When Ryan Johansen was ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs after Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks, many had written off the Nashville Predators.
Enter Colton Sissons.
The 23-year-old center was no stranger to taking on a leadership role. Sissons was captain of the Milwaukee Admirals in 2015. After scoring just eight goals and 10 points in 58 regular season games last year, the 2012 second-round draft pick shattered whatever glass ceiling had been placed on him in the playoffs.
In the first game without Johansen, Sissons notched an assist and saw his ice time jump by nearly five minutes in the Predators’ 3-1 win. In Game 6, he scored a hat trick and scored what would be the game-winning goal.
Following a 12-point outburst in the playoffs, more eyes are on Colton Sissons than ever before. And that’s just fine by him.
“(I’m) just playing with that confidence that I left last season with,” he said. “I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes and I was seeing the ice pretty well and feeling my game really well. I just want to pick up where I left off and continue on from there. I set the bar pretty high now and I’m going to have to continue to get better.”
Following the retirement of former captain Mike Fisher and the offseason addition of Nick Bonino, the Predators’ center depth has gone through a bit of a makeover. Johansen emerged as a leader for Nashville in Rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs. In his absence, Sissons assumed that role. Now, with a new season ready to begin, the Predators have many capable leaders at the center position.
“Once we get down to our normal numbers we’ll kind of feel that process out as we go,” Sissons said. “But it will definitely be a change without Fish, he was a big presence and it’s going to take a group of people to pick up where he left off, leadership-wise.”
Having lost key contributors such as Fisher, James Neal and Colin Wilson, the 2017 Predators will have a few new faces, but share the same hunger they had last year to finally bring that elusive Stanley Cup to Nashville.
“It’s going to be different, obviously,” Sissons said. “Those guys were around here for quite a few years and the dynamic is going to change. But we’ve got a lot of talent still in this locker room and some of the younger guys have really developed their game at the NHL level – guys like Fiala, Pontus and Freddy Gaudreau. They’re great players that look like they are NHL ready.”
Sissons is just one of many young players who have made the transition from Milwaukee to Nashville. Many of the players on Nashville’s roster are Admirals’ alumni including Pontus Aberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Kevin Fiala, Freddy Gaudreau, Miika Salomaki and Austin Watson among others. The familiarity and level of comfort built between themselves in Milwaukee has transitioned nicely to the NHL.
“It’s pretty cool,” Sissons said. “Nashville has always prided themselves on having their drafted players become NHL players and going through Milwaukee, they get to Nashville. All three of us (Sissons, Aberg and Gaudreau) are no different than that, and even guys that have been around for a while like Austin Watson and Tony Bitetto have gone through the same process and I think it develops our game really well.”
You can see Sissons and the rest of the Nashville Predators through training camp at Centennial Sportsplex. View the schedule here.