In the weeks leading up to the new season, we'll preview the Nashville Predators on a player-by-player basis, examining their role on the squad and expectations relative to capabilities. So come along for the ride as we look ahead to 2010-11, from Andersson to Wilson. Next up: Sergei Kostitsyn.
In yet another example of David Poile picking through the scrap heap, the Nashville Predators traded the negotiation rights of Dustin Boyd and Dan Ellis to the Montreal Canadiens for the rights to Belarusian winger Sergei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn, known mainly for his poor attitude in the locker room (Alexander Radulov, anyone?), has been gifted with sublime offensive skill and the potential to be a high scoring forward. That said, it's common knowledge that Barry Trotz does not accept anything less than 100% effort from his players.
Can the younger Kostitsyn brother pan out in Nashville, or will it be money wasted? We'll take a look after the jump.
(update by Dirk on 9/3/10) Darryl Dobbs of Dobberhockey.com, a renowned fantasy hockey guru, passed along this note about SK74:
I saw an OHL game just over three years ago in nearby Oshawa (where I usually see the OHL) and was excited to watch Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane against John Tavares and I think Michael Del Zotto was on the team then too. I left the 6-5 game (went to a shootout) thinking that this kid Sergei Kostitsyn was the most impressive player there. Then he made the Montreal roster about two years sooner than expected and had 27 points in 52 games. So by age 21 he was well ahead of the curve and actually looking better than Andrei in terms of potential. But halfway through his sophomore year the big Russian mob/Montreal media thing hit and both he and his brother hit a wall. I mean, Andrei had just a couple of points in the 30 games after that, while SK played himself right down to Hamilton. AK has been hurt several times since, but when he has played he has shown signs of getting his mojo back. SK went into camp with this attitude that the spot is his and he didn't have to play hard, and that got him sent down.
I think the new environment will help. The talent is there. But he has a lot of baggage. I think under Trotz, the way they switch up their scoring lines, most forwards will be in that 40-50 point range and SK will be one of them. But on a different team with a coach who gives the freedom he could be really special.
If he leads Nashville in scoring with 55-60 points I will be very surprised - but I'll probably be the least surprised out of anyone on the planet outside of his mother.
When asked about the potential for Sergei, who has a decent reputation for defense and penalty killing, to potentially play alongside David Legwand and Joel Ward, Dobber had this to offer:
SK has the skillset to become a solid checker, but his forte really is offense. However, Ward and Legwand certainly know where the net is so that combo would absolutely work. And he would not be a liability. I actually think SK is the yin to Patric Hornqvist's yang. Slick passing on the left side and an accurate shot on the right - find them a center who fits and you have the best line Nashville's seen since the Dumont/Sullivan/Arnott of old.
Thanks to Dobber for passing along the scoop - and now, back your regularly-scheduled preview...
Now here's a tough one - how do we know where to put a player who's never donned a Nashville uniform? We're not even sure if he'll be on the big league roster opening night. If he is, though, I think we can look for Kostitsyn to get a shot at a place on the second scoring line and power play unit. He's not a standout defender, so I can't see a place for him on the bottom six.
Not many, but David Poile clearly saw something in Kostitsyn that the rest of us may not. If he will do what Barry Trotz expects of all his players - that is, to work hard and commit yourself to defensive responsibility - then there will be a place for Sergei in Nashville, and a 30 or 40 point season would not be out of the question.
One year, $550,000. No matter what you think of the acquisition, the signing was a bargain. David Poile had all the leverage in the world, because Kostitsyn can restart his career in Nashville and get a more lucrative contract in 2011-12; or he can fail and go overseas. To put it in perspective - he'll be paid less than Wade Belak.
Kostitsyn suited up in 47 games for the Canadiens, posting 7 goals, 11 assists, and a +4. He also played 16 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL, scoring 4 goals and registering 9 assists.
If Kostitsyn is able to make the roster, then I would not be surprised to see career high (NHL) numbers. However, the depth chart at forward for the Predators is chock full of legitimate NHL players. Put Kostitsyn down for 10 goals and 15 assists.