While we've already discussed the massive number of free agents which David Poile will have to deal with this summer in crafting the 2012-2013 edition of the Nashville Predators, one cause for optimism is the prospect of seeing some of the younger players on this year's roster grow into larger roles. In particular, three rookies stood out by making major contributions this year - but who wins out as the 2011-2012 Preds Rookie of the Year?
Let's review the candidates, and make sure to vote in the poll...
Called up from Milwaukee just after Christmas, Bourque worked his way up into a spot alongside David Legwand and Alexander Radulov by playing consistently tenacious hockey on the left wing, which is an area of opportunity on this team. His skating ability is perfectly suited to the modern game, and it will be interesting to see where he fits on the depth chart in his sophomore campaign this fall.
A concussion suffered during training camp slowed the start to Josi's season, but once he joined the lineup we finally got a chance to see the slick puck-moving and -carrying ability of the Swiss sensation. Sure, he needs to add some snarl to his game in the defensive zone, but here's to hoping that he can pick that up over time. For now, it looks like the Preds have a legit PP threat on the left side, regardless of what happens with Ryan Suter this summer.
The Honey Badger was the shining light on this team during the dark days of October and November, as the Preds stumbled out of the gate. His speed, ability to protect the puck and drive shots on net provided a much-needed offensive spark, and having finished 3rd on the team in Shots On Goal behind Shea Weber & Patric Hornqvist, the upside for Smith heading into next season is tremendous.