The Nashville Predators jersey series moves on to lucky 13. We only have two contenders this time, and we can definitely say at least one of these players has proven to be quite instrumental in the Predators structuring a successful team built around young players.
This Finnish defenseman packed a punch on the ice when he played his first season in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings in 2001-2002. Karalahti had a booming slap shot , and his checks were no less explosive. Nevertheless, Coach Andy Murray found Karalahti to be lacking in discipline and quickly made him a healthy scratch (off-ice issues with drugs became a troubling issue for him).
Karalahti was soon after traded to the Nashville Predators for veteran center Cliff Ronning, on March 16, 2002. After only 15 games with Nashville, with a total of 1 assist (yet a whopping 12 PIM), Karalahti decided to return overseas to rejoin his former club team in Finland. On the international stage, Karalahti's résumé is more impressive: he is a two-time member of Finland's World Junior team (1994-1995) and a six-time member of its World Championship team (1998-2000, 2002, 2004 and 2005).
Spaling has proven to be the quintessential center that provides the necessary depth the Predators have striven to achieve in the last couple of years. At the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Spaling was selected in the second round, 58th overall, by the Preds. He made his debut with the Milwaukee Admirals the following season and did very well, accumulating 12 goals and 35 points, as well as a +6 rating, in 79 games. He was then reassigned to the Predators the next season. He appeared in only 28 games with them, in which he registered only three assists. Eventually, he was moved back down to Milwaukee for the rest of the season, where he scored 7 goals and 17 points in 48 games.
Spaling once again made it back to the Predators lineup in the 10-11 season, and this time, he was determined to stay. Spaling scored 8 goals and 14 points in 74 games, yet he was a horrible -10 that season. He did prove to be an important asset in the first two rounds of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as he was a +3, and he amassed 2 goals and 6 points in the 12 games the Preds spent in the postseason. That subsequent offseason was especially important for the young center, as Spaling signed a two-year contract with the Nashville Predators worth $2.1 million. This past year, Spaling continued to improve. In 77 games during the regular season, he scored 10 goals and 22 points (though he was still a -7 by the end of the season). In the Playoffs this year, he had 3 assists in 10 games and was a +4.
Spaling most recently played on the fourth line, often centering Brandon Yip and Craig Smith. Since the Predators still have some voids to fill in their roster, Spaling's role may change pending further roster moves.