As we pass the quarter mark of the 2023-24 season, we have already seen several line up changes and call ups for the Nashville Predators. Head coach Andrew Brunette has had a good problem on his hands with the amount of depth with both the forward and defense positions, as he has had to make some difficult decisions on who to send to the Milwaukee Admirals and who to keep on the Predators roster.
Although we are seeing the return of players Tommy Novak, Cody Glass, and Alexandre Carrier to the lineup after their injuries and are seeing a return to the “normal” lineup, there is a lot that can change throughout the rest of the season, and we will certainly be seeing some players from Milwaukee having to step up and showcase the depth that this franchise has.
Denis Gurianov Making the Most of his Time in Milwaukee
With the Admirals, Denis Gurianov has definitely stepped up to become a major point-producer for the team. In 20 games, Gurianov has recorded eight goals and 12 assists and is leading the team in points.
Gurianov's puck handling and speed has been quite noticeable, as he is able to drive to the net before any defenseman can see what he is planning to do.
This is Gurianov's first action in the AHL since the 2019-20 regular season for the Texas Stars, part of the Dallas Stars organization. He was drafted by Dallas at the 12th overall pick in 2015 and is looking to climb his way back into being an everyday NHL starter.
Mark Jankowski the Next Man Up for Preds Forward Corps
Right behind Gurianov in points for the Admirals is Mark Jankowski who we recently saw play two games with the Predators before being sent back down.
While with the Predators, Jankowski was able to score one goal and really showed what an offensive minded player he is with his quick playmaking skills. He has a solid two-way game that's beneificial to the Predators' bottom six when he's called upon.
Novak and Glass being back available for the Predators lineup pushed Jankowski out.
Jankowski currently has five goals and 12 assists with the Admirals and has rejoined the team since his short-lived time in Nashville, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him in gold again soon.
Del Gaizo and Stastney are the Future for the Preds Defense
Two other players we’ve recently seen in Nashville are defensemen Marc Del Gaizo and Spencer Stastney. Both were called up to Nashville at different times during a few injuries on the Predators, and both showcased just how vital they could be to the Predators’ defense.
Del Gaizo was able to record three assists in his five games for the Predators, but his scoring wasn’t the only thing that was impressive to his game. The way he thinks the game was very beneficial to the new and fast pace style the team is playing with, and this skill made him a great teammate for the forwards on the team.
It came as quite a shock when Brunette sent Stastney back to Milwaukee, as he fit right in to the team instantly upon his call up. Even though he only scored one goal, he was great on both ends and created plays along the boards even when it looked like the team would be losing momentum.
Stastney's cohesiveness with the team definitely didn’t go unnoticed by both the fans and the staff, and even Brunette stated that we will most likely be seeing him again in the near future.
Afanasyev Leads Admirals in Goal Scoring
Finally, when looking at offensive talent on the Admirals, you can’t ignore the leader in goal scoring, Egor Afanasyev. He currently has 10 goals and five assists in 21 games with the Admirals, and is really standing out physically on the ice. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Afanasyev called up at some point during the season if we see a build up in injuries to forwards in Nashville.
Afanasyev has never scored more than 13 goals in a season since coming over to the AHL. He's already up to 10 and should easily surprass that personal best. His shooting percentage is standing out as well at 15.9 percent.
Other Standout Prospects Outside of Milwaukee
The depth of the Nashville Predators doesn’t stop in Milwaukee though, as the recently drafted prospects are also seeing a lot of success on their respective teams.
Aiden Fink with Penn State is currently ranked fourth among all freshmen in the NCAA with nine goals and 14 assists in only 19 games with the school. He is able to score from all angles, and both his wrist shot and slap shot are equally as deadly for goaltenders. He skates with lots of energy in both zones,
2023 draft prospects Tanner Molendyk and Matthew Wood were both selected to attend Hockey Canada’s World Juniors selection camp this year. Although Molendyck has been struggling with some injuries recently, he has been great for the Saskatoon Blades, with 28 points in 24 games.
Wood has been phenomenal for UConn recently as well with 12 points in 17 games, and has really shown how daring he is in the offensive zone when creating scoring chances.
Graham Sward with Wenatchee in the WHL has an astounding 41 points in just 28 games. The 2022 fifth round draft pick is proving to be quite a steal for the Predators, and should be really fun to watch in the next few years.
Overall, the Predators certainly have a bright future with all of the depth in both offensive and defensive talent already signed by the team and with the prospects.