|James Neal – RW||Patric Hornqvist – RW|
|Derek Roy – C||Nick Spaling – RW|
|Anton Volchenkov – D||Michael Del Zotto – D|
|Olli Jokinen – C||Patrick Eaves – RW|
|Mike Ribeiro – C|
In 2013-14 the Nashville Predators missed the playoffs for the second straight year and they will start this season with a new head coach for the first time in their franchises 16-year history.
Barry Trotz started with the Predators when they came into the NHL in 1998-99 and spent the next 15 seasons behind the bench in Nashville. In those 15 seasons, Trotz coached the Preds to a 557-479-60-100 (W-L-T-OTL) record, but now begins a new chapter as the head coach of the Washington Capitals. Peter Laviolette will be the second head coach in Predators’ history and has an entirely different looking team than the one that went 38-32-12 last year.
On June 27th, the Predators made a splash when they acquired James Neal from the Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. The 26-year-old winger is a one-time 40-goal scorer and is coming off of a season where he scored 27 goals with 34 assists (61 points) in 59 games. Coming to Nashville, he will be the clear focal point of the offence, but losing Evgeni Malkin as his centre you can expect his production to drop a bit. If he can stay healthy, a 30-30 season should be accomplishable.
With Mike Fisher expected to miss at least the first two months of the season after rupturing his Achilles in early July. With Fisher out, the Preds went out and signed veteran centres Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen and Mike Ribeiro. At an average age of 33.3, those three are past their prime for fantasy purposes, but they should help the Predators win. Jokinen has only missed six games in the last four seasons, which is good news for Nashville, but his point production will likely end up in the mid-40’s. Roy averaged just 13:37 TOI in St. Louis last season, but should see a bump in minutes this year. He still posted 37 points last year, so an increased role could get him back to 40-points. As for Ribeiro, he was picked up after the Coyotes waived him because of off the ice issues. In the lockout shortened year, he had 49 points in 48 games and the crafty forward is capable of 50 assists if he can straighten out his attitude.
Nashville also has some up-and-coming young forwards that could conceivably make a fantasy impact this season. Calle Jarnkrok was acquired from Detroit at last year’s deadline. He posted nine points (2G / 7A) in 12 games at the end of last season, which shows he is capable of being serviceable playmaking centre in 2014-15. Filip Forsberg is another player to watch having posted 15 goals and 19 assists (34 points) in 47 AHL games last season. Lastly, 24-year-old Craig Smith had a huge bounce-back season, posting 52 points (24G / 28A) in 79 games. He has shown flashes of fantasy worthiness, but his inconsistency warrants caution.
On the blueline is where the Predators boast a lot of fantasy talent. They are led by captain Shea Weber, who led all NHL defensemen in goals (23) and power-play goals (12) last season. He is a model of consistency and every season he approaches at least 20 goals, it is hard to find that kind of production on the blueline. Weber is joined by a couple of former first-round picks. Seth Jones had a strong rookie campaign, recording 25 points (6G / 19A) in 77 games and he should improve on those totals this season–he could see his production jump to the mid-30’s. Ryan Ellis, 23, had 27 points (6G / 21A) in 80 games in his first full NHL season. He has played 144 career games, but had been bouncing from AHL to NHL in his previous two seasons. He is undersized, but offensively gifted. He will continue to see his offensive production and playing time rise. And then there is Roman Josi. He gets a ton of his value from playing major minutes along side Weber. Josi had 40 points (13G / 27A) last year and as long as he is playing with Weber on the top-pair and top power-play unit, he remains valuable and has a chance at 40 points.
Goaltending was a huge hole for the Predators last year. However, with some luck that should not be an issue this year. Pekka Rinne missed the majority of the year with an infection in his surgically repaired hip. He will be at 100 per cent to start 2014-15 and return to his status as an elite netminder. He will be backed-up by Carter Hutton, who went 20-11-4 with a 2.62 GAA and .910 SV% last season. He looked good in his first year in Nashville and could turn into a strong spot-start option again this season.
Look to the Draft (Ranking Preds’ Fantasy Players)
- Shea Weber – D
- James Neal – RW
- Pekka Rinne – G
- Roman Josi – D
- Mike Ribeiro – C
- Craig Smith – RW
- Seth Jones – D
- Filip Forsberg – RW
- Ryan Ellis – D
- Calle Jarnkrok – C
Click HERE for the Predators’ potential line combinations heading into the 2014-15 season.
Season prediction: In a loaded Central Division the Predators end up sixth and miss the postseason for the third consecutive season.
Other Season Previews: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames,Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars,Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens