Mapping out Juuso Parssinen's future after challenging season with Nashville Predators

Juuso Parssinen had a setback last season going from a starter in the season-opener to finishing the season in the AHL. What's next for the promising young talent?
May 3, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators forward Juuso Parssinen (75) skates with the puck against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
May 3, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators forward Juuso Parssinen (75) skates with the puck against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period in game six of the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators are coming off of a year in which they greatly exceeded expectations and by all accounts, it was a very positive year for the organization. That does not mean that it was all smooth sailing for the entirety of it, and that was especially the case for a few youngsters on the team.

In particular, Cody Glass, Philip Tomasino, and Juuso Parssinen all were expected to take steps forward in 2023-24, and that did not happen. I touched on the futures of Glass and Tomasino earlier in the offseason, acknowledging that it was and is still hard to be super high on either of them.

It is also wise to be realistic with expectations for Parssinen, but his path has been way less murky than the other two, and he was one of the very first ones called up from Milwaukee to play in a Predators playoff game in May. That in itself is a good sign for the Predators, and it is easy to feel better about Parssinen's situation after some recent words from Assistant GM Scott Nichol.

Nichol shared some thoughts on the recent seasons for Parssinen and Tomasino, and he especially focused on Parssinen, giving everyone else a clear idea of what he was going through and how things could be better in the future.

Juuso Parssinen had several obstacles to overcome in 2023-24

To paraphrase what Nichol said the other day, he mentioned that Parssinen was in a particularly tough situation in 2023-24. One of the first things he mentioned was that they would have liked for him to have contributed to the Milwaukee Admirals' playoff run in 2023, but an injury prevented him from doing so, which was a bummer.

Nichol also mentioned that Parssinen was banged up heading into the this past year's training camp, so having to learn things on the fly was really tough, especially since the whole team was learning a new system under Andrew Brunette.

But what really caught my attention was what Nichol said about Parssinen's natural fit as a player, which is at the center position. Nichol said that he is a better center than a winger, and Parssinen played almost fully on the wing when he was in Nashville in 2023-24.

So take the fact that Parssinen was playing an unnatural position, and combine it with him missing out on beneficial experience in 2023, as well as him missing critical time at the most recent training camp, and it is easy to see how there were struggles in 2023-24.

But even at this point in the offseason, some of those concerns are already eliminated. Most importantly, the fact that Parssinen got regular season and playoff experience in Milwaukee is going to make him that much better at the NHL level.

Nichol mentioned this in great detail, even saying that a common misconception among players and fans is that Parssinen being sent back to the AHL was a bad thing. Instead, it was great because he played his natural position for 18-20 minutes a night, was counted on for all of the critical matchups against the opponents' best players, was crucial in all zones, and played at even strength, short-handed, and on the powerplay.

Nichol said that in terms of the big picture, it was awesome because Parssinen grew and improved greatly and was one of the go-to-guys in Milwaukee. He now has confidence he would not have had if he had just stayed in Nashville to finish out 2023-24, so sending him back down to the AHL was best for everyone.

Parssinen will now go into the next training camp with that valuable experience, and barring a total shock, will go into it healthy and able to learn at a normal speed. Parssinen will definitely be in the mix to make the Predators' opening night roster for 2024-25.

How will Parssinen fit into Predators lineup if included?

Now, this question is pretty tough to answer because we are still several days from the start of free agency and do not know exactly how the Predators' roster will look. But we have a good idea of where Parssinen would fit on the team, and there are some questions to answer.

What we know is that if does indeed make the opening night roster, we are going to want to see him at center instead of being on the wing. He certainly will not take Ryan O'Reilly's spot as top line center, and even though second line center is still up for grabs, we have to see more from Parssinen before he claims a top six spot.

Parssinen will almost certainly play in the bottom six if he is on the roster for 2024-25, and that could result in some tough decisions having to be made. Colton SIssons and Michael McCarron are bonafide bottom six centers and still on the team, and you have to think Tommy Novak could be in that mix as well.

Novak makes sense as a second line winger, and that has a lot to do with the fact that the deficiencies in his physical game were exposed in the playoffs. That solves that problem, and it really might not be a big issue because both Sissons and McCarron have shown they can play on the wing.

The question then becomes which one between the two you prefer to shift over, but they are both veterans and play well-rounded games, so either one can do it. You also have to wonder if either of them could get traded due to the logjam at bottom six center, although if that even happens, McCarron seems far more likely to get traded than Sissons.

Either way, Parssinen will have a very real chance to be in the lineup on opening night, and hopefully the Predators can put him in a spot where his strengths can be maximized.