Five Key Takeaways as Nashville Predators Cut Roster to 26 Players

Sep 27, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (7) handles the puck near the blue line during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (7) handles the puck near the blue line during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

With just two preseason games remaining and the opening of the 2023-24 regular just eight days away, the Nashville Predators cut the roster down to 26 players on Sunday.

An NHL team cannot carry more than 23 players, so there is still some decisions to make for Head Coach Andrew Brunette before the season opens against the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 10.

Going into training camp it was clear that there would be plenty of healthy roster competition, and despite being winless in the preseason, there has been improvement shown.

The Predators turned in their best performance of the preseason on Saturday, going toe-to-toe with many of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s top players but falling to a 5-4 final score.

1. Egor Afanasyev Doesn’t Make Nashville Predators Roster out of Training Camp

For another year, Egor Afanasyev will start the new season with the Milwaukee Admirals. This marks two years in a row where Afanasyev had a strong chance to make the Predators roster, but fell short.

Afanasyev just hasn’t shown enough to Brunette and his coaching staff to take a spot from some of the other veterans who are slotted for bottom-six minutes.

Even though Afanasyev is heading back to the Milwaukee Admirals, expect him to get called up again at some point. He’s right on the cusp, but needs to show more consistency before getting the green light to be an everyday NHL starter.

Afanasyev played in 17 games for the Predators in 2022-23 due to a rash of injuries. He only managed one goal on 21 shots, but did show decent two-way play with 13 blocks and 23 hits.

This isn’t a major surprise, but many fans will still be upset that Afanasyev is missing out on a Predators roster spot with others getting the nod. It’s a bit concerning that Afanasyev hasn’t done enough to impress coaches as a 2nd Round pick from 2019 with a high ceiling.

2. Mark Jankowski Sticking Around

This one is a bit surprising considering that Jankowski doesn’t fit the narrative of the retooling of young talent. Not that Jankowski isn’t a capable NHL player, but I just wasn’t convinced that he was going to stick around post-John Hynes.

Jankowski was a regular in the Predators bottom-six last season, playing in 50 games and managing 12 points. A hard working forward who has considerable NHL experience, but also has a pretty low ceiling and it’s unclear if he’s in the long-term plans of the franchise.

One valuable thing about keeping Jankowski on the regular season roster, at least to open, is he has moderate two-way ability and has that rugged NHL experience of over 300 games.

However, I like the upside that Afanasyev gives you more so than Jankowski, but that said, Jankowski does bring you more steady play as a seven-year NHL veteran. This tells me that Brunette wants to start the season with more veterans in the bottom six and see how things play out before rushing more youth into the lineup.

The most impressive part of Jankowski’s 2022-23 campaign was his three shorthanded goals, while also performing well in the faceoff circle with a 55.7 percent win rate. He got a one-year deal from former General Manager David Poile back in March, and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

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3. Joakim Kemell Flashes his Talent in Preseason, Falls Short of Making Predators Roster

I’m totally fine with taking the patient approach with Kemell. He’s got one year under his belt after being drafted 17th overall by the Predators in 2022. He has definitely lived up to the hype, including a pretty goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in preseason action this past weekend.

There were rumblings that Kemell might be able to earn himself a Predators roster spot right out of training camp. The problem with this scenario is where were you going to stick him in the lineup? Bury him on the fourth line? That wouldn’t have been productive for Kemell’s development.

This is 100 percent the right approach from Brunette and his staff. Let Kemell thrive on the AHL level for another year, and of course you call him up at some point in the season if deemed necessary.

Kemell’s time to make the Predators roster full-time will come in 2024-25 after the front office has to manage eight free agent forwards. Can’t keep them all.

4. Spencer Stastney, Jake Livingstone, Jordan Gross Next Up in Defensive Pipeline

I’m somewhat surprised that one of these three young defensemen didn’t make this round of roster cuts. Especially Spencer Stastney, a player who looked outstanding in his eight games of NHL action last season.

Stastney offers you offensive upside for the third defensive pairing, as well as some power play pop. I thought the Predators would at least keep him around throughout the entirety of the preseason.

Livingstone was one of the best stories coming down the stretch of 2022-23. Undrafted, thrusted into the Predators starting lineup after injuries plagued the team.

Jordan Gross is another up-and-coming defensive prospect that has gotten some NHL experience who has gotten mostly AHL playing time since 2018-19. He’ll be another quick call-up back to the Predators at some point in 2023-24. It’s not the last we’ve seen of him.

5. Don’t Sleep on Marc Del Gaizo

The biggest standout of the 26 players remaining on the Nashville Predators training camp roster is Marc Del Gaizo. A prospect that’s about to turn 24-years-old and a former 4th Round pick by Nashville in 2019.

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Del Gaizo has yet to make his NHL debut, so him sticking around on the Predators training camp roster past Stastney, Gross and Livingstone who all have NHL experience under their belt is rather interesting. It shows that Del Gaizo has really made the most of his training camp opportunities.

Del Gaizo has two productive seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals, playing 67 games and 71 regular season games, along with 25 playoff games.

During the Admirals’ deep playoff run earlier in 2023, Del Gaizo notched 12 points. We should see him in both of the final preseason games for the Predators against the Carolina Hurricanes to see if he takes a starting spot away from Jeremy Lauzon, Dante Fabbro or Alexandre Carrier.

No major surprises after that. You can put the fears to rest that somehow Luke Evangelista wasn’t going to make this Predators roster. That would’ve been treasonous.

Furthermore, it means that some popular depth players under Hynes are sticking around under Brunette as well, including Cole Smith, Michael McCarron and Kiefer Sherwood.

You can check out the full training camp roster that remains for the Nashville Predators at their team’s official website. Three more subtractions from the roster will have to happen before October 10.

Next up on the preseason slate is October 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes.