winger like Nyquist will be very beneficial to the 24-year-old center who is coming off NHL career highs in points (35), goals (14) and average time on ice (14:46).

“This guy’s a good player, and a really good teammate.  “He’s had great success, and Gus will be a really good complement to a guy like [Cody Glass] who needs a winger who’s a little more experienced and can help him continue to grow” –Barry Trotz to the team’s official website

How quickly can all of this realistically translate into wins on the ice? Realistically speaking, the Nashville Predators will be a work-in-progress under new leadership behind the bench in Andrew Brunette, and a whole systematic change with new players leading youth and inexperience.

Perhaps a window into where the plans are to place Nyquist in the lineup? A top-six role for Nyquist looks highly probable.

The effective approach will be to pair veterans with young talent, like Nyquist with Glass and Luke Evangelista with O’Reilly.

As for O’Reilly, the biggest offseason acquisition and one that has Nashville Predators fans with some new energy, he figures to play a very significant role not just with the youth, but also in bringing out the best in Filip Forsberg.

Additionally, O’Reilly has said since joining the team that there’s a nice balance of both veterans and young talent, and threw out the statement that really stood out of “why can’t we contend?”.

"“I think, as a group, we have great leadership. We have great young pieces. Why can’t we contend? Why can’t we?” – Per the Nashville Predators Official Website"

O’Reilly is approaching his 1,000th NHL game and has a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues from 2019. Now he’ll look to take on role of teacher while also still providing top-line offensive production, which will be a tall order.

With Duchene bought out and Johansen traded, adding O’Reilly at least partially replaces some of that lost veteran experience. And who knows, O’Reilly may even be the missing clutch veteran that Duchene and Johansen just failed to be with inconsistency.

Then there’s Schenn for the defensive corps, which already had a lot of veteran experience with Roman Josi, Ryan McDonagh and Tyson Barrie. Adding Schenn gives this unit four trusted veterans that should end up being a strength for the Nashville Predators.

Josi, McDonagh, Barrie and Schenn have a combined 3,382 games of NHL experience. McDonagh and Schenn were teammates on the Tampa Bay Lightning for their back-to-back Stanley Cup championships from 2020 and 2021.

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How will these four lead the much younger depth of the Predators defensive corps, most notably Dante Fabbro?

Fabbro’s time seems to be running out with the Nashville Predators. He has a current one-year deal before becoming an RFA in 2024. If he can benefit more from the mentorship of the top veterans, including Schenn, then perhaps Fabbro can show some major improvement and extend his time here in Nashville.

At only age 25 and a former 17th overall pick back in 2016, the Nashville Predators are hoping that this is finally Fabbro’s year to show he’s worth keeping around long-term. I’m skeptical, but it’s another mentor and student situation within this roster.

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More than likely the Nashville Predators are going to start off slow and will need time to build chemistry with a new head coach and older players leading the youth. If they don’t fall too far into the hole, then they can recover over the course of an 82-game season and rally back to the postseason.

I’m probably overly optimistic in my faith for this blend of veterans and young talent, but if it all comes together after some early growing pains, then the Nashville Predators ceiling can be as high as third in the Central Division, with the gap pretty large between them and the top two teams in the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars.