Roman Josi may just be the exemplary example of a modern-day NHL defenseman.
Mobility, fluid skating and both offensive and defensive talent define the 26-year-old’s on-ice offering, and in each contest his talents combine to bring out the best from the other Nashville Predators skaters around him. That’s a benefit every NHL team is looking for with today’s high-speed game, which leans on quick transitional plays and puck possession to pick up points.
A second-round pick by Nashville in 2008, the two most recent seasons for Josi have been his best. The Swiss blueliner followed up a 55-point campaign in 2014-15 by breaking the franchise mark for points in a season by a defenseman with 14 goals and 47 assists (61 points) in 2015-16.
“To have the mobility that Roman has and the escapability in his own zone, being able to join the rush, lead the rush and get involved defensively is a huge asset for a player in the NHL,” Preds Assistant Coach Phil Housley said. “Roman’s development has been terrific. Each year he gets better. He is using the experience and his leadership role, now that it’s expanded, he has done a really good job in that area.”
The 2016-17 season will hold a lot of transition for Josi. His long-time partner on the blue line, Shea Weber, was swapped for P.K. Subban in June, and with the current void at captaincy, Josi will likely be looked at to take on a larger leadership role after wearing an alternate “A” in 2015-16.
Following a fifth-place finish in Norris Trophy (the award given to the League’s top defenseman) voting this summer, the 6-foot-1 d-man may take an even larger step into the spotlight this coming campaign, whether that's with Subban or even Ryan Ellis by his side.
How well Roman Josi plays on a nightly basis will go a long way in determining the success of the Predators, a team with lofty aspirations entering the year. Fortunately, Housley says much of the team’s hopes ride on the right man. Whether it’s skating end-to-end for a goal or deflecting an opponent’s shot away from danger, Josi has done it before, and at 26, he’s still fine tuning his game.
“Each and every day he comes to the rink and wants to get better. I think that’s another good example for our defense that he is a very consistent player that has a great future ahead of him,” Housley said. “He is eager to get better as a player, and that’s great for a coach to have a guy who wants to get better, who wants to win and be the best he can be.”