With Predators GM David Poile essentially done making changes this off-season, we look ahead to what the team may look like heading into the 2009/10 campaign.
Jason Arnott, C… Captain Arnott will be looking to lead Nashville to the post-season after a1-year hiatus. He should benefit from Dumont and Sullivan next to him from the get-go.
Steve Sullivan, RW… Fresh off his new contract, Sully is expected to be an offensive catalyst for the Preds. They certainly need him to stay healthy as he was the team’s x-factor down the stretch this spring.
J.P. Dumont, LW… Dumont led the Preds in points last year with 65. As long as the top line stays on the ice, he has a shot at doing that again. A 25-goal season will help big time.
David Legwand, C… Legwand is one of my favorite players on this team, even though most fans give him a bad rap. He’s efficient on the PK, and has some offensive punch. Look for him to flirt with the 50-point mark this year.
Martin Erat, LW… With his salary increasing over the next few years, Erat must start playing more consistent (and produce much more) to earn some of that dough.
Joel Ward, RW… ‘Wardo’ will hopefully prove he wasn’t a one-year wonder. He seemed to get more comfortable as the season went on, and showed a lot of offensive potential late in the year.
Jerred Smithson, C… ‘Smithers’ is a really solid 4th-line center. He’ll likely play the same role he’s been in the last couple years: killing penalties and creating energy.
Jordin Tootoo, RW… There’s no way Music City’s fan favorite won’t be on the opening night roster. In a contract year, Tootoo could put together his best season.
Ryan Jones, LW… Even though he’s still without a contract, I’m confident something will get worked out before camp. Jones has good potential, and fits well in a 3rd-line role with the Preds.
Cal O’Reilly, C… In all likelihood, O’Reilly will be with the big club. But it’s not a given, especially if top prospect Colin Wilson makes the team.
Patric Hornqvist, RW… He was up and down from AHL Milwaukee last season, and didn’t quite live up to expectations in his rookie year. A breakout year is possible if given the chance.
Colin Wilson, C… I think every Preds fan would like to see Wilson on the NHL roster on October 3. But in reality, both parties are better off if he gets a month or two of seasoning in the AHL.
Antti Pihlstrom, LW… He’s still an RFA, and there were rumblings earlier this summer that he could head to Europe. 7 points in 53 games didn’t cut it as he was expected to produce much more.
Wade Belak, LW… To be honest, I don’t know why he’s on this team. He may be a good locker room guy and all that, but the guy is clueless 75% of the time in his own zone. Belak’s only good for a knockout punch to Brashear!
Peter Olvecky, F… Minnesota’s 3rd round pick in 2004 just might be the next Joel Ward. Olvecky is still 23, and has had some good experience in the AHL.
Ben Guite, F… Guite spent the last 3 seasons with the Avalanche, getting some playing time in Denver. He’ll likely only be a depth guy this season.
Long-shots to make the team
Shea Weber… #6 has turned into one of the best defensemen in the league, no question. His bomb from the point is lethal, and is known to crunch opponents into the boards on a nightly basis.
Ryan Suter… I believe could be a big year for Suter as his point totals have risen in each of his 4 seasons. He and Weber make for one of the best young d-men pairings in hockey.
Dan Hamhuis… ‘Hammer’ is going into a contract year, and he may want to make this his breakout season. His first 2 years were his two best, and has dropped off a tad since. Consistent play in his own zone is the name of his game.
Kevin Klein… After spending 2 seasons basically as a healthy scratch, Klein put together a solid 63-game campaign in 08/09. He could build off of that next to Hamhuis or one of the younger guys.
Alexander Sulzer… The German rookie might be Greg Zanon’s replacement. He’s not expected to contribute much offensively, and had a really good year in Milwaukee 2 years ago.
Cody Franson… Considered as one of the best d-men prospects in the organization, the 6’5” Franson has a good chance at seeing regular playing time in Nashville this year. He’ll have to beat out Laakso and others, though.
Teemu Laakso… Possibly the most underrated prospect in the Preds’ organization. Laakso was a 3rd round pick in 2005, and has spent most of time in Finland since then.
Long-shots to make the team
Pekka Rinne… Rinne was really good for the Preds last year, and now it’s time for him to build off of that. This team can’t afford to be switching goalies every other game in the first half for the 3rd straight year. ‘Peks’ challenged Steve Mason and Bobby Ryan as a Calder candidate with his 2.38 GAA and 29-15-4 record. Rinne goes into camp as the #1, and is expected to hold onto that position to start the season.
Dan Ellis… Ellis can be a really good backup if he starts playing like he did in 07/08. He was their netminder in the playoffs that year, but couldn’t carry that success over into last year. Look for him to put together a decent season, and head for free agency next summer (if everything goes as planned).
Long-shots to make the team
I still think this team is two players away from coming closer to solidifying its playoff chances. Another forward and veteran defenseman is what Poile could pick-up after camp begins. Nonetheless, Nashville should once again be in the discussion for a playoff berth in the spring. It’s up to these players to step up and make it happen…
It's the best time of year!
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