2019-2020 Position Previews: Centers

The Preds went all in on Matt Duchene to strengthen their center depth. Will it help?

Thanks to Predators General Manager David Poile shipping off P.K. Subban to New Jersey, grabbing the cash now lying at his feet, and throwing it at/burying Matt Duchene with it, the Preds are all in on their offense this year.

A look back at David Poile’s biggest trades

It paints a funny picture, but it’s also true.

Following yet another season in which the Preds underperformed in the postseason—another postseason in which if you looked solely at the regular-season numbers (not including the power play... yikes) they were projected to go far—GMDP decided now was the time to switch things up.

For the past few seasons, the Preds have had a strong core of centers, but adding Duchene should theoretically boost that group to the top-performing position on the team.

Let’s get started.

Matt Duchene

In his first year with the team, Duchene is coming into Smashville with the most weight on his shoulders.

His seven-year, $56 million contract has the same $8 million AAV as his fellow center, reigning team points leader Ryan Johansen. Considering what it was rumored Duchene asked for over the summer, his contract is more of a bargain.

It seems like kismet that the 28-year-old forward finally made his way to Music City after years of real estate investments, cowboy hats, and birthday trips with friends. Duchene was one of the hottest commodities in free agency over the summer for teams looking for that offensive boost.

Though he tallied just four goals and eight assists in 23 games after being traded, Duchene became the player the Blue Jackets were counting on in the postseason. Duchene scored five goals and had five assists, including his OT winner against the Boston Bruins, in 10 playoff games.

The Predators more than likely expect Duchene to compete for their top points and goals leader in a tight race for the season. He had 31 goals and 70 points in the 2018-2019 season and 27 goals and 59 points in the 2017-18 season.

Rather than have a solid first line/’1C’ for the 2019-20 season, I expect the lines Johansen and Duchene center to be interchangeable in a 1A-1B type of scenario.

Ryan Johansen

The Preds’ 1C of the past few seasons has arguably been their most important player.

Johansen led the team in points for the 2018-2019 season, and since joining the team on a full-season basis in 2016-2017, has always been top five on the team in points. He is also the leader of the prized JoFA line, which proved to be the Preds’ most productive line last season.

2018-2019 Player Reviews: Ryan Johansen

A consistent team leader in assists, he reached his career high last season by tallying 50, further proving he is consistent, reliable, and an unselfish, ultimate ‘team’ guy.

Since the 2015-16 season, Johansen has hovered around 14 goals per season, a step back from his final two full seasons in Columbus where he scored 26 goals and 33 goals in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons respectively.

Though it appears he’s settled into a consistency with his scoring numbers, I’m predicting Johansen is due for a breakout year offensively. I think the addition of Duchene, an offensive powerhouse, will spark a competitive drive for Johansen and will result in a 20-goal year.

Colton Sissons

Though he’s been just outside of the top 10 in points for the last two seasons, Colton Sissons has proven himself to be a versatile and reliable offensive weapon for the Preds.

2018-2019 Player Reviews: Colton Sissons

As noted by On The Forecheck’s leader Kate in his season review, Sissons earned the trust of head coach Peter Laviolette’s trust as he quietly scored a career high 15 goals—the first time he’s reached double digits—while remaining solid defensively.

Sissons avoided arbitration in the offseason when he signed a long term seven-year, $20 million contract, with an AAV of just under $2.86 million.

He scored a hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche Nov. 7, showing he can be a weapon offensively, but his true power lies in his defensive abilities. Last season he shuffled lines, never truly settling into one spot, but proving he can be used as a 3C, 4C, or winger.

Personally, I think this is the year he settles into a solid 3C position.

Kyle Turris

Turris, once a highly touted trade piece—by once, I mean two seasons ago—has found himself a target of the ire of many Preds fans.

He posted drastically career-low stats for the 2018-19 season, which he missed a third of due to injury, going from a 51-point player to a 23-point player, a 17-goal scorer to a 7-goal scorer, and from adding 35 assists to adding a measly 16.

2018-2019 Player Reviews: Kyle Turris

Let’s be clear, Preds fans have the right to be frustrated considering what they thought GMDP traded for, but a bad season—as horrifyingly bad as it was—doesn’t mean he’s useless. Plenty of players bounce back from terrible seasons.

I think the true solution to the Turris problem lies in where you play him. He can be utilized either on the wing or at center.

With an abundance of centers, switching him to play as a winger, which takes pressure off of him and opens him up offensively, could be the smartest move Head Coach Peter Laviolette could make this season. Pairing Turris with a highly offensive center like Matt Duchene could be the confidence booster he needs to get back to the 50+ points player we know that he is. Recently, Turris has been paired with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson in a shake-up of the JoFA line.

Though this is the preseason and not much needs to be read into here, it shows Laviolette is looking at what he needs to do to get back the Kyle Turris the team traded for. I applaud his effort, but leave the JoFA line alone, please.

Nick Bonino

Have you ever watched the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I haven’t, I don’t like scary movies, but I imagine it’s pretty self explanatory.

Stick with me here, I do have a point.

The Nashville Predators’ Nick Bonino is hardly the BONINO-BONINO-BONINO-BONINO of the Preds’ Stanley Cup Final nightmares. It’s almost like the real Nick Bonino is asleep somewhere while the best the pods could grow was a 4C.

O.K., that was mean, especially considering statistically he had a nearly identical year to his 2016-17 season last year—statistically much better than Kyle Turris. However, Bonino just hasn’t clicked offensively with the Preds.

2018-2019 Player Reviews: Nick Bonino

The numbers he puts up are more or less just going through the motions as an independent hockey player and less as a member of the team.

It’s nearly impossible to measure things like grit, and even bringing that up as a factor when evaluating a player is something that will land you in a heated debate—especially in our On The Forecheck team discussions—but there are intangibles that can’t be measured.

The Preds signed him for his offensive abilities, but also for the fact that Bonino used his 6’1”, 196-pound frame to be a bully on the ice—that’s generally the Pittsburgh Penguins’ style of play around their superstars: grind lines with offensive weapons.

Though Bonino has remained a steady and fairly reliable player for two seasons with the Preds, it still doesn’t solve the issue that it seems like he doesn’t quite fit with the team and that Laviolette doesn’t really understand how to utilize him.

I project he will be used at 4C for the 2019-20 season before ultimately getting traded for draft picks. It’s not you, Bonino, it’s us; sorry.

With the depth at the center position and the addition of Matt Duchene, anything less than being top five in the league offensively would be a major disappointment. Only time will tell, Preds fans.