August 32-in-32: Nashville Predators

Jeff Grybel

2023-08-18

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Welcome to the August edition of the DobberProspects 32-in-32 Series. This month, we are diving into the depth of each organization, looking at their recent graduates, risers, fallers and top-20 prospects.

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It was interesting to watch new GM Barry Trotz execute his vision of what the Nashville Predators will be going forward. His initial statements after taking over the front office were that he wanted to shift the culture of the team and look to add serial winners to the locker room. After hosting a successful draft, all eyes shifted to free agency and what the path would be: teardown or retool. With players like Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and Juuse Saros still comprising the core of this team, it didn’t seem likely that the team would undergo a Blackhawks-esque rebuild in 2023. It was still surprising to see veterans like Ryan Johansen traded and Matt Duchene bought out. These moves paved the way for the additions of Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn, Gustav Nyquist, and Denis Gurianov. The team is probably still destined to miss the playoffs, but it isn’t completely out of the question if some of the young players take another step and the core stays healthy. 

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Graduating to the NHL

Tommy Novak

It’s probably safe to say that not many had an age-26 breakout for Tommy Novak on their 2022 bingo cards. He started the season with Milwaukee and was a solid offensive contributor at just over a point-per-game. He got the call-up in December in a bottom-six capacity with some power-play time, averaging just over 11 minutes a night for the first 20 games. The combination of injuries and Nashville selling off at the deadline opened opportunities in the top-six and PP1, which Novak gladly capitalized on, averaging well over 16 minutes a night after the All-Star break and finishing with 43 points in 51 games by year’s end. While Nashville brought in a few veteran players in the offseason, look for Novak to center the second line and first power-play unit to start the season. He will be a solid source of points and power-play points for fantasy but don’t count on many other peripheral stats. 

Juuso Parssinen

Another beneficiary of the ample available ice time in Nashville last season, Parssinen was one of the first players called up in November, and he stuck around for the remainder of the season, albeit missing the entire month of March due to an upper-body injury sustained in a late February tilt with the Sharks. He primarily centered Filip Forsberg (who also missed much of last season after getting injured in late February), and saw some time on the wing, playing up and down the lineup, and even some power play. He is the embodiment of a pass-first player, averaging about 1 shot per game, but also provided over 1.5 hits per game and held his own in the face-off dot. Look for him to give new head coach Andrew Brunette many options on where to play him in 2023. 

Luke Evangelista

It was surreal to see Evangelista in a Preds jersey last season, one year removed from his final season in the OHL and two years removed from being drafted in the second round by Nashville. The success rate of finding capable NHL players outside of the first round is fairly low, not to mention finding possible impact players. At this time last year, my predecessor at DP pegged Evangelista as a riser in the Nashville system and a possible top-six contributor in the future. Here we are one year later and it looks like that time has come. He did everything asked of him at the AHL level and got the call to suit up for his first NHL game on Leap Day (2/28) last season. He played out the rest of the regular season with the big club and averaged over 16 minutes per game and time on the power play. He wasn’t afraid to shoot the puck either, at over 2 shots per game. He has certainly arrived and offers enticing upside for the foreseeable future in fantasy (at least until Kemell and Wood make it to the NHL as impact players). 

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Graduating from Junior

Reid Schaefer

Schaefer and the Thunderbirds fell short of a Memorial Cup, but had a successful season in the WHL nonetheless. He is expected to suit up for Milwaukee in 2023 for his first taste of professional hockey. He was a key piece in the Mattias Ekholm trade last season and the team should be eager to see what they have in him. 

Zachary L’Heureux

L’Heureux finished up his 4th year in the QMJHL and will head to the AHL in the coming season. He couldn’t stay on the ice for the entire season, battling both a hip injury and (shockingly) another suspension. He has missed 37 games over his junior career due to suspension, and it’s timely that he’s leaving the QMJHL just as the sanctions for fighting have increased. His development has certainly slowed since being drafted in the first round by the Predators, but time will tell if he’s ready for bigger and faster competition at the pro level. 

