The Big Four
Marek Zidlicky is the most polished defender of the group, and the 30-year-old should have an increased role this year with former captain Kimmo Timonen wearing a Philadelphia Flyers jersey this season. But the strength of the Nashville defense is a trio of homegrown defenders the Predators have watched blossom from draft picks to NHL regulars. They may be talented, but they’re also very young — Dan Hamhuis is 24, Ryan Suter, 22, and Shea Weber, 21. Weber was the biggest offensive threat among the three last season with 17 goals and 40 points. Suter scored 24 points and was a plus-10, while Hamhuis logged the most ice of the trio with an average of 21:20 per game.
The Preds signed veteran Greg de Vries as a free agent this summer; the 34-year-old is expected to add experience to a relatively young but extremely talented defense.
Get the point
Weber scored six power-play goals last season in a breakout season. He’ll continue to see plenty of time on the point again, as will Suter, who is more of a passer than a bomber from up top. Timonen scored eight power-play goals last season; the Preds plan to replace him this season with young guys who remain in Nashville.
In the Wings
Jonathon Blum-- Nashville’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, the 18-year-old from California could be a key cog on the blue line for years to come. But in all likelihood, he’ll head back to his junior club in Vancouver for more seasoning. With the Giants, he had eight goals and 51 points in 72 games and was a plus-37. In 22 playoff games, he added another nine points and finished the tournament a plus-13.
Kevin Klein -- The 22-year old was a second-round pick of the Preds in 2003. A Kitchener, Ontario, native, he was re-signed as a restricted free agent this summer after a 20-point, plus-2 year in 2006-07 with Milwaukee of the AHL.
Cody Franson -- A big guy at 6-foot-4, he’ll fit in perfectly with Nashville’s smashing style. Taken in the third round by the Preds in 2005, the 20-year-old was selected to the Memorial Cup All Star team last spring, following a 51-point, plus-7 year with Vancouver of the Western League.
Ryan Suter -- The highest-drafted defenseman on the Preds, Suter, who was taken No. 7 overall in 2003, continues to blossom into an effective defender. With Timonen off to Philadelphia though, the Preds lost their captain and best defenseman, and will therefore need at least one of their impressive trip of young D-men to make up for that huge loss. Suter can absolutely be that guy, and, surrounded by guys he’s grown up in the organization with, could shine in his expanded role. Suter has been groomed to be the man in Nashville since he was drafted in front of the home crowd four years ago, and this could be the year he makes his biggest stride. The better he is, the better the Preds will be.