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OTF Mailbag: Defensive Pairings, Who Can’t Get Hurt, WCoH, Backup Goalies & More

In this week’s mailbag we discuss who absolutely can not get hurt during the World Cup of Hockey, backup puck stoppers, NHL 17 and much more.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Mark and Marya will answer questions in the mailbag each week discussing the Predators while trying to deliver hot takes at just the right temperature.

@JeffMoore55 asks, what’s your best guess on the three defense pairings?

Mark: I think Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis are too good together to split up, so I like Roman Josi - P.K. Subban, Ekholm - Ellis and Anthony Bitetto - Yannick Weber. Josi and Ellis are going to get their playing time together at some point and Ekholm and Subban will join up as well, but as far as what clicks in the long run I see Subban and Josi holding down the top pairing. I do think however that time-on-ice is going to be extremely close this season among the top-four guys; at least not a massive split between the first and second pairing in ice time.

Marya: Josi/Ellis, Ekholm/Subban, and Bitetto/Y. Weber. I'm sure Subban and Josi will get a spin together, and we all love the pairing of Ekholm/Ellis, but I think splitting them up the other way makes more sense.

@GreekGoalie 35 asks, who is the player the Preds can least afford to lose to injury at the World Cup?

Mark: Pekka Rinne is the choice that first comes to mind, but how bad would it be to see Filip Forsberg go down with an injury? If you remove Forsberg from Nashville, that offensive group takes a massive plunge. I’ll go Rinne, Forsberg and Josi in terms of players that Nashville can least afford to lose.

Marya: I'm too superstitious for these kind of questions. As much as I'm thinking Josi, it's got to be Rinne. As meh as he's looked for these couple of exhibition games, we really need him to be on his game or some feeble approximation of it.

@Beardawg43 asks, Roman Josi is a 90 overall in NHL 17, too low or just right?

Mark: His 90 overall rating puts him just outside of the Top 10 defensemen, but seeing the likes of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Subban getting 91’s; yes, 90 seems just right for Josi.

Marya: With the caveat that I don't play NHL, it sounds like an okay score.

@LGvamos3 asks, assuming Poile is right (Fisher is not a 1 year captain) does P.K. have a legitimate chance at captain in say 2018-2019

Mark: Read Marya’s answer to this one first, because she makes an extremely good point. Could Subban be rocking the ‘C’ in 2018-19, sure but I wouldn’t necessarily bet on it. I think James Neal, Josi, Ellis, Forsberg and Ekholm sit in front of him at the moment, but that can obviously change over the span of two years.

Marya: Maybe? In the sense that anything's possible, I suppose. I don't see it happening and I'm a bit bemused by the attitude around the larger hockey world that he's a shoo-in for the position. This team has no shortage of leadership, and many players who've worn letters at all levels of hockey, including their national teams. If he steps into the room and does all the things he needs to do to deserve the letter on his chest, great. Otherwise, I don't see a reason to just give it to him.

@Hunter14338452 asks, is it ok to root for Team Canada?

Mark: If you are Canadian, yes. And I assume by “root for” you mean hope to win the tournament, which is unacceptable unless you are Canadian. But hey, maybe you’re from the States and also root for the Cavaliers, just became a Cubs fan and secretly have a crush on the Blackhawks as well. Pull for Team North America, it’s hard not to; and yes I know it’s a mix of Canadians and Americans, but I like fun.

Marya: No. But if you can live with the shame, this meaningless tournament is as good a chance as any.

@i24predsfan asks, are the young guns now the tournament favorites, or have they just been playing the teams least likely to win?

Mark: I think Canada is the clear-cut favorite, but the two teams below them that I believe have the best chance at taking the crown are Sweden and Team North America. The young guns are fast, really fast, but for them it comes down to blue line play and netminding. They could certainly win the whole thing, quite frankly they could average four goals a game, but hey it’s hockey so let’s sit back and watch.

Marya: They're not the favorites yet. They've just been playing the worst team in the tournament that hadn't had much time to work together and gel. Despite having a lot of good players on the back end, Preds alum Seth Jones included, their inexperience as a whole means they're not the most sound defensively. They've got speed and skill to burn, but they can get too cute. Canada is still the run-away favorite to win, but I'm really excited to see how Team North America stacks up.

@PredstotheCap asks, do we have a backup goalie yet?

Mark: Yes, the Preds have a backup netminder. One of Marek Mazanec and Juuse Saros will man that post to start the season. Do the Preds have a backup goalie that can step in and play around 25 games and post average to above average numbers? Nobody knows.

Marya: Not re-signing Carter Hutton was a great step toward maybe possibly icing a team with two goaltenders a night who won't depend on the luckiest shutouts I've ever seen for wins. That said, no clue. Will it be Maz, who isn't spectacular but is semi-competent and I own his shirsey? Will it be Little Bear, the future of Preds goaltending and Finnish myth? Can someone put in a word with Laviolette to coordinate his goaltending picks with my wardrobe?

@Boyd_1212 asks, with so many high-talent RFA's unsigned going into training camp, are there any the Preds could/should make a play for?

Mark: There is a lot of talent that I think not only management is high on but fans as well in the Preds system. It would be smarter to see that talent play with all of the attention on players actually in the system through camp and preseason games. They will have a handful of players on tryout contracts at camp, like most teams do every year, but who knows if even one of them impresses enough to be given a contract.

Marya: Not really. I've made my philosophy on signing exterior players versus promoting within pretty clear, and there's not a lot left out there that moves me. I'll be interested to see if they bring in anyone on PTOs to make the veteran requirements for the preseason, though.