Luke Prokop

Prokop will join his WHL teammate Reid Schaefer in making the jump to the AHL in the coming season. At 6-6 and 220 lbs, he has the size to succeed in the pros, but we’ll see what kind of role is in store for him. His point upside isn’t high, but he could contribute a healthy amount of blocks and hits for fantasy managers one day. 

Jack Matier

Matier concluded his successful OHL career with the Ottawa 67’s and showed no ill signs of development from his lost season of 2020. He contributed 13 goals and 49 points in 58 games from the blue line in his final season and he finished third in the league in +/- at +40, which is a stark contrast to the year prior at -20. He’ll bring more size to the Admirals, along with Prokop.

Nolan Burke

Burke went undrafted and eventually signed with Nashville in November 2022, and finished second in the OHL in goals with 50, a far cry from the four goals scored in 44 games during the 2019/20 season. He seemed to slip through the cracks due to the missed OHL season, but he’s made up for lost time. His next test will be to translate that goal scoring to the AHL and perhaps get more than a cup of coffee at the NHL level. 

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Risers

Joakim Kemell

Based on the Liiga portion of his D+1 season, it’s surprising to see Kemell on the “Risers” section, not the “Fallers”. However, he came over from Finland to play for the Admirals for the end of the season and playoffs and thrived. It’s safe to say he has adjusted to the North American game, potting 14 goals across 28 AHL games and nearly helping his team make it to the Calder Cup Finals. He is now tasked to sustain that success over the course of a full AHL season, and he has an outside chance to play NHL games at some point in the coming season. 

Fallers

Philip Tomasino

I take no pleasure in placing Tomasino under the “Fallers” section; he was (and hopefully still is) one of the key pieces to a quick turnaround in Nashville. But it’s tough to omit him from this list when he was beaten out of an NHL spot by the likes of Cole Smith, Mark Jankowski, Kiefer Sherwood, and Michael McCarron. Should the blame be on Tomasino’s shoulders or former head coach John Hynes’? It might be a bit of both, but he gets a chance to flip the script in 2023. He’s poised to fill a middle-six role with the Predators, and a big year could go a long way to renew faith in him from the fantasy community. 

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Organizational Depth Chart

A combination of NHL readiness and long-term upside

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Reid SchaeferFyodor SvechkovJoakim Kemell
Egor AfanasyevJuuso ParssinenMatthew Wood
Zachary L’HeureuxFelix NilssonPhilip Tomasino
Kalan LindAdam IngramLuke Evangelista
Isak WaltherJoey WillisJesse Kiiskinen
Gunnarwolfe FontaineNolan BurkeAiden Fink
Sutter MuzzattiAustin RoestCole O’Hara
Navrin MutterAlexander CampbellSimon Knak
Jachym Kondelik
Ben Strinden
Jasper Weatherby
Chase McLane
Left DefenseRight Defense
Tanner MolendykRyan Ufko
Anton OlssonKasper Kulonummi
Adam WilsbyJake Livingstone
Marc Del GaizoLuke Prokop
Graham SwardJack Matier
Spencer StastneyDylan MacKinnon
Semyon ChistyakovVladislav Yeryomenko
Roland McKeown
Luke Reid
Goalie
Yaroslav Askarov
Juha Jatkola
Konstantin Volkov
Ethan Haider

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Top-20 Fantasy Prospects

  1. Yaroslav Askarov
  2. Joakim Kemell
  3. Matthew Wood
  4. Philip Tomasino
  5. Luke Evangelista
  6. Juuso Parssinen
  7. Ryan Ufko
  8. Tanner Molendyk
  9. Reid Schaefer
  10. Fyodor Svechkov
  11. Egor Afanasyev
  12. Zachary L’Heureux
  13. Felix Nilsson
  14. Jesse Kiiskinen
  15. Adam Ingram
  16. Kasper Kulonummi
  17. Kalan Lind
  18. Luke Prokop
  19. Jack Matier
  20. Anton Olsson

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Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @JeffGrybel 

LATEST PROFILE UPDATES

Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
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Alexander Pelevin 3 2
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