We’re closing in on the start of the 2017 season, and with the roster almost complete, I want to give my predictions on who will be line mates for the Nashville Predators this season.
With the additions of Nick Bonino and Scott Hartnell and the departures of Mike Fisher, James Neal and Colin Wilson have brought some interesting decisions for the coaching staff as to who will fill their holes (also take note of the play from Colton Sissons, Pontus Aberg and Freddy Gaudreau during the playoffs).
This is what I think the lines for opening night will look like when Nashville takes on the Boston Bruins.
First Line - JOFA (Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson)
I have heard a lot of talk about separating the JOFA line to spread some of the scoring around the lines. In my personal opinion, that can’t happen.
I think if Arvidsson is not on the same line as Forsberg and Johansen, he will not produce the numbers he did last year.
Also, why separate one of the best lines in the NHL?
In even-strength situations, Arvidsson scored 17 points when Johansen and Forsberg were on the ice with him. The next closest total is four points with Calle Jarnkrok and Colin Wilson.
Simply put, Arvidsson will need to stay with Joey and Forsberg to produce the points he did last year.
I expect Johansen to improve in the goal scoring department but I expect Arvidsson to fall off a bit as well.
Point Predictions for 2017: Johansen: 70 points (15G, 55A), Filip Forsberg: 65 points (38G, 27A), Viktor Arvidsson: 50 points (28G, 22A)
Second Line - Nick Bonino, Kevin Fiala, Craig Smith
With this line, Nick Bonino has an opportunity to produce 25 assists. Fiala is going to get his, it just depends on Smith.
If Smith shows up and produces 15-20 goals, Bonino will have a great year with this group.
If Smith shows the play he did last season, we might see a new person on this line more than likely.
Fiala is poised to have a breakout season, just off of what he has done in the preseason so far.
Point Predictions: Bonino: 45 points (17G, 28A), Fiala: 43 points (25G, 18A), Smith: 35 points (13G, 22A)
Third Line - Colton Sissons, Scott Hartnell, Pontus Aberg
This line is an interesting situation.
The biggest question for this line is simple. Will Sissons and Aberg continue to contribute at the level they both did in the playoffs?
If they do, expect a lot out of this line. The addition of Hartnell is big for a team that has issues scoring at times. Hartnell brings a presence in front of the net, which is something we have struggled to see for Nashville in the past.
Aberg and Sissons got to work together on the top line during the playoffs after Johansen went down and they saw some decent success.
Hopefully we will see those two players show up and show out for the Press this season.
Point Predictions: Sissons: 28 points (15G, 13A), Hartnell: 25 points (10G, 15A), Aberg 35 points (22G, 13A)
Fourth Line - Calle Jarnkrok, Austin Watson, Miikka Salomaki
This line was definitely the most difficult line to construct. The biggest (and hardest) thing I had to do was leave Freddie Gaudreau out of the lineup.
Although he did have a great performance in the playoffs when called upon, I feel like he just gets edged out by Salomaki due to his performance during the preseason.
Salomaki has had a long, difficult road to get to where he is. He earned a spot in the starting lineup last season and then suffered an injury against the Dallas Stars early in the year that left him off the ice for a majority of the season.
By the time he got back, the lines had really started to gain momentum, so he lost his spot.
He fought and I think he has earned his spot back in the lineup.
I also think Jarnkrok will play very well in a fourth line position. He looked pretty good as a third liner, but I think this could be his breakout year.
Point Predictions: Jarnkrok: 28 points (15G, 13A), Watson: 18 points: (8G, 10A), Salomaki: 22 points (12G, 10A)
Defensive Pair #1 - P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm
This pair was so good last year and, just like the JOFA line, I don’t think you have a reason to break them up.
Subban, if healthy is a top-15 defenseman and Ekholm is so consistent in his play. Both do a very good job of playing in front of net-minder Pekka Rinne.
I expect a lot out of the pairing this year and they should remain together because they will probably be the only line that will be the same from last season until Ryan Ellis returns from injury.
Point Predictions: Subban: 48 points (18G, 30A), Ekholm: 35 points (10G, 25A)
Defensive Pair #2 - Roman Josi, Alexei Emelin
Emelin is currently just a place-holder for when Ellis returns from injury. He will move down when Ellis comes back.
Josi is another defenseman that is in the top-15 in the league when healthy. He will also be a great captain for the Predators going forward and he will produce at a very good rate on the power play when he’s on the ice with Subban and Hartnell.
Point Predictions: Josi: 43 points (15G, 28A), Emelin: 23 points (8G, 15A), BONUS - Ellis: 22 points (10G, 22A)
Defensive Pair #3 - Matt Irwin, Samuel Girard
Yep, I’m pulling the string on Girard. Although small for a defender, he does a fantastic job at what he does.
I think he’s ready now and will be more ready next year if he plays now. Will he be an outrageous scorer, probably not, but he will provide speed to an already fast Nashville team.
As for Irwin, he was a good third line defender last year and I think has earned his place in the organization.
Girard and Irwin is an interesting pair and I think this is how it should be.
Point Predictions: Irwin: 19 points (7G, 12A), Girard: 25 points (13G, 12A)
This Nashville Predators team has a lot of potential to score and keep pucks out of the net and I think the team will build onto their Western Conference Championship from last season.