How Does Denis Gurianov Fit into the Nashville Predators Evolving Lineup?

The Predators haven't shuffled their forwards much this season, but the call up of Denis Gurianov certainly makes things more interesting.

Jan 6, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Denis Gurianov (15) skates with the
Jan 6, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Denis Gurianov (15) skates with the / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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We were waiting for the Nashville Predators to finally call up another forward from the red hot Milwaukee Admirals, and that next player ended up being Denis Gurianov.

A lot of people have aready given up on Gurianov's once high potential as a first round draft pick. Clearly the Predators want to give another look and see if they can find a spark from Gurianov.

Gurianov has shown his competitive drive to make it back to the NHL by tying for the Admirals team lead in points with 30. The player he is tied with has also been called up by the Predators this season, which is Mark Jankowski.

After being signed in the offseason as a free agent, it came as somewhat of a surprise that Gurianov didn't make the initial Predators roster out of training camp. It had to have been a letdown for Gurianov to have to start in the AHL, but he has clearly taken it in stride.

Gurianov Made his Predators Debut on Saturday vs. Dallas

In perfect irony, Gurianov made his Predators debut on Saturday in the 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars. He put two shots on goal, laid out one hit in 14:27 of ice time. Not a terrible first impression by any means.

Gurianov played on a line with Colton Sissons at center and Juuso Parssinen on the other wing. As you would expect with it being a completely new line combination and no chemistry, this line wasn't able to muster up much offense against a stout Stars defensive front.

With Gurianov in, it meant another missed game for Cody Glass. It has kept the Predators' four center as Ryan O'Reilly, Tommy Novak, Michael McCarron and Sissons.

With Gurianov in and Glass out, it allowed Sissons to move back to center. When Glass is in the lineup, the Predators have an over abundance of centers which moves Sissons to playing wing.

Parssinen can also play center, but I've like him more as a wing. So Gurianov kind of gets everyone back to their natural positions, while Glass has to play center when he's in the lineup.

To get an accurate reading on Gurianov's NHL play, you need to leave him on a consistent line. For the next few games, with Anaheim being up next on Tuesday, Gurianov should remain with the same linemates if possible.

If you want Glass back in, that means you would have to scratch McCarron which I don't see happening. Philip Tomasino went through this earlier in the season and he overcame it, but Glass appears to have a more difficult road ahead to getting back to consistent NHL playing time.

If the coaches were high in confidence for Glass, then this Gurianov call up simply doesn't happen because it would make zero sense. Glass would be back in at center and Sissons or Novak would play wing.

It's a numbers game and the Predators look content with the centers they have, but have more of a need at wing. Also of note, Kiefer Sherwood missed the Dallas game as well to make room for Gurianov.

Something might be simmering as we sit two months out from the trade deadline.

Predators have to be Careful about Sending Gurianov Back Down

Before we can make any vast conclusions on Gurianov and whether it's good for the lineup, we need a much bigger sample size. If you're trying to see what Gurianov can bring to the table in the second half of the season, I'm think at least five games.

Good info from Clay Brewer of Nashville Hockey Now on why Gurianov is waivers exempt if he plays under 10 games for Predators.

""Gurianov wouldn't require waivers if he plays less than 10 games or is on active roster for less than 30 days because he was waived during the Playing Season Waivers Period""

Clay Brewer, Nashville Hockey Now

What makes this tricky is Gurianov can't stay up for too long before the Predators have to commit one way or the other, and I'm not so certain that he would clear waivers if the Predators tried to send him back to Milwaukee after this period passes. This seems like a final attempt to see what you have in Gurianov, and if he delivers then he might be up here to stay for the duration of 2023-24.

I'm a little surprised that the Predators called up Gurianov over Egor Afanasyev. Afanasyev is waivers exempt as well, so there's no risk in losing him if you want him to get some NHL reps and see if he flourishes.

As for Gurianov, he's kind of on his last legs in terms of sticking in the NHL. He's on a one-year, $850,000 prove it deal with the Predators. He's essentially auditioning for the Predators while he's called up. That's not an easy task when joining a new team right in the middle of the season. He has to find his game fast, and really catch the attention of coaches in a positive way.

If Gurianov plays well enough to stick around in the Predators lineup for the next month or so, then what does that mean for Glass? Does he become expendable at that point?

I don't see this is a quick experiment by the Predators knowing that Gurianov can only play 10 games or less. That would accomplish nothing over just leaving him in Milwaukee where he was thriving for that team.

Gurianov is a former 12th-overall pick in 2015 by the Montreal Canadiens. His most consistent NHL playing time came in 2021-22 for the Stars when he put up 31 points in 73 games. He regressed after that, and the Stars eventually decided to not bring him back.

At only 26-years-old, Gurianov is really pushing to make a huge impression on the Nashville Predators so that he can secure another contract and remain in the NHL down the stretch. This can work out great for both sides if Gurianov can suddenly find his game and provide some extra offense for the Predators.