Nashville Predators Depth Chart - opportunities abound

For all you fantasy hockey junkies out there, getting an idea of what each team's depth chart looks like is a critical requirement for adjusting your cheat sheets prior to Draft Day. You don't want to snap up some guy with an early pick only to find out that he's been bumped off the power play by a hot prospect or free agent signing.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share my perspective on how things are shaping up with the Nashville Predators. Some familiar faces have left over the summer, and a combination of prospects and reclamation projects are expected to fill major roles - but which ones?

Just follow after the jump as we review how the Nashville Predators' Depth Chart looks at this point...

These depth charts are meant as a guide on which players will receive the most ice time at even strength and on the power play, they do not represent line combinations. For example, Kostitsyn-Legwand-Erat was not a regular line last year, but Legwand & Erat would get extra shifts with various wingers, and ended up leading the players at their positions in ice time.

Forwards

 Even Strength 
Left Wing Center Right Wing
 Sergei Kostitsyn  David Legwand Martin Erat
Colin Wilson  Mike Fisher  Patric Hornqvist 
Nick Spaling Cal O`Reilly Niclas Bergfors
Matt Halischuk Jerred Smithson Jordin Tootoo

 Blake Geoffrion/Craig Smith/Kyle Wilson  Zack Stortini
Power Play
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Sergei Kostitsyn Mike Fisher Patric Hornqvist
Colin Wilson Cal O`Reilly Martin Erat
David Legwand Niclas Bergfors

At even strength, the top two players at each position are likely to be mixed in various line combinations. The wild card here is Colin Wilson - if he falls out of the Top 6, we could see Martin Erat moved over to the left side, and Niclas Bergfors moved up on the right wing in order to try and maintain two complete scoring lines. I'm projecting Sergei Kostitsyn to take the top spot on the left side because of the defensive responsibility that he showed over the course of last season, and the way he earned the trust of the coaching staff. Wilson is more likely to be used in protected situations, i.e. against weaker lines or sent out for fewer faceoffs in the defensive zone.

On the power play, we have another case where the workload tends to get spread around, rather than loaded up on a few key individuals. Patric Hornqvist led the Preds with 2:45 of PP ice time per game last season, but that only tied for 111th in the league. The big question is who becomes the beneficiary of Steve Sullivan's old spot on the left side (2:43 per game); will Sergei Kostitsyn or Colin Wilson get that work, perhaps? It's a huge opportunity for two young skaters who are both playing for new contracts in the summer of 2012.

Defense

Even Strength
Left D Right D
Ryan Suter  Shea Weber 
Jonathon Blum Kevin Klein
Roman Josi Jack Hillen
Mattias Ekholm  Teemu Laakso 
 Injured: Francis Bouillon  Ryan Ellis
Power Play
Left D Right D
Ryan Suter Shea Weber
Roman Josi  Jonathon Blum 
Jack Hillen Kevin Klein
Mattias Ekholm Ryan Ellis
 Injured: Francis Bouillon  Teemu Laakso

The situation after Shea Weber and Ryan Suter is pretty fluid, given the way Jonathon Blum made his debut last spring, and the wealth of young talent ready to make a name on the NHL stage. With Francis Bouillon's return to active duty still an open question, Kevin Klein will start out as the graybeard of this bunch at the ripe old age of 26.

The signing of free agent defenseman Jack Hillen presents a bit of an obstacle for some of the young guys like Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm to make the NHL roster, however. Roman Josi enjoyed a successful season last year in Milwaukee, and seems to be a good bet to start off working the 3rd pairing at even strength and getting some power play time. 

Goaltending

In terms of fantasy hockey value this season, you only really need to worry about the top of this list:

  1. Pekka Rinne
  2. Anders Lindback
  3. Jeremy Smith
  4. Chet Pickard
  5. Atte Engren

Pekka Rinne will carry the starter's load, and while there has been some speculation that perhaps Anders Lindback's development might be better served getting regular work in Milwaukee at the AHL level, there has been no indication from the Preds that they're considering such a move, so for now we have to assume that Lindback will remain in the Nashville backup role.

That leaves two jobs in Milwaukee up for grabs between 3 goalies - Jeremy Smith, who went 16-8-2 with a .921 save percentage for the Admirals in 2010-2011, former 1st-round draft pick Chet Pickard, who is rebounding from a disappointing season, and Atte Engren, who came over to North America late last year. For fantasy draft purposes, however, none of the three need to be on your radar right now; but stay tuned during training camp in case one of them steps up and steals the backup job in Nashville - stranger things have happened before!

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