Zachary L'Heureux putting us on notice that he can make Nashville Predators roster

With the Predators playoff run quickly over, the Milwaukee Admirals have made the next round of their playoff push and Zachary L'Heureux is leading the charge.
Nashville Predators v Florida Panthers - Game 2
Nashville Predators v Florida Panthers - Game 2 / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

The Milwaukee Admirals are in the Central Division finals of the Calder Cup Playoffs, keeping playoff fever alive for Nashville Predators fans and giving us new hope that former 27th overall draft pick Zachary L'Heureux is back on the path forward to the NHL.

L'Heureux has had a rocky journey to this point after being drafted in 2021 by the Predators. A lot of on-ice misconduct and questions about keeping his discipline in check made many skeptical if he would ever be ready to make the permanent jump to the NHL.

Those doubts are being put to rest with not only his regular season performance for the Admirals, but even more so how he's exploding in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

In a edge-of-your-seat series win over the Texas Stars, L'Heureux posted five goals and four assists. That's including two goals in the series clinching Game 5 win.

L'Heureux is in the midst of his first season in the AHL with the Admirals. A vital measuring stick to see how his development is coming along on his journey to one day play for the Predators in a regular season game. He did play in the 2023 preseason for the Predators.

In an interview with the Predators official website, L'Heureux talks about how important it was for him to learn about himself and become a leader in the playoffs. Well, he's certainly doing that right now in the playoffs for the Admirals.

" “Last year, having that run that I had in Juniors and making it all the way [to the QMJHL Championship] was special and I was able to learn a lot about myself and what it's like to be a leader in the playoffs. So I just wanted to do the same thing here and lead the boys in the right direction""

Predators Team Website

L'Heureux is part of an Admirals roster full of offensive talent and prospects that have high hopes to represent the Predators gold very soon. Six players that played in the Game 5 win over the Texas Stars played in at least one game for the Predators in 2023-24, including Philip Tomasino, Juuso Parssinen and Spencer Stastney.

Now facing the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate), L'Heureux added another goal to his playoff campaign in a 4-2 loss for the Admirals. It's a five-game series that has the first two in Milwaukee, and the next two in Grand Rapids. If Game 5 is necessary, it will return to Milwaukee.

Looking way ahead to the next Predators training camp, you have to think that L'Heureux will have a lot of eyes on him to prove himself for a roster spot with the Predators. Coaches and scouts have to make the decision on his future outlook and how far his game has come along.

One season in the AHL fresh out of the QMJHL is a lot to ask from a prospect, even one like L'Heureux who is flourishing in his first AHL season. It is so important to not rush prospects into the fire too soon.

L'Heureux plays with an infectious fiery tenacity that can translate well to the NHL if he learns to keep his emotions in check. His biggest strength can also be his biggest weakness at times. The biggest surprise I've seen from him in his first AHL season is maintaining his offensive production.

It is not an easy jump from the junior leagues to the pro ranks of the AHL. You're going up against a variety of blue collar roughnecks, fringe NHL veterans and young talent that are close to making the NHL.

L'Heureux went from his last season in the QMJHL averaging 1.27 points per game to his first season with the Admirals averaging 0.72 points per game. So yes, while his point output did decrease, that is to be expected and it's not a dramatic or alarming decrease by any means.

When you look at his penalty minutes, that where the concern comes in. He put up an astonishing 197 penalty minutes this past season, but has pulled that back with only six penalty minutes in his six playoff games.

The key for L'Heureux making it in the NHL is finding that delicate balance between playing disciplined while not losing that tenacity. It's not easy and it will only come with time and development. It's unreasonable to expect him to have it completely figured out after just hitting his 21st birthday on May 15.

Although I think L'Heureux probably doesn't make the Predators starting lineup right at the start of 2024-25, it's not unfathomable to think that he'll make his NHL debut at some point next season.

A lot of this hinges on what happens this offseason with a Predators roster that could see more turnover with six unrestricted free agents and several trade pieces available. If you see an exodus of veterans and a look more towards the future, then that will make space for someone like L'Heureux to crack his way into a roster spot at some point in 2024-25.

Gus Nyquist is a trade piece Preds should try to move. dark. Next. Preds