Nashville Predators 2021-22 Season Preview

The Predators made the playoffs last season thanks to elite goaltending. But this offseason, they made their team even more dependent Juuse Saros, by getting worse. Nashville shipped out multiple veterans while watching Pekka Rinne retire, although they did not get a ton of picks and prospects back, either. The strategy by General Manager David Poile does seem a bit odd. Will it work out? Probably not this year, at least.

Offseason additions: D Philippe Myers, F Cody Glass, G David Rittich.

Offseason subtractions: D Ryan Ellis, F Viktor Arvidsson, G Pekka Rinne, F Calle Jarnkrok, F Erik Haula, F Brad Richardson, D Erik Gudbranson.

Forwards

With only a year left before unrestricted free agency, is this year it for Filip Forsberg in Nashville? Despite playing in just 36 games, the right-winger led the team’s forwards with 32 points, 12 of which were goals. That ended his streak of six consecutive seasons with more than 20 goals. He should get back there again this year barring injury. The top-two centers for Nashville are both expensive and underwhelming. Ryan Johansen has never been a big goal scorer, but to see him score just seven times last year was extremely rough. He has the playmaking ability to make up for that, except he had just 15 assists in 48 games last year. That is far from enough. Matt Duchene has also crashed and burned since signing with the Predators. For a player of his caliber, an 8.2 shooting percentage should still equal more than six goals. Add that with seven assists, and his 34 game season was a complete and utter disaster. He is 30-years-old, which means that he should still have some competitive years left. Former top prospect Eeli Tolvanen finally got enough playing time to establish himself in the NHL after multiple years of hype. He signed a three-year deal as a restricted free agent after a nice season, scoring 11 goals with 11 assists in 40 games played. For his efforts he finished 14th in Calder voting. For the second year in a row, Mikael Granlund went to free agency with the expectation that he would walk. And for the second year in a row, he returned. It shouldn’t happen next year, as he got a four-year contract. Granlund is a solid second-line player, although his new $5 million AAV is heavy. He tied for the team lead with 13 goals last year, along with 27 points. In his first season after a trade from Minnesota, Luke Kunin played in only 38 games, but managed to score ten goals. He added two more in the postseason, including an overtime winner. The 23-year-old moved to the wing full-time after playing some center for the Wild. The Predators will attempt to build Cody Glass back from the ground up. The 2017 sixth overall pick comes to Nashville after failing to capture a center job in Vegas. He scored four goals with six assists in 27 games last season. In 14 AHL games, he did have the same amount of goals and assists. 2019 first-rounder Philip Tomasino will have the chance to join Glass on his right. In his first professional season, the 20-year-old scored 13 goals with 32 points in 29 games for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Undrafted Tanner Jeannot started the season in the ECHL, then proceeded to light up the AHL. In 13 games for the Wolves, he scored 10 goals with 11 assists. In 15 games for the big club, Jeannot scored five goals, earning himself a spot in five of the six playoff lineups. Veteran Nick Cousins is back for his second year with the team. In his first, he scored five goals with 18 points in 52 games. This was off the back of a 10 goal, 25 point year for Montreal and Vegas. Rocco Grimaldi scored exactly ten goals for the second season in a row, this time in 40 games. The major difference for Grimaldi was not his goals, rather his drop from 21 assists to just three. His 16.1 shooting percentage is very high, so don’t expect that much production again. Signed for five more seasons, Colton Sissons is a very expensive bottom-six player. He scored eight goals with 74 hits and an elite 54 percent face-off percentage last year. His $2.857 million AAV may jump out, but Sissons was worth the cost last season. A second-rounder back in 2015, Yakov Trenin played in a career-high 45 games last year. He scored five goals with six assists, but more importantly, had 94 hits, as the Russian imposed his physicality. Another option who had a ton of hits last year is right-winger Mathieu Olivier, the first player from Mississippi in the NHL. Don’t worry, as the man with the most French sounding name possible did grow up in Quebec. He had five points in 30 games last year.

Defensemen

Roman Josi was one of the few defenders in the NHL to lead their team in points in 2020-21. He just narrowly beat Forsberg, with 33 points, eight of which were goals. That ended seven-year streak of double-digit goals. An equally long triple-digit blocked shots streak was ended with 83. He should thank the shortened season for that. Nashville tried to bail themselves out of the impending doom that they think Ryan Ellis’ contract would be, and for that they get a severe downgrade from Ellis to Philippe Myers. A second-pairing player in Philadelphia, Myers could be asked to play with the captain on the top pairing. The six-foot-five, right-handed shot had 11 points with 40 blocks and 69 hits in 44 games last year. Mattias Ekholm dodged trade rumors all season as the Predators went from long shots to a playoff team. The great two-way skater scored 23 points with 46 blocked shots in 48 games. Like Josi, the shortened season ruined a triple-digit blocked shot streak, at six years for Ekholm. The Predators may have unlocked something in Alexandre Carrier, the 24-year-old right-hander who made the most of his 19 game trial last year. He had three points with 31 blocks and 22 hits. Not only was that enough to get him into all six playoff games, the Preds protected him from the Kraken over forward Calle Jarnkrok. When the Predators traded PK Subban to New Jersey before 2019-20, the hope was that Dante Fabbro would jump into the top-four. Fabbro has been decent, but Carrier may have leap-frogged him. In 40 games, the 23-year-old scored 12 points with 57 blocked shots. Big ol’ on-ice meanie Mark Borowiecki returns for his second season in Nashville. He played in just 22 games in the first one, with 38 penalty minutes and 54 hits. From the six prior seasons with Ottawa, Borowiecki’s hit totals ranged from 199 to 364. The right and left handed dynamic could get him a starting spot over Matt Benning. The former Oiler played in all but three games last season, with four points. He blocked 53 shots with 55 hits. An ex-teammate of Borowiecki’s in Ottawa was Ben Harpur, who got into 34 games for the Predators last year. He had seven assists, with 44 hits. He was much more disciplined than in his Senators days, with only 17 penalty minutes.

Goalies

The Predators owe a ton of debt to Juuse Saros for his efforts in 2020-21. His sixth place Vezina finish did not do him justice. Saros played in 36 games, with a .927 save percentage and a 2.28 GAA. He saved 20.9 goals above average. This was his first season with the chains fully free from Pekka Rinne. Now with Rinne retired (and likely soon to the rafters), Saros is ready to go nuts. “Big Save Dave” Rittich is the new backup. He had been capable for that position for multiple seasons for the Flames, although he did struggle for Calgary and Toronto last year. Rittich had a combined .901 save percentage with a 2.86 GAA.

Projected Lines

Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Eeli Tolvanen

Mikael Granlund – Matt Duchene – Luke Kunin

Tanner Jeannot – Cody Glass – Phillip Tomasino

Nick Cousins – Colton Sissons – Rocco Grimaldi

Extras: Yakov Trenin, Mathieu Olivier

Roman Josi – Philippe Myers

Mattias Ekholm – Alexandre Carrier

Mark Borowiecki – Dante Fabbro

Extras: Matt Benning, Ben Harpur

Juuse Saros

David Rittich

Prediction

A late season hot streak really saved the Predators from a complete and utter blow-up at either the trade deadline or this offseason. They did rebuild a bit this summer, but instead of really committing they made their lineup worse without the good returns. Nashville has the young players to make this season exciting, but they are not good. The question is, will Forsberg be traded?

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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