The Nashville Predators started camp about a week ago as they move toward the next season following their best season in franchise history. For the most part, the Predators roster is set. However, there may be a few spots up for grabs lower in the lineup.
Currently, there are 13 forwards that we assume are going to make the squad; Pontus Aberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Nick Bonino, Kevin Fiala, Filip Forsberg, Scott Hartnell, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen, Cody McLeod, Mikka Salomaki, Colton Sissons, Craig Smith and Austin Watson. There is not a ton of room for others to make this team unless one or two of these players regress in camp.
As far as defensemen; Anthony Bitetto, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Alexei Emelin, Matt Irwin, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber look to be the 8 guys to make the team with Ellis starting on IR. This group is also pretty set coming into camp as well.
The goaltending situation is already ironed out, with Pekka Rinne being backed up by Jusse Saros.
While there is not much room to make this team in camp, there are players who are battling to unseat some of the veterans and at the very least keep them on their toes. They also want to put their name in the forefront of the coach’s minds to be 1st in line for a call-up when it is needed. So, let’s take a look at those players trying to make their mark.
Gaudreau came in and shocked Pred nation when Johansen went down in the Western Conference Final. No, he did not replace Johansen, but he did play much better than I think we all could have expected. His game was strong defensively and in the faceoff circle and he even managed to provide a little offense. I will say, he played much better in the middle then he did on the wing. If he is going to make this team it will be at center. This means he must challenge both Sissons and Jarnkrok for a spot. This will be a tall order as both players are very solid. While I like Gaudreau’s game a lot, he will most likely start in Milwaukee barring an injury at center. His best shot at starting in Nashville is if Bonino is not ready to start the season.
Last season Kamenev had a cup of coffee with the Predators and his performance was mixed. There were times you saw that he could possess the skills of a solid #2 centermen, however, he was mostly invisible. The coaching staff is ready to see this kid take a big jump in his development this season. Most likely he would fit in either Jarnkrok or Bonino’s spot on the roster, so it will be tough for him to start in Nashville. I think most would be happy if he just showed that he was ready for a call-up now. This is a player they see as a future fixture behind Johansen and they really want to see him step up in camp.
Trenin is another young center the team is watching closely. While he seems to have dipped a bit in his development, he is a player the Preds would like to see him become a player they must consider as a call-up. The hope would be that he can take his game up to another level in Milwaukee next year. The biggest challenge to his development now is if both Gaudreau and Kamenev start the season in Milwaukee, he will have to fight them for ice time. This could be a good thing, as it should force him to have to really compete. However, the hope is that it doesn’t discourage him if he ends up losing out to those two guys for the ice time. Trenin will be an interesting story to follow this season.
For Cody, this is an important offseason. The 29-year-old may be nearing the end of his chances to make the Preds roster. While I love his game, he will have a tough time topping McLeod, Watson, and Salomaki, who are the most likely guys he would compete with. Bass is fearless and his motor never stops running and he is the kind of player that could be invaluable to a team. However, the Preds have a lot of these guys in the lineup that play a variety of roles. This makes it that much tougher for him to make the team. While his chance with Nashville may be coming to an end, I really hope he gets a shot somewhere, it’s hard not to root for him.
While the Predators have 7 NHL defensemen even with Ellis on IR, Carrier is the one player that plays the most like Ellis. Couple that with the fact that I think the coaches would love to see some of these younger guys really give players like Weber and Irwin a real run for their money and Carrier has a real chance to make this team. Carrier’s puck moving skills, power play ability and leadership really give him a shot, but it is going to be up to him. Let’s be honest, it will not be easy, as most coaches would prefer the proven experience when you are in the Preds position of being a Cup contender.
Granberg is a player who seems to take two steps back for everyone one step forward so far in his career. Blessed with great size at 6’3”, 200 lbs he is a player we would love to see become a regular. However, his defensive game needs to improve. For some reason, he always seems to be just a half step slow in being where he needs to be. That doesn’t sound like much, but in the NHL a half step is all these guys need to beat you. At 25 years of age, he is getting close to the point in his career where what he is now, is what he will be. Granberg really needs to use this camp to show the coaches that he can play in this league. Most likely he will start the season in Milwaukee however, just too many bodies for him to have to beat out.
Girard is a long shot to make the team out of camp. However, he has the skill set to be an NHL defensemen, he also seems to be motivated to up his game now. Likely to start the season in Milwaukee, he needs to use this camp to put his name at the top of the call-up list. He saw a bit of AHL action last year getting in 6 games at the end of the season, so he does need some more seasoning. However, he appears to be a quick learner, jumping from 43 pts in his 1st season in the QMJHL to 74 and 75 pts respectively in his next two seasons.
So, as you can see, the Predators are going to be a tough team to make this training camp. This may be the 1st time I can remember the Predators having a team this hard to make, with this many guys in line to try to take some spots away. The competition throughout the lineup is only going to be a bonus for Nashville as they prepare to get in position for another shot at Stanley.
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