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Hynes Talks Roster, Taxi Squad as Preds Make Decisions for Opening Night

Nashville's Head Coach Says Team Has Plenty of Options Available for Lineup in Months to Come

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

The personnel have been selected.

The Nashville Predators announced their Opening Night roster and taxi squad on Wednesday afternoon ahead of Thursday's season opener against Columbus, and there were unique elements to analyze. 

There are 21 players included on the active roster, five more on the taxi squad and two have been designated as non-roster players. Here's a breakdown of what the roster looks like:

The Active Roster:

- Forwards: Filip Forsberg, Colton Sissons, Luke Kunin, Yakov Trenin, Brad Richardson, Calle Jarnkrok, Nick Cousins, Rocco Grimaldi, Viktor Arvidsson, Erik Haula, Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene.

- Defensemen: Ryan Ellis, Matt Benning, Mattias Ekholm, Jarred Tinordi, Dante Fabbro, Roman Josi and Mark Borowiecki.

- Goaltenders: Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros.

Non-Roster:

- Forward: Mikael Granlund

- Defenseman: Luca Sbisa

Granlund is dealing with immigration issues, but the Predators are hopeful the Finnish winger could arrive in Nashville this week and begin his quarantine. The Preds are planning to start the season without Granlund available to play.

Sbisa was claimed on waivers from Winnipeg yesterday, and the blueliner will have to quarantine in Nashville before becoming available to play.

The Taxi Squad:

- Forwards: Mathieu Olivier, Eeli Tolvanen and Cole Smith.

- Defenseman: Alexandre Carrier

- Goaltender: Connor Ingram

Taxi squad players may be added and removed from the active roster on a daily basis, as long as teams do not exceed the 23-man limit.

Additionally, the Preds assigned forwards Patrick Harper, Tanner Jeannot, Sean Malone, Michael McCarron, Tommy Novak, Rem Pitlick, Anthony Richard, Philip Tomasino and Josh Wilkins; defensemen Jeremy Davies, Ben Harpur and Tyler Lewington; and goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo to Chicago of the AHL, a move made possible by Nashville's agreement with the Carolina Hurricanes in response to the Milwaukee Admirals electing to shut down their operations this season.

So, what does it all mean?

Predators Head Coach John Hynes discussed the roster choices on Wednesday, and he cautioned on making too many assumptions from the outset.

Video: Coach Hynes makes decisions on roster, taxi squad

"[We had] some tough decisions to make because that means the players really worked hard and did a good job," Hynes said. "We feel like we have guys in the right spots, and I think you don't necessarily want to read too much into who's where, just in the sense that there's going to be a lot of fluidity to the situation. Whether it be guys that are on the 23-man roster or the taxi squad or the players that have been assigned to Chicago tentatively right now - and we'll have them stay here in Nashville, they're going to practice at Centennial - so we have access to all the players. We had to make some decisions for the [NHL roster] deadline, but we feel like we have a lot of good options that will be easily accessible to us.

"You have to look at the active roster and the taxi squad as one, because you have the ability to go up and down. Those players can practice with the team every day, so we feel like guys are in positions where they should be based on training camp and some things that they've proven to us. We'll see what happens with Philip [Tomasino] when he comes back, and he's been quarantined for a while, so let's get him up and running and see where his game's at. [Eeli Tolvanen has] come in, he's had a good camp, he's made the taxi squad, and there's no saying that a guy on the taxi squad that's listed there today, [that] doesn't mean they won't be in the lineup tomorrow because you have that flexibility. We feel like we have guys in good spots, and we feel like we have access to all the players."

The Predators were required to carry at least one goaltender on the taxi squad, and that spot goes to Ingram, but those remaining openings were one of the top storylines to watch during camp. Nashville has elected to choose three forwards - Olivier, Tolvanen and Smith - as well as one defenseman - Carrier - and three of those four, with the exception of Smith, have prior NHL experience.

Hynes offered a breakdown on each of those players, including on Smith, a free-agent signee from the University of North Dakota who joined the organization last March.

On Tolvanen: "Tolvanen has come in and showed some good things," Hynes said. "He's looked good on the power play, I thought there were times in camp he was able to showcase what he can do and I think he showed that he's really grown his game. We've talked a lot about Eeli scoring, being an offensive player, but he's a young guy. He's only 21 years old, and he's got some substance to his game just as far as being able to play in structure and systems and being detailed in his game and things like that. We feel like he's in a good spot right now, he's going to get opportunities, he's going to have opportunities to play and I think he's had a strong camp."

On Olivier: "Mathieu Olivier has had a very good camp," Hynes said. "He's really been a difference-maker in the camp. He's been a difference-maker in the scrimmages as far as the intensity level that he plays with, and he was able to get himself on the scoresheet quite a bit. He brought energy to our practices, he's a physical, hard player, so he brings an element that we like."

On Smith: "Cole Smith is a player that's come in and he's been impressive in camp," Hynes said. "He's a big, 6-foot-4 player, and although he's a first-year guy, he's 25 years old. He's been a great player at North Dakota, he's one of the most fit guys in camp, he can skate, he's got size, he plays the game with ultra-competitiveness, so he's been impressive to come in and we like those aspects about him."

On Carrier: "With Alex, we think that he adds an element to our D-corps that he's a puck-moving D-man, he can play both sides and we really like his hockey smarts. So, I feel like on the taxi squad if you were to need to put people in because someone didn't play as well as they need to, we feel like we have different options on the taxi squad right now and the players we feel are possibly the most ready to come in and help us. But there are different kinds of players, and I think that was something that we really were looking at."

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