And people wonder why scoring is down. Could it be because a lot of these teams are getting to be so big on the back end?
Nashville isn't synonymous with an offensively gifted hockey town, but it isn't like they're not trying either. The team has been slowly bringing in some proper scoring talent, to compliment their solid back end and now this team is starting to really make some noise in Music City.
If the Predators stay the course, continue to draft and trade well, they legitimately have a shot at carrying themselves into a sizable playoff run, no matter how funny it sounds in your head. For the time being, I think Nashville is here to stay.
Table last updated on August 14th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Those "special" players that teams sign from abroad are really intriguing to me. Last year, Steve Moses led the KHL in scoring, finishing with 57 points in 60 games with Jokerit and now he has a 1-year, $1 million deal with the Predators, trying to show the NHL that he can make a difference in the North American game.
Moses is not a big player, standing 5'9" and listed as 170 lbs., so he'll have to rely on his speed and his wit to get him by with the bigger guys in the smaller confinement of the North American rinks. That's okay though, the NHL isn't the big man's game that it once was. This could be a perfect time for Moses to make an impact.
Then there is the translation of the game from Europe to North America. There haven't been very many players to make that transition, from either side of the pond, so there is some added intrigue in that part of the storyline as well.
Currently, I don't feature Moses making an impact, but I will be watching.
First Round Picks
It was an impressive feat, watching Pekka Rinne bounce back from an injury and infection-filled 2014 season, coming in and putting on a clinic with the Predators. Rinne won 41 games last season and finished 4th among all goalies in pool points, which should earn him an early selection in this year's draft. Even without Barry Trotz behind the bench, the Preds still played a very team-centric game, which helped Rinne's numbers immensely.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
It's a good group of forwards coming out of Nashville this year, but you should be patient before jumping in with both feet with this team. There's quite a bit riding on Filip Forsberg in his sophomore season, but I think, given the dynamic of the offense in Nashville, I don't think he'll slump nearly as bad as some might. In fact, I think he'll have a pretty good year. Mike Ribeiro got a new life in Nashville and repaid them well last year and his off-ice legal troubles have been dealt with, so I expect much of the same this year. Mike Fisher, James Neal, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson... all four have some good potential to be late round forwards, if needed.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
Shea Weber and Roman Josi are quite the pair. Everyone knows just how good Weber is and what kind of damage he can do, but a lot of people are still learning about just how good this Josi kid is. He's already been in the top 50 among defensemen scorers for three seasons and he's just getting started. I am feeling a bit conservative on these two today, but they're still going to have great years.
Oh yeah, don't forget about Ryan Ellis or Seth Jones, they're still coming around as well.
Minutes behind Rinne are going to be hard to find, which will make it hard for Carter Hutton to be relevant in the pool this year. Sure, he was one of the benefactors when Rinne went down in 2014, he picked up some decent points then. Unless your Magic 8-Ball has some awful news for Rinne in the upcoming season, I would shy away from the Nashville crease.
Possible Entries Into the Rookie Race
Moses may be the most intriguing rookie for the Predators this year, but he certainly doesn't come in with the most upside. 2014 1st rounder Kevin Fiala has something to prove, coming into this season and there has been a bit of coverage on the interwebs, about how he's training hard to be ready for the upcoming season. After a solid World Junior performance with Switzerland, there should be a bit more buzz about this kid. He could be a good final forward on the team, plus that entry into the rookie race.
Team To Pick From Late?
Beyond those who are truly pool-worthy, I don't really trust the Predators' depth to carry my hockey pool team or support it, at the very least. If the draft went to 30 teams, I would be much more inclined to look elsewhere on forwards, if I loaded up on goalies and defensemen early.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
Cody Franson, an unsigned unrestricted free agent, still lingers on the Predators list, but there is seemingly no intention to get that deal done together, so Franson waits. Otherwise, the Predators are pretty well done with free agents, giving it a go with their current crop of players
It's going to be a good battle for spots on the roster in Nashville, as my count says there are about 18 locks for this team, not including Moses or Fiala today. With 3-to-5 spots open on the roster, the Predators still have nearly $15 million in cap space, acting more like a budget team, than a ceiling team and they will contend with just about everybody on any given night. That's some pretty fine management, if you ask me.