After taking a look at the forwards left on the Predators training camp roster, it's time to move to the blue line and the defensemen that remain. With Tyler Sloan being put through waivers and presumably on his way to Milwaukee shortly, Nashville is left with 10 defensemen fighting it out for seven spots (assuming the team will carry six starters and one scratch).
Here are the defensemen still left on the Predators roster:
- Jonathon Blum
- Francis Bouillon
- Mattias Ekholm
- Ryan Ellis
- Jack Hillen
- Roman Josi
- Kevin Klein
- Teemu Laakso
- Ryan Suter
- Shea Weber
Again, barring a major injury, these are guys who will definitely make the Predators' roster:
Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, Jonathon Blum, Francis Bouillon.
Of the defensemen currently on the roster, these five are the only ones who have suited up for the Nashville Predators. Weber and Suter make up the best defensive pairing in the NHL and Klein and Blum were a formidable pairing during the postseason, so these names should come as no surprise.
Bouillon will likely start the season on IR, so we won't count him towards the seven spots on the opening day roster. Should the Predators decide that he's making substantial progress towards returning, however, they could go with six other blueliners and have Cube be the scratch.
There's really only one name on this list that I would consider out, and that's Roman Josi.
Josi has been suffering through an upper-body injury and hasn't been playing with the team in pre-season. It's only a matter of time before the youngster gets sent down to Milwaukee. Josi still has a chance, however, to get the call to the big club later in the year.
Now we're left with four guys fighting for two or three spots:
Teemu Laakso, Matthias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, and Jack Hillen.
Of the four defensemen, Laakso and Hillen are the most NHL-ready. Laakso saw time in Nashville last year when injury struck, and Hillen has 175 NHL games under his belt with the New York Islanders. If I were a betting man, I would put money on Laakso and Hillen skating together as the third pairing on Opening Night.
The team may want to carry a seventh healthy defenseman in case injury strikes, especially with back-to-back games on the road to open the season. The hype machine would tell me that Ryan Ellis gets the call here, but common sense says it will be Ekholm.
Through five preseason games, Ekholm has shown himself to be the more NHL-ready defenseman of the two with Ellis being more of a raw talent. Ellis could greatly benefit from spending some time in Milwaukee before he is thrown into NHL action. Once Bouillion is healthy, I would expect Ekholm to be sent down as well.
Ekholm could also decide himself to return to the Swedish Elite League for one more season if he doesn't make the NHL roster.
What do you think the Predators should do with their defensemen? Should Ryan Ellis get a shot with the big club from day one? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments.