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: Cal O'Reilly.
We now come to one of the more perplexing situations on the Predators' roster. Cal O'Reilly finds himself in the unenviable position of being the last center on the depth chart, but unable to be sent to Milwaukee without having to clear waivers. Equally "annoying" is his slick playmaking - you almost have to give him some playing time, because the Predators (outside of Colin Wilson) lack a true playmaker at the pivot position. Is power play duty in his future?
We'll take a further look at this conundrum after the jump.
Hard to say, but O'Reilly is essentially the sixth or seventh center. In front of him are David Legwand, Matthew Lombardi, Colin Wilson, Marcel Goc, Jerred Smithson (though Smithson has the team's highest FO %, he usually plays at wing), and perhaps Nick Spaling. This doesn't mean, though, that O'Reilly won't see significant playing time; especially early in the season. Look for Cal to play with modestly good offensive players (Jonas Andersson?) while working on a power play unit.
Simply put, O'Reilly must fulfill his potential. He's now played five years for the Milwaukee Admirals, racking up a stunning 253 points in 262 games. AHL success certainly doesn't always translate to NHL success, but for a player who has dominated that thoroughly, it's time to put up or shut up.
One year, and $575,000 remaining on what was a two year deal. It was a two way deal last year, but not anymore - which means that a) O'Reilly can't be sent down, and b) if he doesn't step up, there will likely not be another contract for him in Nashville.
In 31 games at the NHL level, O'Reilly scored 2 goals to go with 9 assists and a +1. He played 35 games in Milwaukee, notching 9 goals and 31 assists.
For me, O'Reilly's most memorable moment in 2009-10 was faking Marc-Andre Fleury out of his skates, and scoring the shootout winner in the Predators' victory over Pittsburgh. Fast forward to the 7:12 mark:
I look for O'Reilly to have a breakthrough year on a team that will probably still need a power play boost. If he's able to keep Nick Spaling in the rear-view mirror, Cal should post something like five goals and 15 assists. What do you think?
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