It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old.
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2017).
At #1, Prince Filip.
We’ve finally made it to number one. First, thanks to everyone who’s read and enjoyed these profiles. It’s always an adventure writing about propsects, but I think the list we’ve put together is fairly solid. So, without any further introduction, our best Predator under 25: Filip Forsberg.
It seems like it was just yesterday that Forsberg was being sent down to Milwaukee to sharpen his game after a blockbuster deal with the Washington Capitals. And, refreshingly, he’s only played three full seasons in Nashville which means many more years of elite production to come. Before I get into what Forsberg means for the Preds’ roster, let’s revisit his path to the NHL.
Drafted 11th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2012 Draft, Forsberg was a highly-touted prospect. The following season Forsberg scored 33 points in 38 games for Leksands IF in the Allsvenskan before being traded to Nashville at the trade deadline. There’s some pretty interesting lore around how the deal came to be; I’ve read stuff about the Sabres, the Wild, Jason Pominville, etc., but, regardless, Forsberg appeared in five games for Nashville that season and totaled one assist.
In the 2013-14 season, Forsberg split his time between Nashville and Milwaukee. In 13 games with the Preds he scored 1 goal and 5 points; in 47 games with the Admirals he scored 15 goals and 34 points. He also had a stellar performance at the World Junior Championships that year scoring 12 points in 7 games as Sweden’s captain. Forsberg’s first full NHL season was in 2014-15. He played all 82 games for Nashville and posted 26 goals and 63 points - a performance many had been expecting since the fateful trade. In 2015-16, Forsberg again appeared in all 82 games and posted a career-high 33 goals and 64 points to lead the team.
This past season, Forsberg found a new home on the wing of the JOFA line and scored 31 goals and 58 points in 82 games; he added 16 points in 22 games on the way to the Stanley Cup Final. We know Forsberg is an elite first-line winger, as seen below, but what exactly does that mean for the Preds?
Forsberg has maintained above-average play based on Corsi For% (57.2%, 56.2%, 54.1%) since entering the NHL full-time, he’s become nearly as much of a volume shooter as Viktor Arvidsson finishing with 230+ each of the past three seasons, and he has discovered and excelled in new defensive responsibilities since coming to Nashville.
On the defensive side of the puck, Forsberg has become an all-situations player, finishing fourth in short-handed time on ice last season and second in shorthanded goals on the Preds. He drew a good number of penalties this past season and was in the top 20 in takeaways among forwards. Offensively, Forsberg is an elite shooter - he’s hovered around a 13% shooting percentage since entering the league - and does wonders for Nashville’s shot volume, transition play, and high-danger contributions, as seen below. For all intents and purposes, he’s one of the best wingers in the game today at only 23 years old.
Forsberg’s skill is well documented: he carries a high-end shot, plays with great awareness and is an underrated passer. He’s a powerful skater with a long stride that helps him cover good distance. He knows when to crash the net and when to find open space. His defensive game is very sound as he always plays with his stick turned up ice ready for any transition.
Forsberg is just starting his prime years of production. He should be a treat to watch alongside Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen for some time.
Forsberg is entering the second year of his six-year contract. He will make $6 million this year and cost the Preds’ the same. He will be an unrestricted free agent upon expiry at the age of 28.