Summer is finally over. Finally.
For the first time in a long time (ever?) the hype around the Nashville Predators is reaching maximum decibels. Many experts are picking the Predators to be one of the top teams in the league this year, and for good reason. The team is built to win now, with most key players in the prime of their careers. There are question marks, sure, but for the most part this team is going to be really good.
On that note, lets take a stab at what the opening night lines might look like for the 2016-17 squad.
1st Line Forwards/1st Line Defense
- Ryan Johansen - James Neal is a combo that makes sense. Put your top line center with your top line winger.
- This gives Kevin Fiala the chance to succeed. This line fills in the “gap” at LW that we saw some of last year.
- Roman Josi + P.K. Subban = must see hockey
- Splits up Filip Forsberg and Neal. They have great chemistry.
- Possibly hurts the progress of Colin Wilson, who played great with Neal in the playoffs last year.
- Josi + Subban has no disadvantages #sorrynotsorry
2nd Line Forwards/2nd Line Defense
- Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro have played a lot of successful hockey together over the last two years. Last year, Forsberg generated 58.7% Corsi-For in over 700 even strength minutes with Ribeiro. That’s compared to “only” 52.7% Corsi-For without Ribeiro.
- Craig Smith’s speed can counter-balance Ribeiro’s lack of it.
- Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis have played nearly 2000 even-strength, extremely successful minutes with each other over the last two years. No need to stop now.
- Possessing the puck is not enough. Forsberg and Ribeiro are great at it, but shots need to be fired eventually. Smith should help with that.
- Ribeiro is a defensive liability, at best. He could see some unfavorable match-ups against other 2nd line forwards.
- Would like to see either Ekholm or Ellis with Subban just to see what happens.
3rd Line Forwards/3rd Line Defense A
- Reunites Wilson with at least one of the linemates he was successful with in the playoffs last year, Mike Fisher.
- At this point, Fisher is a 3rd line center. He should see some easier matchups here.
- Calle Jarnkrok can be plugged in almost anywhere. He and Wilson can play both left and right wing.
- Dynamic line with speed, skill, passing, shooting, and physical presence.
- Yannick Weber provides the best offensive mindset of the bottom pairing defender options. Matt Carle should be comfortable not having to do too much.
- A lot of inconsistent scoring on this line. May have to be split up if Fisher and Wilson are in one of their dry spells.
- Not very creative offensively. Wilson not in a position to succeed like Fiala or Forsberg.
- Carle may be the weakest defender on the team.
4th Line Forwards/3rd Line Defense B
- Colton Sissons + Viktor Arvidsson + Miikka Salomaki = must see hockey. Those poor boards.
- No line will work harder to pressure the opposing team’s forwards.
- Deceptively good offensive options. All five of these guys are decent shooters.
- No one named Gaustad or Nystrom.
- Consistency in the offensive zone.
- Getting caught in the offensive zone with no defensive help.
- Anthony Bitetto and Weber (as well as Carle and Weber) have yet to play any real NHL ice-time together. The 3rd pairing takes time to build chemistry. With the top 4 that this team has, they won’t get much.