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Nashville’s Black Aces in the 2020 Playoffs

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Could AHL talent prove valuable for Nashville in the playoffs?

Nashville Predators v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Hi, Preds fans! It’s been a minute since I’ve been inspired to do any kind of writing. It’s a weird time for all of us, and I sincerely hope you and your family are staying well and healthy.

Today, I want to explore the Nashville roster once play resumes. It seems like those on expiring contracts would be extended, so guys like Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund would still be wearing gold even if the Predators were playing in some extended/modified playoff scenario into the summer or early fall.

While nothing is confirmed or set in stone, it seems that whatever playoff format the League decides on could afford teams a larger, expanded roster. The AHL cancelled the 2019-20 season on Monday, but plenty of borderline NHL talent exists on AHL rosters. I’d assume that clubs have reached out to the players that would be recalled for a playoff push.

What if the League (or a team) allows unwilling players to remain at home and not participate in the playoffs? It seems like there’s more than a few concerned players who have valid worries about their health, distance from families, and other thoughts. Could AHLers get a chance in the lineup if a regular NHLer chooses not to play?

This assumes that rules are modified to allow a NHL player to remain at home if he chooses to not complete the season. All of this is purely hypothetical.

The 2019-20 Admirals had an incredible season. Was this going to be the year they finally made it past the Iowa Wild for a real shot at the Calder Cup? It seemed like all the right tools were in place for the boys in blue to make a Calder Cup run, but alas.

When play resumes, which Admirals could join the Nashville lineup and chase the Stanley Cup instead? Let’s take a look.

Weapons or Replacement-Level Subs?

Aside from both masked men (Troy Grosenick and Connor Ingram), the obvious defense call-ups are Ben Harpur, Steven Santini, Frédéric Allard, Jérémy Davies, and Alexandre Carrier.

On offense, I’d expect Eeli Tolvanen, Daniel Carr, Rem Pitlick, Frédérick Gaudreau, Anthony Richard, Mathieu Olivier, Yakov Trenin, and newly signed Patrick Harper to join the Preds in Nashville.

Further, Matt Donovan and Tommy Novak could provide additional depth.

Don’t forget that Colin Blackwell and Jarred Tinordi were still playing with the Predators at the season pause. Trenin was floating between the clubs, and he skated against Montreal in Nashville’s final pre-virus game. Out of this lineup, we can guess that Carr, Richard, Carrier, Santini, and Ingram are the most likely to slot in if an injury were to occur to a current Predator…but that’s purely hypothetical.

So, with an expanded roster, what do the 2019-20 Nashville Predators look like? I wouldn’t expect massive lineup changes unless an injury forces a player to take a seat. The first holes would be filled by Blackwell or Trenin on offense and one of Yannick Weber, Korbinian Holzer, or Jarred Tinordi on defense.

I’d speculate that the rest of the black aces would remain on a practice squad. They’d potentially run these players as “opponents” against Nashville’s special teams. The black aces provide extra work for the goaltending platoon, too. Simply put, the experience with the big club is invaluable for these younger skaters.

If the Predators were to make significant advances in whatever Cup-playoff format the League decides on, could we see some little-known playoff additions make a name for themselves?

Potential Playoff Hero – “The Freddy Gaudreau”

Daniel Carr

In 2017, Frédérick Gaudreau endeared himself to Predators fans with some incredible work in the Stanley Cup Final. It seemed like things were quickly breaking down without Ryan Johansen, Kevin Fiala, and a cast of semi-injured teammates. Gaudreau scored his first-ever NHL goal in Game 1 against Pittsburgh. He was also slotted in for 2 games against the Ducks. He would go on to score two more times against Pittsburgh.

Daniel Carr didn’t exactly have the biggest impact with Nashville this season, only scoring once against New Jersey. However, he is absolute dynamite at the AHL level. In just 47 games, Carr scored 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists), leading all Admirals in scoring. With the right linemates, Carr could be the “Freddy Gaudreau” of the 2020 playoff run. Carr could be one of the first black aces to slot into the lineup if there were an injury.

Potential Offensive Catalyst – “The Pontus Åberg

Yakov Trenin

In 2016, Pontus Åberg was a surprise recall for two games against San Jose in Round 2. In 2017, Åberg skated in 16 playoff contests. Åberg surprised the national media with his speed and grind in the first few rounds, but was held scoreless until suiting up against the Ducks. You can’t forget how bad Åberg made Olli Määttä look in the Final when he turned Määttä inside out to score a huge goal in Game 2.

It’s no secret that Yakov Trenin is one of my favorite borderline Preds-Admirals. He’s mostly slotted in on the lower lines with the Predators, but Trenin’s body of work with Milwaukee is highly deserving of praise…even while travelling between Milwaukee and Nashville. He has been with Nashville enough this season to know the various on-ice systems. Trenin would be a solid lineup choice and would be one of my picks to see ice time before many of the other black aces.

Potential Defensive Catalyst – “The Ryan Ellis

Frédéric Allard

Ryan Ellis was a permanent lineup fixture in 2017. He had a massive series against St. Louis in Round 2, posting 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) across 5 games. Ellis drew praise from opponents and supporters alike for his strong, sturdy presence in the Western Conference Final and the Cup Final. After the Cup was awarded in June 2017, Ellis announced he’d been playing with a huge knee injury, which only impressed fans more.

It will take a lot of lineup shuffling to get Frédéric Allard in the Nashville lineup. Players like Yannick Weber, Korbinian Holzer, Jarred Tinordi, and Alexandre Carrier are far more likely to get the assignment than Allard would, but if I’m coach John Hynes and I’m seeking another active, mobile defender to place on the third pair for a chance of pace, I’m picking Frédéric Allard. Allard has played extensively with Tinordi and could form a serviceable third pair if injuries cause shuffling on the blue line.