The Nashville Predators put up two wins in the preseason on Thursday and Saturday, following up two Sunday losses in Florida with a pair of wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The final scores in those games, 6-2 on Thursday and 6-1 on Saturday, were also an improvement. While we won’t spend any time breaking down a couple preseason wins, it’s good to see the team finding some positive results ahead of an important 2021-22 season.
More importantly, team has started whittling down the roster. On Sunday, the team announced a number of changes that bring the roster down to 39. That includes 21 forwards, 14 defensemen, and four goaltenders.
#Preds have assigned Mismash, Harper, Del Gaizo, and Vomacka to AHL Milwaukee.
8 others (Bouchard, Solow, et al) have been released from tryout agreements to report to Milwaukee.
Parssinen to TPS of Finnish Liiga.
Roster now at 39 (21 F, 14 D, 4 G)
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) October 3, 2021
But the roster needs to be down to 23 by the time the regular season begins on October 14th. Who is on track to make that final list? Who is on the bubble? Who is still trying to prove they belong? And who might surprise us with an inclusion on the opening night roster?
Here are some answers to those questions.
Of the 21 forwards left on the Preds roster, 11 are absolute locks to make it on opening night. Those would be Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, Colton Sissons, Luke Kunin, Nick Cousins, Rocco Grimaldi, Eeli Tolvanen, Yakov Trenin, and Tanner Jeannot.
This is based on a number of factors, including impact on the ice, history of production, and apparent favor with John Hynes.
That number, 11, is important here. It means all but one member of the Preds top 12 forwards, i.e., their top four forward lines, are pretty much set.
Who will that final “open” roster spot go to?
Well, let’s start with who it will NOT go to.
Sorry Matt Luf, Michael McCarron, Tommy Novak, Anthony Richard, and Cole Smith. You are needed in Milwaukee, please report for duty.
That leaves an interesting decision for Hynes and his staff, and one that may not yet be decided.
Cody Glass, one half of the return for Ryan Ellis, seems to be the favorite. There’s almost no way he doesn’t make the opening night roster, just based on the impact of trading such a popular player like Ryan Ellis. You can’t do that and not have the two guys you acquired on the opening night roster.
After Glass, both Philip Tomasino and Egor Afanasyev have impressed in camp. The Preds, at long last, seem committed to playing “the kids” and there’s finally room on the roster to make it happen. I’d put strong money on ONE of those two players making the final 23-man roster, though I’m not sure which one. Let’s give Tomasino the edge as the higher draft choice.
Rem Pitlick has tremendous speed and skill, but he doesn’t appear in position to beat out Tomasino or Afanasyev at the moment. He probably starts the season in Milwaukee.
Mathieu Olivier was the third member of the infamous “Herd Line” with Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin before getting injured last year. Because of the importance of that line, and his tremendous physical presence, I think he makes the final roster.
Forward prediction (14): Forsberg, Duchene, Johansen, Granlund, Tolvanen, Glass, Cousins, Kunin, Grimaldi, Tomasino, Trenin, Sissons, Jeannot, Olivier
Next up is defense.
Obviously, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, and newcomer Philippe Myers are going to be on the roster, while Josh Healey, Matt Donovan, Matt Tennyson, and Frederic Allard are starting in Milwaukee.
That leaves six guys to take three final roster spots (assuming the Preds start with 14 forwards, they will only be able to roster seven defensemen).
Alexandre Carrier was a big contributor for the Preds down the stretch and in the playoffs. I imagine that buys him a roster spot.
Mark Borowiecki would have to clear waivers if they didn’t keep him on the Nashville roster, so he stays as well.
For those same reasons, Matt Benning makes the roster, though I am not sure of his role. He could be the 7th defenseman on opening night, assuming Carrier stays in the mix.
Ben Harpur will go to Milwaukee (he should clear waivers). David Farrance and Jeremy Davies would do well to keep developing their game in the AHL, but don’t count out Farrance surprising everyone by being the first call up.
Defense prediction (7): Josi, Ekholm, Fabbro, Myers, Carrier, Borowiecki, Benning
This one is very easy. Juuse Saros will be the starter, David Rittich will be his backup. Devin Cooley has impressed in camp, but Connor Ingram is the favorite to start for Milwaukee.
Final thoughts on the Preds roster
All of these are predictions, obviously. A good (or bad) final week of the preseason could swing the decisions one way or the other. There’s also a chance John Hynes could elect to keep 13 forwards and eight defensemen, in which case perhaps Olivier is sent down to Milwaukee and Ben Harpur stays in Nashvile.
The Predators are not projected to be a very good team. Some odds makers have them projected at only 85 points on the season, which would be a terrible year. I think they will be better than that, but no better than a bubble team.
However… consider this.
Filip Forsberg is in a contract year. High quality forwards trying to get a payday usually have good production. Meanwhile, Johansen and Duchene are very tired of hearing complaints about their production. They will be motivated every night to produce. And don’t forget, the team has a Norris Trophy winner on defense and a (should be) Vezina Trophy caliber goalie in net.
Oh and there are also role players who can contribute, veterans with an edge to their game, and young kids with tons of skill.
This Nashville Predators roster, as predicted above, does not look like a potential Presidents’ Trophy winning team. They are not a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup, even as a “darkhorse” candidate.
But can they be a playoff team? Yes, I think so.
Perhaps more importantly, can they be a competitive team that is fun to watch? Absolutely.
Stay tuned, Preds fans.