A unique and shortened preseason for the Nashville Predators has come to a close, highlighted by competing in the NHL Global Challenge in Roman Josi’s hometown of Bern, Switzerland against Josi’s first professional team, SC Bern. With that special event now in the rearview, it is time to take stock of the Predators organization following the training camp practices and preseason games. There were a number of players who really made a statement and a few whose stock has fallen off as we approach the start of the regular season.
Stock Up: F Cody Glass
Glass made significant strides last season with the AHL Milwaukee Admirals and earned a call-up to the Predators at the end of the season. In the offseason he signed essentially a prove-it contract for one year with Nashville to show he would be ready for a permanent role in gold. Glass has been a standout through camp showing growth both athletically and in playing a full ice game. With a lot riding on his performance, he showed he is the best option to center Nashville’s 4th line to start the season. His reaction to the news shown in the NHL Behind the Glass series that he will start the season with the Predators reflects just how hard he’s worked and what it means to earn that spot (stick tap to Alex Daugherty of A to Z Sports for grabbing the clip).
Stock Up: F Kiefer Sherwood
Sherwood looked like an interesting depth signing following a breakout season with the AHL Colorado Eagles where he put up 36 goals and 75 points in just 57 games. What is especially interesting is that this also represented a giant leap in production for Sherwood from any previous season. While it would be easy to assume Sherwood would be a top level AHL player and injury call-up, he came out blazing through training camp showing a solid combination of speed, stick-handling and scoring prowess. Sherwood has been impressive enough to get significant run with the expected 2nd line pairing of Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter. It’s unclear exactly where his role will fall but Sherwood has most definitely taken advantage of his opportunity.
Stock Down: F Philip Tomasino
Expectations were high for Philip Tomasino coming into the 2022 training camp. An impressive rookie season where he steadily worked his way up the lineup into a top-6 role has led most, myself included, to believe that he would be a lock for the 2nd line and ready to take aim at a 50-60 point season. Through training camp, Tomasino hasn’t been bad per se, though his performance vs Tampa Bay is one he’d like to have back. He hasn’t shown that clear next step in claiming his top-6 role for the ‘22-23 season. The impressive performance by the aforementioned Kiefer Sherwood has also created some doubt as to who will slot into the lineup come opening day in Prague. Philip Tomasino’s potential is still very high and he’s still quite young but there will need to be some work done to ensure a spot on the 2nd line is his to stay.
Stock Up: D Mattias Ekholm
The offseason acquisition of Ryan McDonagh created a significant question of how the Predators’ defensive pair would shake out given the likely starting six would contain four left-handed skaters. Early in camp, it was made known that Ekholm would take on the task of playing the right side and ensuring both Roman Josi and McDonagh would be able to stay on their natural side. Ekholm has played alongside both Josi and McDonagh and has looked not only comfortable but re-energized to be alongside veteran skaters instead of growing young players. It’s entirely possible that the Predators see the best version of Mattias Ekholm since he was partnered with PK Subban.
Stock Up: G Kevin Lankinen
Lankinen was a bit of a surprise signing given the Predators appeared to have a pretty clear hierarchy in net, especially since his numbers in Chicago were not good. However it is easy to forget just how bad Chicago has been, especially defensively, in the past couple of seasons. Lankinen came into camp with a good opportunity to earn a backup role and reinvigorate his career. His first scrimmage was a little shaky but Lankinen has been solid in every opportunity since, especially in the preseason games where he has reminded everyone why he was once viewed as the future starter in Chicago.
Stock Down: G Connor Ingram
Similar to Philip Tomasino, Connor Ingram entered the off-season with expectations of holding a role in the coming season. The signing of Kevin Lankinen cast some doubt and created some competition for the role assumed to be his. Also similar to Tomasino, it’s not that Ingram has been bad as much as Lankinen has just made a bigger impression. As such, it will be interesting to see how the Predators approach waivers following the Global Series. Do they try to slip Ingram through, hold three goalies for a time or orchestrate a trade? All are options since Ingram hasn’t outright claimed his roster spot.
Other Training Camp/Preseason Notes:
- I continue to be surprised Juuso Parssinen was not part of the Global Series roster. He was so good throughout camp displaying a fully composed game. Parssinen will be a top call-up option.
- Give me a top six in Milwaukee of Afanasyev-Parssinen-Evangelista and Nurmi-Novak-Schneider. That’s a dangerous group.
- Yaroslav Askarov is every bit as advertised. His athleticism, vision and personality scream starting goalie. He will be appointment viewing in Milwaukee.
- Mark Jankowski deserves credit for his work in the preseason. He’s big, skilled and shows a complete game. His work in the preseason game vs TB defending Victor Hedman, especially on the penalty kill, was very impressive.
- Spencer Stastney and Marc Del Gaizo both had strong camps displaying solid puck skill and defensive positioning.
- Egor Afanasyev is NHL-ready physically and a fast start offensively could push him to the top of the call-up list.
- I just don’t see it with Cole Smith. Sure he works hard and plays a physical game but his puck skill is not up to par especially compared to some of the other skaters.
- Right-hand defensive depth is lacking in the system so big seasons from Luke Prokop and Jack Matier will go a long way to solidifying the pipeline.
- Zach L’Heureux will serve again as an assistant captain for the Halifax Mooseheads but will start the season with an injury.
In conclusion, 2022-2023 should be a very exciting season for the Nashville Predators. The NHL squad has a palpable buzz in the fanbase about them I haven’t seen since the 2018 President’s Trophy team and there are a number of prospects who warrant some extra attention. So enjoy the season and I’ll be checking in regularly here on Penalty Box Radio as well as The Predator Way podcast to break it all down.