If there’s one thing most Nashville Predators fans can agree on, it’s that the emergence of Tommy Novak was one of the major positives to come out of the 2022-23 season.
The 26-year-old center is a player that has come in clutch several different times throughout the season, and after the injuries and trades that completely altered Nashville’s roster, was one of the players that the team could consistently rely on to put up points and make important plays.
Novak is one of the players we saw the most growth in from the 2021-22 season to the 2022-23 season, and I believe that we can expect the same rapid growth in him this upcoming season.
The Nashville Predators have officially reported to 2023 Training Camp and will open their preseason campaign on September 25 against the Florida Panthers.
2022-23 Season Review for Novak
After playing 21 games in the 2021-22 season and only scoring seven points, Novak started the 2022-23 season in the AHL with the Admirals. While in Milwaukee, Novak showed off all of the hard work he put in during the off season, and started the year by scoring 26 points in 25 games, leading the Admirals in points scored.
This rapid growth didn’t go unnoticed by the coaching and management staff, as Novak was called up to Nashville in late December and ended up staying there for the remainder of the season.
While in Nashville, Novak continued his point producing streak by putting up 43 points in 51 games. He ended up finishing second in points per game with 0.84, just behind franchise all time leading point scorer Roman Josi and just above franchise all time leading goal scorer Filip Forsberg.
If that statistic doesn’t show just how vital he was to the team in the months he was there, Novak was also third on the Predators in power play goals and tied for second in game winning goals, putting up three during the second half of the season.
Leading in these stats is especially impressive for Novak, as he was ahead of a lot of veteran players that had been on the team for a much longer period of time. It is clear that he comes in clutch in times of desperation for the team and is able to score the most important goals.
One of my personal favorite times Novak saved the game for the Preds was when he kept the Predators hopes of making the playoffs alive just a little longer with his shootout game winning goal against the Calgary Flames. This shootout goal of his is just another example of how vital he is to the team in their most desperate moments.
Novak’s shot is something very unique as well, as he is able to score on on the backhand as well, making him even more dangerous for opposing goalies.
Season Outlook for 2023-24
We can expect really big things from Novak in terms of point production. Going from a disappointing 2021-22 season to an astounding 2022-23 season, Novak definitely built up that much needed confidence and we can expect him to continue his streak this year.
I have no doubt that he will make the Predators roster straight out of training camp, and if he stays healthy throughout the whole season, I expect he will score around 70 points for the team, if not more. If Novak continues his accelerated development that we have seen throughout the past few years, each year we can expect more out of his game in regards to rounding out his other skills as well.
In regards to linemates, we saw Novak work very well with Philip Tomasino and Luke Evangelista in the last 3 months of the season, as they had previously played together in Milwaukee.
Evangelista’s aggressive work on the forecheck usually allows him to find Novak in the slot where he can quickly use his unique shot to get the puck into the net.
Tomasino and Novak have worked quite well together during the overtime period, as their minds work in similar ways when it comes to making plays, allowing for them to capitalize on each other’s passes across the offensive zone.
We also saw Novak paired with Yakov Trenin and Kiefer Sherwood earlier in the 2022-23 season. The physicality of both Trenin and Sherwood allow Novak to slip between defenders and find sneaky scoring chances for the team.
After signing a one-year contract on February 8, Novak will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2023-24 season. He will need to use this season to prove his worth to the team and hopefully sign a longer deal for the next few years.
Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses
Novak is a highly skilled offensive playmaker, and is able to create plays out of very little space. His fast paced game is quick to catch defenders off guard, as he is able to find holes in the defense to make these plays possible. His shot is extremely accurate, making him a vital asset to the power play and in the shootouts. His puck control is outstanding as he is constantly able to keep control of the puck moving in and out of zones, no matter how many other players are around him.
Something that Novak will most likely be focusing on in this training camp is his strength on the ice. He isn’t as valuable when it comes to puck battles along the boards, but that is something that he doesn’t necessarily need to participate in as he is always ready when the puck comes to hime
Novak also needs to pay attention to his defensive work, as he isn’t as strong when it comes to blocking shots and getting the puck out of the defensive zone. These are quite easy fixes though, as Novak seems to have exactly what he needs to fill his role on the team.
Overall, I think that we can expect a very high scoring and entertaining year from Novak, as he is sure to find unique and interesting ways to score, and will certainly bring a spark to the team.