Have the Nashville Predators been hiding secret weapons on their roster?
After the Preds rookies wrapped up their rookie showcase appearance with a 6-1 win over the Florida Panthers, it would appear so, as several young forwards stood out among the other rookies at the showcase.
First there was the combination of Juuso Parssinen, Markus Nurmi, and Egor Afanasyev, who skated together as a line on Sunday against the Hurricanes and partly on Monday against the Panthers. They scored multiple goals and presented constant headaches to opposing rookies.
Afanasyev got the scoring started on Friday against Tampa, scoring a power play goal assisted by Czech prospect Jachym Kondelik. The Preds rookies won that game 5-2, led by an outstanding goaltending performance by another Russian prospect, Yaroslav Askarov.
Sunday morning, the Parssinen, Nurmi, Afanasyev line was back together and caused several problems for the Hurricanes rookies.
Afanasyev scored twice, Parssinen added a late game tying goal, and that line was a key part of a two-goal comeback for the Preds. All three goals by that line on Sunday were a product of the speed, chemistry, and physicality those players have been working on all week.
On Monday, Afanasyev and Parssinen were joined by winger Luke Evangelista. Evangelista, who lit up the OHL in 2021-22 with 55 goals and 56 assists, is one of the brightest young forwards in the Preds system. He played very well with Parssinen and Afanasyev with crisp passes in transition and a keen sense for goal scoring.
The speed and passing ability of those three were on display all morning, slicing through the Panthers defense and occupying attacking space with excellent timing.
Luke Evangelista, mostly operating as a playmaker all weekend, scored his first goal off a stretch pass that led to a breakout. Then Parssinen added another goal off an excellent pass by Evangelista. Camp invitee Cameron Hausinger and prospect Jimmy Huntington combined for three goals on the score sheet, with Huntington scoring twice late in the 3rd.
And, of course, goalie Yaroslav Askarov was solid in net again, allowing only one goal in two periods of play.
It’s likely that Askarov, who only recently turned 20 years old, will open the season in Milwaukee as their starting goaltender. And with Juuse Saros currently competing for Vezina Trophies in Nashville, there’s no need to rush him. Askarov has looked extremely confident this summer since leaving Russia. There may be an outside chance he appears in Nashville at some point this season, especially if injuries arise in the Nashville net.
But the big reveal this weekend was the Preds’ young forwards. Egor Afanasyev, Juuso Parssinen, Markus Nurmi, and Luke Evangelista, among others, all looked outstanding against other NHL rookies. The speed at which that group has come together is impressive, though some have played together in the past (Parssinen and Nurmi were linemates when playing for TPS in Finland). Flat out, the Preds’ rookie forwards were the most dangerous unit on display at the rookie showcase in North Carolina.
And scoring 15 goals in only three games? That is sure to catch the attention of the Preds coaching staff.
Ahead of the Nashville Predators’ full training camp, which opens Wednesday, keep your eye out for those young forwards. They will be significant contributors in Milwaukee this year, and their time in Nashville may come sooner rather than later.
— Featured image of Markus Nurmi via Take To News —