SMASHVILLE brought itself onto the national scene making a run to the Stanley Cup Finals despite finishing 4th in the division. They were a couple questionable calls away from potentially winning a Cup in their first trip in franchise history. I’m not upset about it or anything, I only bet them to win the Cup in the preseason last year :/ Anyways, most of their team is back with a couple supplementary additions to help make another deep run. Let’s take a look at what Peter Laviolette has to work with:
Elite Talent – While Filip Forsberg took marginal steps back across the board last season, I’m actually encouraged in terms of points. Forsberg increased his even strength goals and assists yet dropped 15 points on the power play all the way down to 9. That screams complete fluke to me. If Forsberg gets back into the 20’s in PPP, now we are looking at a guy pushing 35+35 with solid PIM and a very good shot rate. He also hasn’t missed a game in the past three seasons which is a nice bonus. Forsberg comes in at 34th overall in My Rankings and you can justify having him a few spots earlier.
Arguably the biggest surprise of 2016-17 for fantasy hockey was the emergence of Viktor Arvidsson. Arvidsson moved up the lineup as the season progressed and finished with a whopping 31 goals and 30 assists with over 3 shots per game. Nothing in his underlying numbers suggest that it was a fluke; in fact he should improve just from power point totals. Arvidsson barely makes my Top 50 but no mistake about it, he’s the real deal.
Must Draft – If Ryan Johansen went back to shooting almost three shots per game, he’d be ranked close to Forsberg. Alas, here we are with RyJo going under two shots per game now. With 61 points and 60 PIM, he’s still a great fantasy asset, but it’s assist heavy. Johansen ranks 69th (nice) in my Top 100 with some upside from there if stops the downward trend in shot rate.
Streamers – The Predators have a ton of streamers depending on what you’re looking for. The highest upside in terms of goal scoring is Kevin Fiala. After a gruesome leg break in the second round of the playoffs, Fiala is 100% for the start of camp. I’m expecting him to be on the second line and second power play unit this season. I wouldn’t draft him outside of dynasties and deep leagues but he’s definitely on my streaming radar.
After back to back Cups with Pittsburgh, Nick Bonino moves to Nashville in a larger role than he had with the Pens. Bonino had 18+19 last season but I think he gets back to around where he was in Anaheim or Vancouver; something like 20+25, maybe slightly better. I like him more in leagues with extra categories or deep leagues but he could be a favorite streamer of mine if he plays on the first power play unit.
Speaking of the first power play unit, Nashville has tried Scott Hartnell early on as a net-front presence. Carrot Top returns to where he started his career after spending the past three years in Columbus. The problem with Hartnell is he’s gone from 204 shots in 2014-15 all the way down to 104 last season. The penalty minutes will be very good and the points will be decent but whether he’s an okay streamer, great streamer, or even hold comes down to whether or not Hartnell starts to shoot the puck more.
I’m just lumping the next group together: Craig Smith, Calle Jarnkrok, and Pontus Aberg can all be decent streamers depending on what role they end up having. Hell, even Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau showed flashes in the playoffs. We’ll have to see who cracks the second power play unit or the top six to determine their values. My guess is that Smith will be first crack in those spots so it all depends if Smith can regain his previous form or not.
Elite Talent – P.K. Subban‘s first regular season in Nashville was quite disappointing from an offensive standpoint. Subban finished with with 10 goals and 30 assists in 60 games while getting worse in every category. I suspect that we see Subban get back to his usual levels in his second year in Nashville. With Ryan Ellis out until mid-January at the earliest, Subban should take on an even bigger workload. He also should get a power play boost as there is no reason why this team should struggle again on the man advantage. I had Subban just outside of my top 50 but with the Ellis injury, he’s going to barely make his way into the top 50.
Roman Josi also took a step back last season although it wasn’t as pronounced as Subban. In fact, Josi had a large jump in his shot rate to over three per game. He’s a great bet to set a new career high in goals this year (would need 16) if that repeats itself. Like Subban, Josi will move up on my board with the Ellis news but he’ll remain a bit behind Subban because of the decrease in PIM. Regardless, Josi is a #1 fantasy defenseman.
Since Ellis might end up missing over 3/4ths of the regular season, he’s not even worth stashing in leagues. Honestly, there is nobody else worth considering on the Nashville blue line. Mattias Ekholm is outstanding in the real game but in fantasy, he doesn’t do much at all. The other three defensemen are super deep league fliers at best.
Pekka Rinne has a wide range of outcomes every season and settled right in the middle last season. Rinne was right around his career averages which are league average. People may reach for him because of his outstanding playoff run but I definitely don’t trust Rinne as my #1 fantasy goalie. He’s a solid #2 with big upside and downside.
His backup remains Juuse Saros who is my favorite goaltending prospect in the world. Saros was very good in his rookie season posting a .923 save percentage in 21 appearances. While it seems inevitable that Saros becomes the #1 in Nashville, it’s unlikely to happen this season. It would take Rinne being a disaster for over a month before Saros received a large number of starts. Stream him whenever he starts and draft him in dynasties but I wouldn’t hold him in 12’ers unless it was a roto league that I owned Rinne in.
HITS / BLOCKS /FACEOFF LEAGUES
Subban and Josi each get nice boosts for being very good in blocked shots. Bonino is solid at the dot and has high blocked shots for a forward making him a top end streamer in that format. Ekholm becomes a viable option.
The Predators core (not counting Rinne) are all extremely young. Johansen is the oldest guy on the top line and he just turned 25 so all of those players get an uptick. Saros gets a huge boost, especially for teams that are rebuilding. Nobody gets a significant downgrade.
Eeli Tolvanen comes in as the #1 prospect in the Predators system. The Finn was just taken in the first round and decided to play in the KHL for Jokerit this season. He is a couple years away from the NHL but his potential is outstanding. Tolvanen has elite top-end speed and is a pure sniper. It’s only a matter of time before he’s a top six winger in the NHL. Tolvanen reminds me of Kessel stylistically; I’m not saying he’ll be that good but that type of player.
Aberg and Saros are the next two guys in their system but they are mentioned above. Dante Fabbro is the other notable as he should make the Canadian WJC team. There’s a lot of long-term upside because his shot is solid and his hockey IQ is outstanding.
That’s all for now guys. My Wednesday post will be a look at players who are outside of my top 200 who I would consider taking depending on team needs at that point. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Thanks for reading, take care!