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, 2018).
Finnish defenseman Joonas Lyytinen drops a couple slots since last year.
In 2017-18, Lyytinen competed in his first season on North American ice splitting time between the AHL and the ECHL. A disastrous log jam on the Admirals’ defensive depth chart last season caused Lyytinen to see limited ice time until the latter half of the year. But, 34 games is a solid cup of tea for a player who should be seeing the ice regularly in 2018-19.
By The Numbers
Lyytinen came to the American Hockey League after four seasons playing in Finland’s top professional league. In those four seasons, Lyytinen played 30, 52, 47, and 54 games and scored 9, 17, 9, and 24 points respectively. He was a premier offensive driving force for KalPa in 2016-17 as they went on an 18-game playoff run only to lose in the final.
It has been well noted that the Admirals’ defense was astonishingly bad last season, but, relatively, Lyytinen was alright among his peers.
You’ll notice above that both Lyytinen and Frederic Allard gave up the lowest goals-against per 60 minutes of the Admirals’ defensive regulars last year that remain on the roster. Matt Donovan and Brian Cooper’s progressions could cause a little concern as well.
This isn’t completely surprising. Lyytinen played less than the others and often played sheltered minutes where he was matched up well with similar competition.
Lyytinen’s offensive abilities did not often shine last season as he adjusted to the AHL, and, as a result, like much of the Admirals’ defense, he was caved in when it came to scoring per 60 minutes with a stunning 41% goals-for/60 minutes.
Above we see a simple play off of a weird bounce, but I wanted to point out that Lyytinen’s lankier frame doesn’t prevent him from using a heavy shot from the point.
Here, Lyytinen - #57 in yellow - doesn’t make a good read in the offensive zone and fails to realize his partner has committed down low. He makes a hesitant decision not to pinch and gives up a breakaway. He does show a quick stride with good foot speed and does okay at catching up to the opposition.
On the play above, Lyytinen has time to kill as he works the half-wall on the power play. He keeps the puck moving on his stick and helps draw two defenders out of his shooting lane before burying the puck.
Lyytinen is entering the second and final season of his entry-level contract that comes with a $740K cap hit and a $70K salary in the AHL. He will be a restricted free agent upon expiry.
Lyytinen has a long road ahead of him to being an NHL regular, and I’m not certain he will make it. It will be a battle between the four regular defensemen in Milwaukee (Allard, Carrier, and Dougherty) to see who takes the next step, and Lyytinen is already one behind.