After the Predators fell just a little bit short from winning the Stanley Cup, the front office quickly turned their attention towards shaping their roster for the upcoming season. When the Predators traded Colin Wilson to Colorado for a fourth-round draft pick, it seemed like there would be more playing time to be divided among the center prospects in their system. But after Nick Bonino was signed to a four-year contract and Frederick Gaudreau signed his ELC, the Predators seem to be set down the middle for at least the upcoming season.
Maybe the biggest news regarding the Predators roster was the retirement of their captain, Mike Fisher. With Fisher and James Neal gone, the Predators will have a new captain and assistant captain to start the season.
At this point of the summer, the Predators roster is pretty much set to start the season. A couple of players on the Predators roster who are likely to take a step forward this upcoming season, are Kevin Fiala and Pontus Åberg. Assuming Fiala’s injury that he sustained in the playoffs, has fully healed, he should continue to build upon his strong outing last season. Coming of a strong playoff performance, Åberg has the potential to leap frog Craig Smith on the depth chart and become fantasy relevant, second line winger. Both of them have a chance to be fixture on the second powerplay unit. Fiala is the more likely candidate for this, but Åberg is not far behind. The acquisition of Scott Hartnell hampers their expectations on the power play. Hartnell will be deployed as the net front presence on the first power play unit, leaving only one spot for Fiala and Åberg on the second unit.
On the goalie front, Juuse Saros continues to be one of the best backups in the league. Look for him to start almost every back-to-back game like he did last season. With Anders Lindback and Marek Mazanec in Milwaukee, I don’t expect the Predators to move Saros up and down between the AHL and the NHL, like they did last season. Saros will see a slight bump in his total start. Expect 23 to 27 starts.
In Milwaukee, Vladislav Kamenev has been groomed to be the Admirals number one center, before making the inevitable leap to the NHL. The young Russians progress has been positively steady since moving to North America. Having higher offensive upside, he will eventually take the number two spot from Bonino in a few years. The skilled center should get a cup of coffee this upcoming season in the NHL.
Nashville is known for their depth on defense. The future is also looking bright for them. Alexandre Carrier, Jack Dougherty, Samuel Girardi and Dantre Fabbro all project to become top notch defenders in the NHL.
Alexandre Carriers short term stock took a hit when the Predators acquired Alexei Emelin from the Montreal Canadiens. Carrier is NHL ready but it is likely that we won’t see him make the jump until next season. Carrier is a mobile do-it-all defenseman that has solid offensive and defensive capabilities. A leader on and off the ice who is creative with the puck and excels in reading plays and creating chances. Last season he had 39 points in 72 games with the Admirals.
A prospect with very high offensive upside is the exceptional puck distributer, Samuel Girard. During the past two season in the QMJHL he posted 149 points in 126 games. In the 2016 playoffs, his 22 points in 21 games ranks as the best performance for an under-18 defenseman since 1989. A speedy and decisive elite level playmaker with a set of soft hands. Girard’s coach, Claude Bouchard said “He’s offensively better than Letang was at his age”. On the flip-side, Girard has an average shot and he has a pass first mentality in the offensive zone. He makes up for his lack of size with his agility and excellent skating ability. Couple of years away from the NHL, but worth the wait.
The Scandinavian imports Emil Pettersson and Joonas Lyytinen, who both signed their two-year ELC’s this summer are looking to get their feet between the doors with the Predators organization. Pettersson ranked ninth in the SHL in points this past season. As a center, he has a lot of players in front of him that he needs to out-perform in order to earn his spot in the Predators line-up. The Finnish defender Lyytinen is a nice add for their defensive depth, but isn’t a fantasy relevant offensive contributor.
Anthony Richard’s pro debut season saw his scoring totals drop significantly from his stellar junior numbers that he had in the QMJHL. He had 238 points in 232 regular season games. Richards started last season in the AHL with the Admirals, but was demoted to the ECHL Cincinnati, where he suffered a concussion that made him miss a month’s worth of action. The Predators are really deep when it comes to centers. Richard needs to get back to his scoring ways if he wants to surface from the stacked Predators prospect pipeline. He has the skill to play in the NHL, there is no doubt about that. The upcoming season will be important to his career trajectory. In two or three years he could very well be the speedy, skilled middle-six center that the Predators hoped for when they drafted him.
Breaking Full Time Players (Graduates): Viktor Arvidsson
Coming to America: Emil Pettersson, Joonas Lyytinen
Organizational Prospect Depth Chart
Hardy Haman Aktell
Top-10 Prospects List