The Nashville Predators have been fairly inconsistent to start the 2023-24 season, as they sit at 3-4-0 with six points in the standings. That was of course expected, as this is a largely new group even down to the general manager, so it will take time for them to fully forge an identity.
Improving team offense was a huge focus for Head Coach Andrew Brunette and company, as lack of it has plagued this team for several years. One area of offense that has really hurt the Predators has been the powerplay, and that is showing improvement recently, which is a good sign.
Another aspect that has held back the ability to score has been no true first line, but that may not be a concern much longer. Of course it is hard to know so early on, but the Predators have to be ecstatic about what their top trio has done, especially given the situation they are in.
Nashville Predators Top Line has been among the Best Performing in the NHL
With so many moving parts on the Nashville Predators, nobody knew what their top line would exactly look like coming into the season. Filip Forsberg and Ryan O’Reilly were locks, but that third and final spot was a major question as training camp started.
Many were speculating that it could go to Luke Evangelista after a strong first impression in Nashville late last year. Gus Nyquist was a logical choice due to his experience and caliber of player, and some even threw Philip Tomasino into the mix, given his talent and natural fit with players like Forsberg and O’Reilly.
The guy to whom the final spot was ultimately given to, Juuso Parssinen, seemed like he was being overlooked as a potential fit on this line. It was understandable why, as he is a natural center, and there are parts of his game that are similar to that of O’Reilly’s, so it did not seem like the most logical combination on the surface.
At least through the first seven games, Parssinen has fit perfectly with Forsberg and O’Reilly. Even in the one preseason game that I saw them play together, they looked dialed in, and have absolutely backed that up in seven regular season games.
Forsberg, O’Reilly, and Parssinen have legitimately been among the best in the NHL with how they have performed so far. They are top five in both expected goals percentage and expected goals for per 60 minutes, and are among the league leaders in overall expected goals for.
— MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) October 22, 2023
The Forsberg/O’Reilly/Parssinen trio has dropped to sixth among NHL forward lines in Expected Goals %, which is still a great sign for things to come.
Parssinen has been a Great Surprise on Nashville’s Top Line
Parssinen, who was the original question mark, has been strong on the puck in all areas, still forechecks hard, and has plenty of raw offensive skill. He is proving that he can play anywhere on the ice, so the concerns of him not being the best fit on this line are gone now.
Forsberg still has the ability to shoot the puck lethally as well as distribute it, and O’Reilly is effectively handling the middle of the ice as he has always has. Each guy’s skillset has complemented the others’ well, and they have been consistently imposing from the opening night of the season.
Forsberg is the second “unluckiest” offensive player according to MoneyPuck.com right now. Only trailing Matthew Tkachuk, while Forsberg’s shooting percentage sits at 3.0 percent.
Note that while the advanced metrics have been outstanding, the production on the surface has not been that great. The line has combined for just five total goals and twelve total points, but there is no need to be concerned with that yet.
Once again, it is still early in the season for a virtually brand new group, and gaining ability to finish chances is part of growing pains. We should be more encouraged than anything else that these guys have played as well as they have with so little experience together, and trust that with time, the actual results will come.
For a team like the Predators that needed their offense to take a step forward, this line’s performance has been a huge bright spot. It very well could be a sign that Andrew Brunette is the coach that this team needed to spark their traditionally lackluster forward core.