Here's Part 2 of our Big Questions series, where we throw out some Q's to the OTF staff and they give us the A's.
If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
As always, feel free to throw out your answers in the comments below. This is intended to get all voices involved. We know you got 'em, so let's hear 'em.
3. Peter Laviolette's contract has been extended to 2020-21. The future will be here before you know it. Looking ahead, who do you think will be the key players on the roster by that time? Assuming guys like Fisher and Rinne will be gone, who will be leading that team in locker room and on the ice?
Imma get weird with this one. First, I'm going to add an assumption to the scenario: that the team has an large amount of success over the next three years. With that in mind, the team will jettison some pieces at the end of that run, leaving some new leaders at the helm. Mattias Ekholm will be captain and Filip Forsberg will be assistant captain. Dante Fabbro, Kevin Fiala, and Vladislav Kamenev are all major contributors and Juuse Saros is your new Finnish netminder.
I'm not sure how much turnover to expect, given the inevitability of the cost of the blueline skyrocketing, but I believe Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi will become the foundation of the new leadership group. Ellis is in the line of Preds players who have been leaders throughout their career but due to their junior status haven't been recognized for it at the NHL level. The Preds have a lot of those kind of players, so leadership is never an issue I worry about with this team.
This team has a great group of young, core players. As mentioned in the question, Fisher and Rinne will be long gone by then. I don't think our team, from the core players perspective, will look too much different. From the forwards group, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen will be leading the way, and from the defensive core, I believe Roman Josi and P.K. Subban will still be around to hold down the fort on and off the ice. This team is built to stay intact for a while, so let's hope it stays that way by 2021.
Looking five years ahead, Roman Josi will be 31, PK Subban will be 32, Filip Forsberg will be 27, Ryan Johansen will be 29. I think that'll still be the main core of the Preds can afford them but then you've got guys like Vladislav Kamenev and Kevin Fiala who will both be 25. They've still got a long way to go but they could potentially be big factors on the Predators roster along with Ekholm and Ellis.
Looking at the team now is exciting, looking at this team in 2020-2021 is chilling. The depth this team has is incredible. The fact that guys like Roman Josi, James Neal, P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Mattis Ekholm will be seasoned veterans at that point is mind boggling. On top of the fact that Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen will also be taking on veteran roles in the locker room by that time shouldn't even be fair to the rest of the central let alone the league. Throw in Kevin Fiala having a full time spot and Juuse Saros taking over for Pekka Rinne Nashville will be lethal. It's going to be a fun ride with this team to the end of Lavy's extension and beyond.
There are four obvious choices for me. Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, and P.K.Subban should without a doubt be the faces of the franchise at that time. All four skaters are All-Star caliber players and should still be at that level for the foreseeable future. The bigger intrigue is who will be the locker room leader from this current squad. I'd argue Josi should have been named captain this summer to mold him into the leader of the future for Nashville. Even with Fisher getting that distinction for the upcoming season, Josi is probably the leader in the clubhouse for becoming the next captain. Another name to keep in mind four years from now would be Vladislav Kamenev. He looks to have all the tools to become a productive NHL center and could grow into a prominent top six player for the Predators over the next few years
It's hard to say who will still be here in five years because so much can change in the league. Will James Neal still be a Predator? If so, I easily see him filling part of the leadership void. If he's gone, I would imagine that Roman Josi would be wearing the "C" here in Music City. Furthermore, we take it for granted, but Craig Smith has been in the locker room for a while now too and I could easily see him becoming the next Mike Fisher (I mean, he's already at Mike's pre-haircut look down). Finally, while it's early, P.K. Subban's electric personality could easily vault him into the leadership group within a few years, if not sooner (he was already wearing an "A" for some preseason games).
4. If you could add one player in the NHL not named Crosby or Ovechkin to the current Preds roster, who would it be? The catch: the player you pick has to replace his equivalent on the Preds. So like if you want Jamie Benn, he would take the place of James Neal (you don't get both).
Again, let's get weird. Give me Nicklas Backstrom in place of Mike Fisher and put him on the 2nd line with Filip Forsberg. Those two can create hockey magic together--we saw a glimpse of it at the World Cup of Hockey. In addition, not only would this finally give Forsberg a permanent home, it might allow guys like Arvidsson, Smith, and Wilson to establish permanent homes on other lines, with them not being glued to Fisher anymore.
I would add Carey Price. That would shore up the one position I'm truly worried about this season. There are other more dynamic options, like swapping Johansen for McDavid, or Craig Smith for Phil Kessel, but improving goaltending would be much more useful than a more marginal improvement.
For me, it has to be Anze Kopitar. He is easily my favorite non-Predator player in the league. He does so much on the ice that he necessarily doesn't get enough credit for. I guess if I take Kopitar, I would probably have to get rid of Ryan Johansen. That would sting losing Joey, but to get a guy like Kopitar in return, I would take that all day, every day.
If I could I would solidify the Predators #1 goaltending situation. I mean who wouldn't? I would probably swap Rinne for a younger goalie and extend the Predators' Cup window. Matt Murray or Andrei Vasilevsky fit that bill so I'd take either.
Can I pick the World Cup of Hockey Team Canada third line center version of Jonathan Toews? That version of Toews replaces the likes of Mike Ribeiro in my book assuming Mike Fisher takes a second line spot. How much fun would that be? Could Nashville handle that much personality? Could Nashville handle that many weird faces? Probably not but I can dream.
Carey Price without question. The biggest unknown for the franchise going forward is elite, consistent goaltending. The current Montreal netminder gives you exactly that. He's the best in the NHL and still under the age of 30. While there are other very popular candidates in this fantasy scenario, none of them would provide the impact in a 1v1 swap like Price would. A world-class goalie alongside the best blueline in the league is a recipe for becoming the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
The one real question on this team will be the goaltending, so as much as I love Pekka Rinne, I would replace him with Carey Price. The form that Price has had the last few seasons reminds me of 2010 Rinne. He basically single-handedly brought the Canadiens a division title two seasons ago. The beauty of his game though isn't the flashy saves, but how he makes everything look so easy. I've never seen a goalie more in complete control of his movements than Price. Once again, I do love Rinne, but if we somehow swapped him for Price in a fictional world, this year's Predators would be the scariest team the NHL has seen since the 2004-05 lockout.