In terms of goal scoring, the 2018-2019 Nashville Predators were marginally more electrifying than a John Tavares postgame interview. While the woefully ineffective power play was a front-and-center issue, the team’s poor production at five-on-five placed the writing on the wall in terms of the eventual playoff result.
In spite of an impressive shooting rate, the Predators produced the league’s fifteenth-most goals at five-on-five. While it could have been much worse, that’s not exactly a metric that inspires confidence from a team that should arguably be chasing a Stanley Cup.
Looking forward, what can we expect in terms of scoring from this season’s group of forwards? For now, we’ll leave the power play for another article. The predictions here refer only to five-on-five situations.
In terms of points leaders, you can expect the return of some familiar faces to the top of the list. Viktor Arvidsson had an incredible season dulled somewhat by a lengthy injury. Assuming he can stay healthier this year, the team can expect him to lead the way in scoring points, with Filip Forsberg following closely behind.
Newcomer Matt Duchene has had a turbulent past few seasons, as he has played for three teams in as many years. Assuming he can pick up where he left off though, he can be relied upon for around 35 points at five-on-five this season.
The team should expect more from Mikael Granlund after an offseason to rediscover his rhythm. Similarly, Kyle Turris will be expected to double his five-on-five points total from last season, where he struggled massively to stay healthy and get on the scoresheet. The improved performance of these two players alone would be a huge plus for this team.
With impressive youngsters like Rem Pitlick and Eeli Tolvanen in the system, it’s becoming increasingly more puzzling that Miikka Salomaki and Frederick Gaudreau are occupying roster spots. Neither player is expected to break into double digits in terms of five-on-five points this season.
In general, the expected goal production of Nashville’s forwards will be an improvement from last season. Once again, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg lead the way. With Ryan Johansen regularly delivering jaw-dropping passes, these two players will continue to feature on one of the NHL’s most productive lines. Especially as far as Viktor Arvidsson is concerned, the sky is really the limit.
Though he’s never been exactly a superstar, Calle Jarnkrok can be expected to bounce back from a year of anonymity and produce a healthy number of goals. With the team’s center depth taking a massive leap forward this summer, depth center/wingers like Jarnkrok can be expected to enjoy some increased production.
Kyle Turris is essentially an enormous question mark in terms of expected goals. The thirty-year old center scored a career-high 17 goals at five-on-five in 2017, but has really been all over the map in his time as an NHLer. Hopefully, he will skate and shoot with more confidence as he looks to impress this year.
On the other end of the spectrum, we once again find Salomaki and Gaudreau. I actually had to check the code when I saw a flat zero for Gaudreau’s expected five-on-five goals. While there is some upward variation possible, I will be pleasantly surprised if this expectation is surpassed.
I expect to get a little pushback regarding Rocco Grimaldi. Yes, he did look pretty good in the playoffs. But the playoffs were a dark time when simply moving quickly vaulted you into the top tier of performances by Nashville skaters. It’s possible that he will be a high-upside depth winger, but I expect him to venture onto the scoresheet very rarely this season.
Perhaps this is a huge cliche, but I can confidently say that this season is the most important in the Nashville Predators’ recent history. First of all, the team traded away an elite defenseman over the summer. Matt Duchene will have major expectations on his shoulders to justify that decision.
Furthermore, as we’ve discussed on Between the Fangs podcast, Nashville’s goaltending is likely not going to get any better. Pekka Rinne has been valiantly fighting the natural progression of age, but he will need to start resting more in order to maintain that performance in the postseason. While Juuse Saros bounced back in the latter part of last season, he showed some vulnerability in many games. Nashville needs to take advantage of their situation at this very moment and fully reach their potential.
With electric playmakers up and down the forward lines now, the 2019-2020 Nashville Predators should be a force to be reckoned with for opposing defenses.