As the 2022-2023 NHL season approaches, the Nashville Predators leave behind a successful offseason that saw one of the biggest re-signings in franchise history and multiple significant additions in forward Nino Niederreiter and defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Gone from the forward corps are Luke Kunin, Nick Cousins, Matt Luff, Rocco Grimaldi and Mathieu Olivier while the defensive group bid adieu to Matt Benning, Ben Harpur, Jeremy Davies (still think this was a bad decision) and Philippe Myers. All the roster turnover will open up some opportunities for new faces, especially up front. While the defensive corps looks to be set, the Predators have an interesting mix of youth and experience who could both challenge for lineup spots and create some matchup flexibility game to game.
With training camps only days away, it’s time to start looking at who could challenge for an NHL roster spot and the different lineups the Predators could put on the ice. Let’s find out what that could look like…
Starting off, let’s set the stage for the roster locks and contenders among the forwards:
- Locks – Forsberg, Duchene, Granlund, Johansen, Niederreiter, Tomasino, Jeannot, Trenin, Sissons
- Likely – Glass, Sanford, Tolvanen, McCarron
- Pushing – Parssinen, Novak, Jankowski, Sherwood, Leonard
- Potential Call Ups – Afanasyev, Smith, Schneider (PTO)
So that makes a pretty set top 9 forward group with 5 spots available on the NHL roster. With Glass and Tolvanen likely to make the opening roster, it will be interesting to see if Parssinen or Novak can jump ahead of Sanford or McCarron for one of the final spots. Parssinen has continued to improve and has the size to play bottom 6 hockey. Novak made a solid impression in limited NHL time and could be a solid contributor with another step in his progression. Among the other depth options there is an interesting mix of size, skill and experience to create options for moving in and out of the lineup to identify mismatches or meet the capabilities of opposing lineups.
For the sake of argument let’s assume that McCarron and Novak are the extra forwards and the “regular” lineup will look like this:
What makes the forward corps interesting is that the mix of size and skill across the lines creates versatility for John Hynes without hindering the potency of the lineup. If Hynes wants to load the lines with offensive skill, Tolvanen could bump up to the 2nd line and Tommy Novak could slot into the 4th line in place of Zach Sanford ending up with something like this:
- Niederreiter-Glass-Jeannot (author’s note: I typed this line out and physically trembled at the prospect of it)
On the flip side, if John Hynes wanted to go heavier in the lineup, Tanner Jeannot could move up into the top 6 and Michael McCarron could slot in for Tolvanen or Tomasino creating something like this:
- Tolvanen-McCarron-Sanford (author’s note: I know… nobody wants this but it worked out this way for the sake of the exercise)
Or if a lineup maximizing the skating speed was necessary, the lines could look like this:
Will We See Any of These?
While John Hynes isn’t the line blender extraordinaire that Peter Laviolette was known for, he isn’t afraid to tinker with lines if he thinks a group isn’t working or if there is a matchup he wants to exploit. The expected lineup I mentioned first will likely see the majority of the action, but with the variance in styles across the central division combined with new and emerging faces in the lineup there is some opportunity to try out different combinations. The advantage for this Predators roster is that those different looks all maintain the balance of size, speed and skill that are the makings of a high powered offense. The question that remains is how effective will John Hynes be at integrating the new players and maximizing the opportunities for success.