NASHVILLE – Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg will make his much-anticipated NHL debut on Sunday as a member of the team’s top line and first power-play unit.
One day after arriving from Sweden, the 18-year-old is set to play on a line with David Legwand, who has played for the Predators in every season of their existence, and rookie Taylor Beck, who has three goals in 13 games.
That the Predators’ top line is comprised of two rookies with a total of 13 NHL games between them is a testament to the extent to which injuries have impacted the Predators but also to how they have fallen out of the Stanley Cup Playoff race. They have lost eight out of nine entering their game on Sunday with the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena and were 13th in the Western Conference.
Forsberg, drafted 11th in the 2012 NHL Draft, is the player whom the Predators received in exchange from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat, who ranks second all-time in most Nashville offensive categories.
If the trade was putting the weight of expectations on Forsberg, it did not show. Asked if he was overwhelmed by the large number of media members and television cameras waiting to speak with him after the Predators’ morning skate, Forsberg responded in nearly flawless English with a slight British accent, "Well, it’s fun. Fun to be here and I guess it’s part of the job."
Predators coach Barry Trotz met Forsberg at the airport and then took him to the home of Predators’ Swedish forward Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist and his wife hosted a dinner and Forsberg will stay with the couple during these last two weeks of the season.
"They were really nice to me and cooked dinner with (fellow Swedish teammate) Daniel Bang and his girlfriend, too," Forsberg said. "We had a pleasant time."
Trotz thought it was important that Hornqvist, who will miss the next several days with injuries, was doing what he could to make Forsberg comfortable. Forsberg will become the third youngest player to suit up for the Predators at 18 years, 8 months and one day. Legwand was 18 years and 8 months old when he debuted April 17, 1999. Scott Hartnell owns the franchsie record for the youngest.
Sunday represented the first time that the Predators got Forsberg on the ice for a workout with his new team. Listed at 6-foot-1,188 pounds, Forsberg seemed bigger.
"You see why you get excited about the deal you made," Trotz said. "He’s big, he’s 18 years old and he’s a load. You can see the skillset. He shoots the puck really hard. You can see he has good mobility for a young guy. .. (He has) great, great potential and that’s always a dangerous word because it means he hasn’t done anything."
It was hard not to detect the worldliness about Forsberg, who was the captain for Sweden’s world junior championship team. He had two goals and three assists in six games in the tournament.
"He’s a really smart kid and very, very polite in terms of you want him to be that kind of kid," Trotz said. "He doesn’t seem to be in awe of anything. He’s played a pretty high level. I’m sure he’s used to the media and everything. I was really impressed with the young man."
Despite the huge number of Swedes on the Red Wings – they had eight on their roster on Sunday – Forsberg said he knew none of them personally. Fortunately for him, he said most of the Red Wings’ games are broadcast on television back home.
"I guess my dad is going to be able to watch me," he said, "so hopefully I [have] a good game for him."
Here are the projected lineups for both teams:
Taylor Beck - David Legwand - Filip Forsberg
Sergei Kostitsyn - Nick Spaling - Matt Halischuk
Rich Clune - Austin Watson - Craig Smith
Daniel Bang - Chris Mueller - Bobby Butler
Shea Weber - Roman Josi
Kevin Klein - Victor Bartley
Hal Gill - Jon Blum
Out: Brandon Yip, Paul Gaustad, Gabriel Bourque, Patric Hornqvist, Mike Fisher.
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen - Valtteri Filppula - Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyquist - Joakim Andersson - Damien Brunner
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Brendan Smith - Carlo Colaiacovo
Danny DeKeyser - Jakub Kindl
Out: Patrick Eaves, Brian Lashoff, Kyle Quincey, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm