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Season Preview: Nashville Predators

Addition of P.K. Subban, offensive depth provide ingredients for strong season

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent
At a glance

2015-16 record: 41-27-14, 96 points, 4th in Central Division, 7th in Western Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Defeated Anaheim Ducks in seven games in Western Conference First Round; lost to San Jose Sharks in seven games in second round

Additions: D: P.K. Subban, Yannick Weber

Subtractions: F: Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom; D: Barret Jackman, Shea Weber; G: Carter Hutton


Projected opening night lineup


Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Kevin Fiala

Colin Wilson -- Mike Fisher -- James Neal

Viktor Arvidsson -- Mike Ribeiro -- Craig Smith

Calle Jarnkrok -- Colton Sissons -- Miikka Salomaki

Austin Watson


Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Matt Carle -- Yannick Weber

Anthony Bitetto


Pekka Rinne

Marek Mazanec

Juuse Saros


Video: P.K. Subban talks about his preseason debut

The Nashville Predators believe this could be their best team.

One of the biggest stories of the NHL offseason was the Predators trading defenseman Shea Weber, their captain, to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman P.K. Subban, who brings more speed to the lineup, which was the major focus for the Predators.

They also chose to get younger in their bottom six forwards and brought in defensemen Matt Carle and Yannick Weber to add mobility to the third defense pair.

Nashville's top four defensemen -- Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis -- are one of the best groups in the League. That versatility will give coach Peter Laviolette options as far as who plays with whom in the top four. Will Subban and Josi, two of the most dynamic defensemen in the League, play together? Or will Laviolette play Subban with Ekholm and Josi with Ellis? Whatever the case, it appears like a good problem for the Predators to have to sort out.

Center Mike Fisher was named captain following the Weber trade and could start the season as Nashville's second-line center. Fisher had 13 goals and 23 points in 70 games last season, not quite the offensive production he wanted, but there's hope he can improve.

Forwards Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and James Neal should be the offensive catalysts. Forsberg scored 33 goals last season, and the 22-year-old left wing should continue to improve. Johansen will have his first full season with the Predators; he had 34 points in 42 games with Nashville after being traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 6. Neal scored 31 goals and will be expected to get at least that many. The Predators have more depth offensively, but Forsberg, Johansen and Neal will be the forwards most counted on to produce.

Pekka Rinne remains the starting goaltender. Marek Mazanec will be the backup.


Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Predators appear to have arguably their most talented roster. They have a young and mobile defense that can be as dangerous offensively as it is defensively. Young forwards Forsberg and Johansen have proven they can produce offensive numbers. The Predators are hoping the speed and depth they've put together during the past few seasons can lead to a third consecutive playoff berth.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm3: Forsberg's perfect shot beats Jones


Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

For perhaps the first time in their history, goaltending might be the biggest question mark for the Predators heading into a season. Rinne had a down season, with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. He will have to be better this season if the Predators want to achieve their objectives. However, with an injury history and a 34th birthday coming Nov. 3, how much better can Rinne be?


Breakout candidate

Kevin Fiala. The Predators have been waiting for Fiala, 20, to mature on and off the ice. The right wing has the potential to make a significant impact because of his offensive potential. Fiala had 50 points in 66 games with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League last season and looks poised to make the transition to the NHL.


On the hot seat

Mike Ribeiro. Predators general manager David Poile called out Ribeiro for his subpar playoff performance (two assists in 12 games), and said the 36-year-old center needed to have the "summer of his life." The Predators have more depth up front, with younger forwards Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok on the roster and prospect Vladislav Kamenev in the mix. If Ribeiro doesn't have a productive start to the season, his roster spot could be in jeopardy.

Video: NJD@NSH: Ribeiro nets a power-play goal


Trophy candidates

Subban (Norris); Josi (Norris); Fiala (Calder); Laviolette (Jack Adams)



"I think everyone got one more year on their shoulders. I think we're a pretty young group mixed in with some really good veterans. Just the way we played in the [2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs], I think we should just be better. Everyone has grown one more year, has got some more experience, and I think the expectation is obviously high within the group. I mean, it's exciting." -- defenseman Mattias Ekholm

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