There has been plenty of buzz around the Nashville Predators during the early part of the 2011-12 season.
Rookie forward Craig Smith
busted out and added an offensive element not seen in Nashville in recent years. There was the seven-year, $49 million contract that goaltender Pekka Rinne
signed last week. And now the attention is on the victories Nashville is racking up. The Predators have won five of their last seven games, including back-to-back road games as they prepare to face L.A. tonight at Staples Center.
Lost in some of this has been the play of veteran David Legwand
, who has arguably been Nashville’s best forward, and certainly the team’s most clutch offensive weapon.
Here’s a breakdown of Legwand’s season to this point… •
Legwand is the team leader in points (14). Smith is second with 10. Legwand also leads the club in assists (nine) and is second in goals (five). Linemate Patric Hornqvist
leads the team in goals with six. Legwand is on pace for a career-high 88 points this season. •
He has been on the ice for 20 of Nashville’s 35 goals, which is tied for the team lead with defensemen Shea Weber
and Ryan Suter
Legwand is tied for third in the NHL in +/- rating on the road at +7. The league lead is +8. •
Legwand is tied for fourth in the NHL in points on the road with 10. The league lead is 12. •
He is tied for ninth among all Western Conference skaters with 14 points. •
Legwand is also averaging the most ice time (20:27) of all Nashville forwards, and has only four penalty minutes.
Legwand has also proven to be adept at producing when the team needs it most. He had the overtime winner at San Jose on Saturday, and his goal at Chicago five days earlier forced overtime. With that, he has been directly responsible for Nashville earning extra points in two of the three games on this current road trip.
It’s not just clutch goals, either. He assisted on the game-winning goal at St. Louis on Oct. 8, and has assisted on a game’s opening goal three times this season (at Columbus on Oct. 7, vs. New Jersey on Oct. 15, at Chicago on Oct. 31).
His contributions are also a testament to his longevity. Legwand was the organization’s first-ever draft pick (No. 2 overall, 1998). It's a tough yoke to carry, being the first player drafted by your franchise. Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault was arguably the best, selected first overall by Buffalo in 1970, but more often than not, the first "face of the franchise" has struggled. Only four players who were their club’s first draft picks are still active in the NHL, and Legwand is the only pick who is still playing for his original team.
In the "post-Original 6" era, only 10 of the 24 franchise first draft picks played more than 500 games for that franchise and just five have reached the 1000 game mark for their NHL careers. Yet Legwand, who turned 31 just prior to the 2011-12 season, is rapidly approaching his 800th career game and appears a safe bet to reach the 1000 game mark. His production -- 172 goals and 462 points -- are also among the best for a franchise's first ever draft pick.