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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Nashville Predators

Can Nashville make their way back to the finals?

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Twenty-sixth up are the Nashville Predators. Currently in their 19th season, the Predators are definitely on the rise with 3 consecutive trips to the playoffs coupled with a Stanley Cup loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins last year.

Basic Stats:

2016-2017 NHL Standings: 18th

Western Conference Standings: 8th

Central Division Standings: 4th

Goals for Rank: 11th

Goals against Rank: 15th

Overview: I know that some are anointing the Nashville Predators the next dynasty but I would like to offer this synopsis. The last 10 Stanley Cup losers next season results: San Jose Sharks (lost First Round), Tampa Bay Lightning (lost Conference Finals), New York Rangers (lost Conference Finals), Boston Bruins (lost Second Round), New Jersey Devils (missed playoffs), Vancouver Canucks (lost First Round), Philadelphia Flyers (lost Second Round), Detroit Red Wings (lost Second Round), Pittsburgh Penguins (Won Stanley Cup) and Ottawa Senators (lost First Round). I point this out as it’s possible to come back to the Stanley Cup (Pittsburgh did it) but it’s increasingly difficult and a lot has to be going your way for this to occur. I say this because this team entered the playoffs as the bottom seed. I say this because this team was fairly pedestrian in goals for and against last year. With all of this trepidation, what they did in the playoffs was phenomenal and an proclamation of them becoming a powerhouse team, they just need to make sure they follow that up with a respectable regular season this year. They went from the 14th fewest shots against during the regular season to the 5th fewest in the playoffs as they certainly stepped up most notably on the defensive end. Going into this season, nothing changes from that point, PK Subban will still be the focal point of potentially the best defense in the league featuring Ryan Ellis, Roman JOsi and Mattias Ekholm. To be honest, Roman Josi did not impress me last playoffs despite appearing to be one of their more promising defensive players over the last 2 years. The defense helped alleviate shots from Pekka Rinne who had grown accustomed to the team being among the 6 fewest in shots the two previous years, obviously up a full 2.5 shots per game last year. Pekka, now 34, will see a similar 60ish games this year probably showing around 2.4 GAA with a .915 Sv% behind him is 21 year old Juuse Saros who was a respectable backup with a 2.35 GAA and .923 Sv% going 10-8 last year across 21 starts. My fear lies not with the defense, they will improve into the top 10 in goals against, but instead the offense where Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino will work to backfill the 41 goals and 83 points that left in James Neal and Mike Fisher not to mention the leadership from previous captain Mike. My guess is Filip Forsberg, Ryan Ellis or PK will backfill that spot but it’s a tough loss for the team. I expect to see their goals for regress back a bit.

Major Additions: Scott Hartnell, Nick Bonino

Major Subtractions: PA Parenteau, James Neal and Mike Fisher

Prospects and Picks:

- Eeli Tolvanen. Yet another scandanavian taken in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft (10 Scandanavians to be exact). Eeli, the 30th overall pick looks to be Victor Arvidsson’s heir apparent. Eeli led the USHL in shots last season much in the way Victor was 20th in the nhl with 246 shots last season. Eeli, while not overtly big or physical, is a very gifted shooter and makes up for his small stature with speedy bursts that get him out of trouble. He’s mostly focused offsensively, something he will need to work on as he matures.

-Jusse Saros. In the wake of a great inaugural season, Juuse is in line to be the ultimate backfill for aging Pekka Rinne. His GAA and Sv % had he played enough to qualify, would have put him in the top ten in both categories. He looks the part and it will be fascinating to see if he can duplicate it to show future success.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:

-Kevin Fiala. Playing just 13 minutes a game last year over 54 games, Kevin scored 16 points. This year, he has a chance to play first line minutes and be the beneficiary to Ryan Johanssons natural talent coupled with Victor’s unabashed shots on goal and reputable 12% scoring percentage.

-Scott Hartnell. Scott’s point production over the last three years has waned heavily going from 60 points, to 49 points to 37 last year. Scott was released by the Blue Jackets and signed by his drafted team and while he will be playing 3rd line minutes, I’m speculating it will be a full 1-2 minutes ATOI more than he had last year. Additionally, all signs are pointing to him getting 1stteam PP time, a position he has relished in over his career. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back up around 45 points with 15-20 power play points. Scott will also contribute PIM and hits which is an added benefit.

Cap Situation:

They currently have around $6.1MM with 24 players signed.

Projected finish:

2017-2018 NHL Standings: 6th

Western Conference Standings: 3rd

Central Division: 2nd

NHL 7th: Toronto Maple Leafs (Eastern Conference 4th; Atlantic Division 1st)

NHL 8th: Chicago Blackhawks (Western Conference 4th; Central Division 3rd)

NHL 9th: Tampa Bay Lightning (Eastern Conference 5th; Atlantic Division 2nd)

NHL 10th: Anaheim Ducks (Western Conference 5th; Pacific Division 2nd)

NHL 11th: Ottawa Senators (Eastern Conference 6th; Atlantic Division 3rd)

NHL 12th: Montreal Canadiens (Eastern Conference 7th; Atlantic Division 4th)

NHL 13th: New York Rangers (Eastern Conference 8th; Metropolitan Division 4th)

NHL 14th: Calgary Hurricanes (Western Conference 6th; Pacific Division 3rd)

NHL 15th: Carolina Hurricanes (Eastern Conference 9th; Metropolitan Division 5th)

NHL 16th: San Jose Sharks (Western Conference 7th; Pacific Division 4th)

NHL 17th: Dallas Stars (Western Conference 8th; Central Division 4th)

NHL 18th: Philadelphia Flyers (Eastern Conference 10th; Metropolitan Division 6th)

NHL 19th: Winnipeg Jets (Western Conference 9th; Central Division 5th)

NHL 20th: St. Louis Blues (Western Conference 10th; Central Division 6th)

NHL 21st: Boston Bruins (Eastern Conference 11th; Atlantic Division 5th)

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)