The Nashville Predators play their first game of the season in less than a month. Training Camp starts next Wednesday, September 21st. While it seems like David Poile has done his due diligence when it comes to filling up the roster with upgraded talent, it will fall largely to John Hynes and his coaching staff to evaluate this new group and decide where each player will slot in. Of course, many choices will be obvious with Norris candidate defender Roman Josi and top scorers Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg getting heavy minutes. However, there will be several key battles to watch during training camp. Here are a few of them.

Battle 1 – Back-up Goaltender

Juuse Saros will return to the starter’s crease this season. He’s coming back healthy after a high ankle sprain took him out at the end of last season. After an incredibly rough start to the first playoff game against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, David Rittich was replaced with Connor Ingram. After the Predators’ first-round exit, Rittich became a free agent and signed with Winnipeg. Connor Ingram remains with the team, albeit on a two-way contract. During the offseason, Poile signed former Blackhawks’ goalie Kevin Lankinen to a one-year contract. Lankinen’s one-way contract definitely speaks volumes as to who is expected to be the backup netminder this season. Each goalie has a year left on their contract, so this is their opportunity to make their case for their future as an NHL level goaltender. I don’t expect Ingram to go down (to Milwaukee) without a fight. Of course, it’s also important to consider the rise of rookie Yaroslav Askarov. His performance at camp may come into play when making the final decision.

Nashville Predators - Connor Ingram
May 7, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Connor Ingram (39) makes a save during the second period against the Colorado Avalanche in game three of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Battle 2 – Preds Defensive Puzzle

The Predators have 7 defenders under contract. And, for the first time in a long time, I feel comfortable saying that all 7 are NHL caliber defenders. This is a wonderful problem to have from a coaching, organizational, and fan perspective. For those 7 defenders, pride is on the line. It seems clear that Josi, McDonagh, and Ekholm are bound for the top-4. Jeremy Lauzon and Mark Borowiecki will typically slot in on the third pairing. That leaves Alex Carrier and Dante Fabbro left to battle it out to see who will play in the top-4 and who will be a part of the rotation on the third pairing. Regardless of who emerges as the frontrunner, I’d expect to see some fluidity between the second and third pairing with those two defenders.

Nashville Predators - Alex Carrier battles for the puck with some other guy
Nov 3, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and Nashville Predators defensemen Alex Carrier (45) chase a loose puck during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Battle 3 – 2nd and 4th Lines

Earlier this summer, I wrote about how Philip Tomasino could be the answer to the hole in the second line. I  also wrote about how Cody Glass deserves a chance at center on the fourth line. And while I still stand by those assertions, training camp is going to allow that large group of hopefuls to battle it out for who will earn that last spot. Right now, that group includes Markus Nurmi, John Leonard, Zach Sanford, Juuso Parsinnen, Mark Jankowski, Kiefer Sherwood, and Cole Smith. I predict Tomasino will make his case for the second line. I’d also like to see Cody Glass get a shot at centering the 4th with Eeli Tolvanen on one wing–that other wing is up for grabs. I’d expect to see a battle between the seven forwards listed above and maybe even a few rookies that perform well at Rookie Camp.

–Featured Image via Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports–