Last Tuesday night against Columbus, highly touted defensive prospect Jonathon Blum made his NHL debut at 22 years old. Earlier in the year it was 22 year old rookie goaltender Anders Lindback carrying the load, and tonight hometown hero Blake Geoffrion will take to the ice for the first time in a Nashville Predators uniform at 23 years of age.
Continuing the youth movement is former Hobey Baker finalist Colin Wilson, whose 21 years make him the youngest Predator, and Sergei Kostitsyn, who is only 23. Leading goalscorer Patric Hornqvist turned 24 last month, ace penalty killer Nick Spaling 22, Cody Franson 23, and captain Shea Weber is somehow just 25.
It wasn't long ago, though, that Nashville was relying on players who are on the "wrong" side of 30, and seemingly slowing down - J.P. Dumont, David Legwand, and Steve Sullivan are all arguably past their primes, albeit with contributions still to make. They've slowed, but remain savvy, and an important part of the makeup of the Nashville Predators.
That said, those who used to be considered only part of the future suddenly have to lead the Predators to the playoffs. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that through 61 games Nashville would be leaning heavily on a large amount of players 24 or younger, I would've told you that they were out of reach of the playoffs.
Yes, Blum, Wilson, Franson, Kostitsyn, Geoffrion, Spaling, and Hornqvist are young, but it matters little now. There are just 21 games left, and as of this writing the Nashville Predators are out of the playoffs. Forget age - the players listed here must shoulder their fair share of the load, with no excuses. If Wilson and Hornqvist in particular do not produce to their capability, you can probably wave goodbye to postseason success.
When the Predators dropped the puck against the Anaheim Ducks on October 9, 2010, I doubt many people imagined that 62 games later, Jonathon Blum and Blake Geoffrion would be in the NHL. They were considered part of the future. Well, they are - and it's right now.