The 2023-24 NHL season starts Oct. 10. With training camps underway, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, inside scoop on roster questions, and projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Nashville Predators.
Coach: Andrew Brunette (first season)
Last season: 42-32-8; fifth place in Central Division, did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs
1. New offensive approach
When Brunette was hired, general manager Barry Trotz said he wanted the Predators to play "an entertaining, offensive brand of hockey that our fans could enjoy watching." Brunette's teams have shown the ability to score in bunches. As an assistant and later coach of the Florida Panthers in 2021-22, they averaged an NHL-leading 4.11 goals per game and won the Presidents' Trophy for having the best record in the NHL. As an assistant with the New Jersey Devils last season, they averaged 3.52 goals per game, tied for fourth in the NHL and up from 2.99 in 2021-22, and reached the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012. The Predators were 28th in the NHL last season, scoring 2.72 goals per game.
2. Good health
Injuries derailed the Predators in the second half of last season. Their best offensive player, forward Filip Forsberg, missed the final 32 games because of an upper-body injury sustained Feb. 11. Their best defenseman, Roman Josi, was out the final 15 games because of a concussion sustained March 18. A skate cut to his ankle ended forward Ryan Johansen's season Feb. 21, and forward Matt Duchene missed the final 10 games because of a hand injury. The Predators finished three points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, and it's certainly possible having at least one of their top players could have made the difference. Forsberg and Josi have recovered from their injuries and are expected to play prominent roles with Nashville looking to return to the postseason.
3. Development of young centers
The injuries allowed the Predators to get a better look at some of their young forwards who were pressed into extended playing time, among them centers Cody Glass, Tommy Novak and Juuso Parssinen. From Feb. 12 to the end of the season, Novak, 26, led the Predators with 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 31 games and Glass, 24, was third with 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 32 games. Parssinen, 22, had 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 42 games between his NHL debut Nov. 12 and Feb. 23, when he sustained an upper-body injury that sidelined him 23 games. The hope is those three, along with forwards Philip Tomasino, 22, and Luke Evangelista, 21, can continue to develop and add youthful energy to the Nashville attack.