When the news broke that Ryan Suter had officially left the Nashville Predators organization for the supposedly greener pastures in Minnesota, most Predators’ fans despaired. Some, however, viewed this departure as a chance for Roman Josi to not only fill the hole left by Suter, but also to develop into something even greater than his former teammate. Will Josi be able to make Predator fans forget Ryan Suter?
It was no surprise that the "Swiss Suter" was called up to the big club last year, and for the most part, Josi did not disappoint. He posted 16 points in 52 games with a +1 rating, which is very good for a rookie blue liner. Josi saw some time on the second power play unit, and solidified his spot on the second pairing with Kevin Klein. The rookie impressed fans and coaches alike, averaging 18:23 TOI through the season, good for fourth among defensemen. His five goals ranked third for Predator's defensemen, only behind Suter and Weber.
Josi is currently flying under the radar for most NHL fans, yet there is very little doubt he would be a very well known name in the league if he played somewhere further north. While talented, there are some concerns about the Swiss defenseman's ability to stay healthy for a full season. This is something to watch out for, especially with the condensed season. During the lockout, Josi put up decent numbers with Bern, tallying 17 points in 26 games. Now that Suter's gone, Josi will get the majority of ice time with the captain, so expect his offensive numbers to increase this season, particularly if he's able to jump up into the play like this:
Josi's skill set is truly superb, but it remains to be seen if he can really jump into that number one spot so soon. His puck handling and skating abilities are almost on par with where Suter was at this point in his development - now he just needs experience and growth to truly be a first pairing defenseman.
Roman Josi has some big skates to fill with the departure of Ryan Suter. He will be expected to step up to the top line with Captain Shea Weber, which means that Josi will skate against the NHL's best night after night. Can he do so and consistently perform at a high level? Last year we saw glimpses of brilliance and talent from the young blueliner, but he has to be that good night in and night out if the Predators are going to have a successful season.