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: Nick Spaling.
One of 2009-10's more underrated stories for the Nashville Predators was the development of rookie utility man Nick Spaling. He was called up in mid-December, and quickly made a name for himself while fellow rookie Cal O'Reilly was relegated to spot duty. Spaling is a jack of all trades, and showed good adaptability while with the big club. The forward ranks have swelled during the offseason, though, so like Jerred Smithson yesterday, Spaling will need to prove himself all over again during training camp and the preseason.
After the jump, a look at where he'll fit in 2010-11.
First, in case you're not familiar with Spaling's game, here's his SB Nation scouting report.
As you can see, this sounds much like Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson, two players on whom the Predators are greatly reliant. It will be interesting to see how Barry Trotz utilizes him (if at all), because despite not scoring a goal yet, he definitely shows more offensive promise than some of Nashville's other grinders. Look for him to start off on the 4th line and a penalty kill unit, but not play every game.
If the Predators' 4th line is centered by Marcel Goc as I expect, then Spaling needs to chip in more offensively than last season. As with all of Trotz's players, defensive responsibility will be key to future playing time.
Spaling enters the final year of a 3 year deal worth $2,675,000. He's paid $762,500 this year and is headed for restricted free agency. Nick does not have to clear waivers in order to be reassigned, which means that he'll be one of the first players tabbed for Milwaukee should it come to that.
Nick Spaling played in 28 regular season NHL games last season, posting 3 assists and 11:03 average ice time. He appeared in all six of the Predators' playoff games, but went pointless. Spaling played 48 AHL games for the Admirals in 2009-10, registering 7 goals and 10 assists to go with a -6.
Taking a quick look at the Predators' bottom six forward depth reveals Jonas Andersson, Sergei Kostitsyn, David Legwand, Jordin Tootoo, Jerred Smithson, Marcel Goc, Joel Ward, Wade Belak, and Cal O'Reilly. Including Spaling, that's ten players for six places. While Spaling could certainly beat out Belak, O'Reilly, and perhaps Kostitsyn; the others already have their spots locked up. Pencil Nick in for extensive duty in Milwaukee or eating nachos in the press box.