Heading into the final three games of the preseason, the Preds roster has been reduced to numbers not far off from the Regular Season roster size. Despite the reduced number of players, there are still several interesting storylines setting up for the week ahead.
1) Who wins the final roster spots
With nine regulars returning at the forward position from last season’s team, it left anywhere between three and five forward slots open for competition this Training Camp. It’s a safe bet that Nick Tarnasky was acquired to play at the NHL level, and through the first three preseason games, Patric Hornqvist
and Rich Peverley appear to have the inside track on an additional two of those spots, likely leaving Triston Grant, Josh Gratton, Ryan Jones, Cal O’Reilly, Antti Pihlstrom
, Michael Ryan, and Joel Ward battling for the final spot(s).2) How do the lines shape up
Jason Arnott, JP Dumont, and Patric Hornqvist
have been a consistent trio throughout camp, so at this point it appears likely that they will see time together. Martin Erat
and David Legwand
have been a consistent pairing, and should open the season matched up together, though their other wing has rotated throughout camp. Beyond that the lines are very much up in the air. Now that the roster is reduced, look for the coaches to concentrate more heavily on potential line groupings over the final three preseason games. Defensively, the coaches have been very pleased with a Weber-Suter pairing, but will likely tinker with the other two combinations over the final three preseason games.3) Ordering
Coach Trotz has spoken frequently about the importance of prospects using Training Camp to set their “order” on the organization’s depth chart. Even if it doesn’t result in making the NHL squad out of camp, a player who improves his “ordering” increases his chances of earning a recall if the need arises at some point during the regular season. Alex Sulzer has done a good job of improving his “ordering” among the defensemen, regardless of whether he’s able to earn a spot on Opening Night. If he finishes the preseason strong, he can make the decision more difficult on the coaches.
The forwards battling for the final roster spots are in a similar situation. The NHL-ready forward depth has been greatly upgraded this season. The Preds only used three AHL call-up forwards all of last season – Rich Peverley for 33 games, Josh Langfeld for two games, Antti Pihlstrom
for one game – and the team went outside the organization to bring in Brandon Bochenski and Jan Hlavac for depth late in the season. This year, it appears at least five forwards who will open the season in Milwaukee would be under consideration for NHL recall should the need arise … and that doesn’t include injured forwards Jed Ortmeyer or Steve Sullivan. That added depth increases the need to establish a high order out of camp.4) Setting up the Special Teams
The coaches have spoken at length at the importance of solid special teams play. The penalty kill combos have been pretty strong through the first three weeks of the season (and the Preds are lucky enough to have several quality PK forwards on the their roster), but with just three remaining preseason games, look for the coaches to put a premium on setting the power-play units.