Nick Spaling 2013 Season Preview: Nashville's Utility Man

Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Every team needs foot soldiers as well as stars, and Nick Spaling has endeared himself to Preds fans in recent years with his hard-working approach to penalty killing. Will the rise of other young forwards threaten his future in Nashville, however?


Nick Spaling

#13 / Center / Nashville Predators

6-1

198

Sep 19, 1988


GP
Goals
Assists
Points
+/-
PIM
Shots
Avg Ice Time
2011-12
77
10
12
22
-7
18
107
15:43
Career
179
18
21
39
-14
38
208
14:15

Last Season

In his second full NHL campaign, Spaling continued to carve out a role for himself as Barry Trotz's utility forward, capable of centering the third line, skating on the wing as needed, and playing a key role on the penalty kill. New highs were set in goals and assists, and his ice time took a significant jump as well, up almost two full minutes per game over 2010-2011.

While not a major offensive force, his hustle can help create key goals, as we saw in the playoffs against Detroit:


Outlook

This will be an especially important season for Spals, as he will be a Restricted Free Agent this summer.

The prospects for further enlarging Spaling's role are somewhat threatened by Craig Smith, who spent more time on the wing last season but may be ready to step into the middle. That said, Spaling's reputation for defensive play and prominence on the penalty kill ensures that he'll continue to get important ice time whenever the Preds are trying to hold the lead.

The Question

Does the development of young forwards like Gabriel Bourque and Craig Smith at the NHL level, and Austin Watson & Michael Latta in Milwaukee, jeopardize Spaling's long-term future in Nashville?

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