The trouble with being a high profile team, like the Predators have suddenly become, is that everyone pays a whole lot more attention to what you do as a whole. The other teams are coaching more when they play against you, some teams even try and copy (if not improve) what you've done the season before.
The Predators have at least built their team in a fashion that keeps them difficult to play against, having been built from the back end and outwards. Pekka Rinne put together a very strong playoff run and his confidence should be sky high, while the blueline was so effective through the Western Conference playoff run and the forwards were picking up the slack, when injuries reared their ugly head. There is a very impressive depth to this team and they will be very difficult to play against again this coming season.
Table last updated on August 6th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
The breakout season that Viktor Arvidsson had in the 2017 season has made him into an intriguing player to watch again for the 2018 season. He certainly exploded on the scene last year, after he had a very quiet 2016 season. Arvidsson was looking more and more like he was going to be a solid role player for the Preds, but instead, he found his groove in the lineup, the coaching staff tailored him for the team game and it really worked out in his favour.
The 24-year old will be a point of emphasis for other teams to focus on, when it comes to their line matching and systems, so my initial projections are showing a bit of a drop off in his numbers, as an educated guess on my part. I am not looking at him as being a sure thing for the hockey pool quite yet, I would like to see him put together a good season, under some added pressure, before I make him into a top pick.
First Round Picks
The goaltending rush will be quick to snap up Pekka Rinne, I'm sure. Rinne has had his share of doubters out there, but after a solid playoff performance, he could even go higher than the 6th overall selection he saw last season. At this point, even with the changes made to this team, Rinne is still a very good regular season goalie, behind a very strong defense. He'll definitely be worth it.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
If there is one thing I've noticed among teams in these projections posts, it's the amount of teams looking to have a more balanced attack. Not too many forwards well ahead of the pack on their teams, just really good potential production through the lineup. The Predators are no different. Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg should provide much of the punch, but Nick Bonino, Scott Hartnell and Calle Jarnkrok should all compliment this team as well, not to mention your hockey pool team. The top two guys could really break out this season too, which is another thing to keep a close eye on.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The blueline, in my opinion, was what carried this team through the Western Conference portion of the playoffs, because it was better than anyone else's. There is some real potential for points here again, as Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm have all stuck around and they're prepared for a nice long run again in the coming year. I don't see these four lasting very long in the draft at all.
Behind Rinne, Juuse Saros emerged from the shadows to snipe the back-up job and he was very good for the Predators last season. So much so, the Predators did have him fill in for Rinne in the playoffs after a pull or two and really looked good. It'll be hard for him to find a lot of starts, but they may throw him a few more, just to keep their number one well rested.
Team To Pick From Late?
Craig Smith up front and Matt Irwin on the blueline, both have the potential of getting into the worthiness chat, and if you're really high on Nashville heading into the draft, I would suggest that either of these two could end up being your ideal sleepers. 2010 1st round pick Austin Watson, he'll need to break out here soon or potentially be a bust draft pick for this team.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
There's nothing outstanding on Nashville's docket, in terms of free agency and it looks like they have a fairly complete team to take into the 2018 regular season. I am currently showing them as having a smidgen over $6 million in unused space heading into the season, which suggests that they'll be huge players at the trade deadline, since I think they'll be right in the thick of it for the playoffs.
The Predators are keeping a close eye on Ryan Ellis, who underwent knee surgery at the end of June. There was still plenty of time before training camp, when the surgery happened, so there shouldn't be any issue about being ready. Ryan Johansen should already be back on skates, as he starts to get ready for the new season, coming off a significant thigh issue, which he suffered in the playoffs. There is an expectation that he'll be ready to go. Both Nick Bonino and Kevin Fiala were dealing with broken legs in the playoffs as well, but both should be more than ready to get going as well.