To close out last season, the Nashville Predators made it to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their history and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. For an encore, you have to believe the Predators want to take that final step toward hockey’s ultimate prize.
To that end, there have been some changes over the course of the summer.
James Neal was lost to the Vegas Golden Knights by way of the NHL Expansion Draft, while Mike Fisher announced his retirement. Those two losses hurt given that Fisher and Neal combined for 83 points last season.
Luckily, Nashville managed to sign two key restricted free agents in Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen. They also snagged forward Nick Bonino from the Cup-winning Penguins and brought Scott Hartnell into the fold after Columbus bought out the last two years of his contract.
23-year-old Filip Forsberg has been among Nashville’s most consistent offensive performers. The Swede had 31 goals and 27 assists last season for a total of 58 points in 82 games. He scored nine points on the power play and had three short-handed goals. In 22 playoff games, Forsberg had 16 points – including nine goals and seven assists.
Johansen is the top centre on the Predators. The Vancouver native has NHL size on his side, plus he is an authentic pivot. He posted 61 points in 82 games last season and scored 13 points in 16 playoff games. He missed the final eight games of the post-season due to injury, but the 25-year-old will anchor Nashville’s top unit and produce plenty of points for fantasy owners.
Arvidsson is the final piece of the top unit. He’s a solid complement to Johansen and Forsberg and signed a seven-year deal to prove it. Nashville loves the Swedish winger and there’s every reason to expect he’ll put up some quality numbers in 2017-2018. He scored 31 goals last season, an improvement on his eight goals in 56 games in 2015-2016.
While Nashville will be missing secondary scoring in the absence of Neal, betting on Hartnell may not be a bad idea. The Predators will probably dump him in front of the net on the power play and that could line him up for some points. The 35-year-old was a third-liner in Columbus and will probably be a third-liner on the Predators, but he scored 13 goals last season while averaging just a touch over 12 minutes a game. That’s not bad.
Roman Josi has quietly put together an incredible career in Nashville. The 27-year-old had 49 points in 72 games last season and added 14 points in 22 playoff games. He averaged 25:04 in the regular season and is fifth among defenceman in points per game and shots on goal over the past two seasons combined. That makes Josi a pretty good bet for production.
P.K. Subban has the skill, smarts and wheels to get the job done. He had 40 points in 66 games last season and produced a dozen points in 22 playoff games. He averaged 24:24 of ice time per game in the regular season and was tied for 12th place among defencemen in points-per-game in 2016-2017 – all while missing significant ice time due to injury.
Ryan Ellis was able to take advantage of injuries to Subban and Josi. He set career-high totals in points, goals and points per game last season and had 13 points in 22 post-season games. The 26-year-old from Hamilton averaged nearly 24 minutes of ice time a game and can uncork a corker of a point shot.
Pekka Rinne may not have risen to the challenge in the Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins, but he did start 61 games in the regular season and posted 31 wins. The 34-year-old was 14-8 in the post-season, with a 1.96 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. He had two playoff shutouts and brought his career post-season experience to 70 starts.
22-year-old Juuse Saros saw 19 starts in 2016-2017 and won a respectable 10 games, posting a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average. Saros is a quality reflex goalie and he should see more time in the net as Rinne starts to taper off. He is a patient netminder and recovers well, but he may be a touch on the small side.