Last season, the Nashville Predators won a playoff series for the first time since 2012 beating the division champion Ducks before losing to the Sharks in 7 games. The first blockbuster trade for Ryan Johansen gave the Preds a bonafide #1 center while still maintaining a strong defensive core. Then in the offseason, David Piole pulled off one of the most lopsided trades ever acquiring P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. Now, the Predators are absolutely loaded and if Pekka Rinne has one of his good years, they’re among the favorites to win the Cup. Let’s take a look at what Peter Laviolette has to work with:
In the past 6 seasons, Pekka Rinne has 3 seasons with a .923 sv% or better and 3 seasons of .910 or worse (.908 last year). In other words, we have no idea what the hell he’s going to do. There’s a chance that Rinne is a top 3 fantasy goalie and there’s also a chance he torpedoes your season. So where do you take the chance on him? I have him ranked 59th overall with a long paragraph of details I won’t repeat. He doesn’t have an experienced backup so Rinne should be the workhorse unless he falls on his face and the Predators trade for somebody. Personally, I love taking the gamble this year with how stacked the Predators are defensively.
Marek Mazanec looks to be Rinne’s backup at this point. He had a decent year splitting time in the AHL with a 2.45 GAA and .912 save percentage. The Predators have a few goalies who are ahead of Mazanec long term and I don’t see him getting many starts this year so I wouldn’t draft him, even in dynasties.
P.K. Subban is the perfect combo of high floor, high ceiling from the defenseman position. He finished with 6 goals and 45 assists in 68 games with 75 PIM and over 2.5 shots per game. Add in the fact that he’s an elite power play quarterback and he’s a true 6 category stud most seasons. His shooting percentage was a career low last season so expect Subban to get back towards the 15 goal mark playing 82 games. He comes in 16th overall in my rankings worthy of a pick in the middle of the second round for his stability.
From a real life perspective, Roman Josi benefits the most from the addition of Subban. Now, instead of carrying Weber (sorry Weber fans, it’s true), Josi gets to play with one of the few defensemen who is actually better than him. Josi was already a monster scoring 61 points with decent contributions elsewhere. Now, he’ll almost certainly be a plus player again and should get a STP boost. Josi is firmly in the second tier of defensemen and should go right around 50th overall.
Ryan Ellis is coming off a nice season with 10 goals and 22 assists with a +13. The shots and penalty minutes are decent so he’s clearly draftable in 14’ers and deeper. What about an RCL? It’s close because Ellis is stuck on the second power play unit. If Subban or Josi were to get injured, Ellis would be must own in all leagues. If Ellis is your bench defensemen almost as a stash in case he gets a bigger opportunity, I would understand it.
The emergence of Mattias Ekholm is a big reason why the Predators defense is among the league’s best. From a fantasy perspective, Ekholm had a decent year with 8+27, +14 and 44 PIM. The problem is that his shot rate is quite poor and he won’t be playing on the power play anymore. There’s some value here in deep leagues for assists and plus-minus but it’s not enough for standard leagues.
One of my favorite picks for super deep leagues is Yannick Weber. Weber has always been a solid power play defenseman on the Canucks and he should get a ton of offensive zone starts on the third pair for Nashville. The minutes will be much lower than in the past but he can still be a cheap source of STP and PIM.
While I don’t think they’ll play together, the Predators have three fantasy studs at forward: Johansen, Filip Forsberg and James Neal. Johansen had a horrible start to last season in Columbus but still managed to finish with 60 points, including 34 in 42 games with the Predators. He had a career high 61 PIM, had a close to average shot rate and racked up the power play points. Now, the power play points should be even better with Subban in the fold and I expect his shots to get back to average. I have Johansen ranked 44th for his elite assists and positives everywhere else. It wasn’t long ago that he was pushing the top 25 overall and there’s upside in Smashville to get back there.
Forsberg’s second season in the NHL saw some marginal improvement with 33 goals and 31 assists. The penalty minutes saw a big jump to 47, the shots got to 3 per game and he was already elite on the power play. I have him ranked 39th and like Johansen, that could be too low. Forsberg is still only 22 years old and the team is only going to get better around him. And to think the Predators acquired him for Martin Erat! Piole is incredible.
Neal’s second season in Nashville saw him bounceback in a huge way finishing as the 10th overall skater in the ESPN player rater. His line was a ludicrous 31 goals, 27 assists, +27, 65 PIM, 14 STP and 268 shots. The crazy thing is that Neal had only 4 goals on the power play; he had 9+ in his 3 seasons in Pittsburgh so if he got back to that range, Neal could push 40 goals. Neal is my 36th overall player and should be great in 4 categories while being passable in assists and STP.
The dropoff from their big 3 to forward number 4 is massive. At this point, we’re looking at guys who are fringe in 12’ers. Craig Smith is my favorite of the bunch despite taking a step back for the third straight season. Early reports are that Smith is going to play with Forsberg and Johansen which is an excellent spot to be in. Smith finished 2015-16 with 21 goals, 16 assists and decent PIM. The problem is that his shots went from 251 to 199, still at average but that’s a big dropoff. If Smith can get the shots back up, he’s a must own in 12’ers for the 20+ goals and good enough contributions elsewhere. For now, I’d probably take someone with bigger upside at the end of 12’ers and instead look to stream Smith every chance I get in the beginning of the year.
Mike Ribiero‘s assists and penalty minutes are an excellent combo. The problem is that his shot rate is so horrible that it almost makes him unrosterable. Ribiero had 76 shots on goal in 81 games last season which seems impossible for somebody who played over 17 minutes a game last year. I think that total comes down a bit this year so I can’t see him getting even 100 shots. In roto leagues, I don’t want anything to do with him; it’s just too much to overcome in shots. In head to head leagues, there is more justification for owning Ribiero and I’d do so with a late pick.
Mr. Carrie Underwood, Mike Fisher, took a big step back last season with only 23 points in 70 games. There’s a chance he gets back to his 2014-15 numbers where Fisher had 39 points in 59 games but at 36 years old, I’d bet against it. Don’t touch Fisher outside of the deepest of leagues.
Colin Wilson looked on the verge of being 12’er worthy but also took a big step back in 2015-16 with only 24 points in 64 games. The penalty minutes and shots are there either so despite a probable top 6 role, Wilson is unusable outside of the deepest of leagues.
If a young player is going to breakout, it’s Calle Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok was a decent streamer at times last season scoring 16 goals and 14 assists. It’ll take a big jump in shots or power play time for him to be 12’er worthy but there’s the chance he gets it at Wilson’s expense.
I don’t think he makes the roster to start the year but Kevin Fiala is the best long term prospect in the Predators organization. In his 66 games in Milwaukee, Fiala finished with 18 goals, 32 assists and 78 PIM. He’s a true offensive forward who has game changing potential. He’s one of my favorite players to target in dynasties.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Kevin Fiala
2) Jusse Saros (should be the long term answer in net)
3) Vladislav Kamenev
4) Yakov Trenin
5) Viktor Arvidsson (should be on third line to start season)
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back tomorrow previewing the Chicago Blackhawks. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comment below. Be sure to check out my top 100 as well as Reid’s recent posts. Take care!