In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Twentieth up are the Nashville Predators who are in their 21st season as an NHL team. They made the playoffs each of the last five seasons which included a trip to the Stanley Cup finals where were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 7th
- Goals for Rank: 19th
- Goals against Rank: 3rd
- PP Rank: 31st
- PK Rank: 6th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 13th
- Western Conference Standings: 5th
- Central Division Standings: 3rd
- Coach: Peter Laviolette (Sixth season with the Predators; 229-128-53 regular season; 32-29 playoffs; Career 618-410-25-16 regular season; 75-68 playoffs)
On offense, they averaged the ninth most shots for and yet they had the 19th most goals for. This is largely because they had the worst power play in the NHL after they had the 12th best Power Play the previous year. For full context, they didn’t have the fewest power play GOALS, that honor goes to the Canadiens but the Predators scored just two more goals despite getting over 20 more opportunities than Montreal. The Predators were deep last year, they had 10 players who scored 10 or more goals last year. Among those included forwards Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Craig Smith, Nick Bonino, Kevin Fiala, Colton Sissons, Calle Jarnkrok and Ryan Hartman. This is not going to be the best offense in the league but there are few weaknesses as all four lines come in strong with good hustle and repeated shots on goal. After two dominant seasons I will be curious to see if this team begins looking more of the season as a journey instead of a night by night fight. As such I expect some regression in regular season in favor of a strong playoff push.
Defensively, they have an amazing set of defensemen. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis are a top three top pair, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro give the Predators a top five top four defensemen. Losing PK Subban does hurt, I would put these lines among the best in the NHL with PK still on the team. The aforementioned top four last year put up 30 goals, 101 points and a plus 57…and the best part, Dante Fabbro only played four games. To be fair Dante came straight out of Boston University where he had 33 points in 36 games and it is fair to say there will be a learning curve but I’m bullish on his potential as a professional.
In net, Pekka Rinne has been among one of the most consistently dominant goalies in the league over the last ten or so years. Since 2019 he has just one season with a GAA above 3; one season with a save percentage beneath .910 and one season with fewer than 15 wins. Last year he had a 2.42 GAA (10th) and a .918 SV% (11th in the NHL). Pekka is not a top five goalie but will consistently stay a top ten pillar for this team with a GAA below 2.5 and a save percentage above .915.
Behind the bench, Peter Laviolette is close to Claude Julien on the all time list. Claude has 15th most regular season wins, Peter has the 18th, Peter has 75 playoff wins (13th all time); Claude has 63 (16th all time); both have one Stanley Cup win. In the 17 seasons Peter has been an NHL coach, he has made the playoffs 11 times. Now what’s interesting to me is the evolution of his career. He made the playoffs both years with the Islanders at the start of his career, he made it just once when he won the cup with the Hurricanes, he made it three times with Philadelphia and now he’s five for five with the Predators. In spite of him being with the Hurricanes, Flyers and Predators for five years each, he has vastly improved during each tenure.
- Matt Duchene
- Kevin Fial
- PK Subban
- Wayne Simmonds
Prospects and Picks
Rem Pitlick — Taken with the 76th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Rem actually moved from the University of Minnesota last season (where he had 21 goals and 45 points in 38 games) to play in one game for the Nashville Predators last season. During this very long one game, he received no points but did get two PIM. He was a Hobey Baker nominee and all-Big Ten first team. He is a capable scorer in spite of his height (5’9) who will likely spend a year in the AHL developing his game.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Dante Fabbro — As I mentioned he played just four games last year but during his three years with Boston University, he had at least six goals each year (or an average of about one goal each six games), he showed continued growth and progression and there is a very strong chance he lands on one of the power play lines where he could certainly land a helping hand. Don’t be mistaken, this is a deep play but I could see him putting up top 50 defense numbers which would be about 6-7 goals and 30+ points.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$80MM Spent; $1.3MM in Cap room; 24 players signed.