By signing Cody Franson, the Preds enter camp with their defensive corps pretty well intact. Francis Bouillon
, Kevin Klein
, Ryan Parent, Ryan Suter
, and Shea Weber
are each full-time NHLers; Franson made his NHL debut seven games into the ’09-10 campaign and quickly became a regular for the Preds. Those six give the Preds a good balance along the blueline. Weber and Franson are dangerous offensive defensemen; Suter is an elite two-way defenseman; Bouillon, Klein and Parent are respected match-up defenders. That group also provides the Preds with good long-term stability – the Preds have the leverage to bring all six back again next season (four are signed to contracts through the end of the ’11-12 season, the other two are restricted free agents at the end of this season).
Entering camp, the biggest questions on the blueline appear to revolve around the seventh defenseman – free agent signee Aaron Johnson has 225 games of NHL experience, Alex Sulzer has 22 games of NHL experience and played in both the Olympics and World Championships for Germany in 2010, Teemu Laakso
made the Preds out of training camp last year, and prospects Jonathon Blum
, Ryan Ellis
, and Roman Josi
are each highly heralded and expected to press for NHL jobs. The depth and skill of the group should make for strong competition throughout camp. Any of those guys are capable of not only earning an opening night roster spot, but playing regularly in the NHL this season.
The other item worth watching in camp will be the defensive pairings. Weber and Suter have been regulars together for the past few seasons and have developed into one of the top d-man groupings in the league. It would seem likely Weber and Suter will remain together this season (at least for long stretches), but it will be interesting to see how the other two pairings shape up. --Jay Levin, NashvillePredators.com