Nashville Predators 2016-17 Season Preview: The Role Players

4th liners on the depth chart, 1st liners in your heart.

We are rolling out our season preview of the Nashville Predators. Here is the breakdown of our preseason coverage:

  • Wingers
  • Centers
  • Role Players
  • Top 4 Defense
  • Bottom Defense
  • Goalies
  • Fringe Players/

So without further ado, let's talk about some of the role playing forwards that will likely contribute to the team this year.

Position Strengths

Forechecking, primarily, but they also play stout defensive hockey. As is the usual role of lower line forwards, these guys will be called on to provide some intense and constant pressure in the offensive, defensive and neutral zones. They are quite good at it. Viktor Arvidsson and Miikka Salomaki are wrecking balls on skates. Austin Watson throws his weight around an awful lot, if a bit too much at times. Cody Bass mixes it up every now and then, but will be used sparingly. All four guys give you a ton of effort every night they dress.

Position Weaknesses

Undisciplined play and a dearth of offensive creativity. It's pretty much just "see puck, shoot puck" if they gain offensive possession. Which is fine, really. The ensuing face-offs get guys like James Neal and Filip Forsberg the offensive zone starts they need. Both Salomaki and Watson take too many penalties: they each had more PIMs than Shea Weber, Colin Wilson, and Calle Jarnkrok last year.

Catalyst of the Group

Viktor Arvidsson. The best offensive player of this group who has a sneaky quick shot. Everyone remembers the backhand that forced Game 7, but lets not forget this incredible shot, also against the Sharks, that got by Martin Jones:

Moving from backwards skating to forwards and then collecting the puck and hammering home a shot up high underneath the crossbar was a thing of beauty. This guy can skate and fire home shots on goalies when they don't expect it. He is a fun player to watch. And if you watch closely, you'll see a lot of this from him as well:

Breakout Player

Miikka Salomaki has been a two-way forward prospect since he was drafted in 2011. That was the same year the Preds acquired Mr. Two-Way Forward himself, Mike Fisher. Since then, that role has been dominated by Fisher and, to some extent Paul Gaustad, who the Preds acquired in 2012. This could be the year that Salo breaks out as the two-way forward of the future, only from the wing position. The early signs from training camp are that the Salomaki-Sissons chemistry is solid. Look for Salomaki to take advantage of his pairing with Sissons and show the NHL what he can do in that role.

Viktor Arvidsson

What He Adds To The Mix:

As mentioned before, a sneaky fast shot that he can launch from a lot of tricky angles. He also showed last year that he can play a solid possession game when paired with the right line. He played great with Mike Fisher, generating a 54.5% Corsi-For in 345 minutes, but Arvidsson really flourished with James Neal. In 115 minutes paired with Neal, Arvy generated 57.7% Corsi-For, a nearly 4 point bump for Arvidsson. Of course, anyone can play great with James Neal. If Arvy is asked to play a different role this year, he will have to adjust. I think he'll do fine.

Expectations for this season:

He scored eight goals and provided eight assists in 56 games last year, so his expectations are still fairly low. I think the double-digit goal mark is a reasonable expectation. If the Preds can get 25 points out of Arvy, that's huge.

What does the future hold?

This is the final year of Arvidsson's entry level contract. Since the biggest names the Preds will have coming off the books next summer are Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher, I like the prospects of David Poile working out a bridge deal for Arvidsson. They will be able to keep Arvy around and still lock up Johansen if they want to.

Miikka Salomaki

What he adds to the mix:

Salomaki brings a tough mindset on both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. He's a better passer than scorer and a better body checker than poke checker. He always brings energy during his shifts, he's a left handed shooter and OH SHUT UP, JUST SHOW ME THE COREY PERRY HIT YESSSSSSS

My goodness, that sound.

Expectations for this season:

It's tough to put a point threshold on a guy like Salomaki at this point. You'd like him to be above The Gaustad Line, but I'm not sure we can expect more than 15-20 points. You'd also like to see him improve his possession numbers.

What does the future hold?

Salomaki is on the books for this year and next under a very cap friendly deal. If we see Salo emerge as a consistent bottom six two-way forward, I think he'll be around even longer than that.

Austin Watson

What he adds to the mix:

Watson brings a similar game to Salomaki and Arvidsson but with significantly more size. He uses his height well, can play both center and wing, and works hard on the boards. He's not the most efficient skater and he takes bad penalties at times, but he thrives in a 4th line role and should round out that line with Salomaki and Sissons.

Expectations for this season:

Reduce the PIMs, play a better possession game, and score 7-8 goals.

What does the future hold?

Like all these guys, he's cap friendly, but he's in the last year of the two year deal he signed in 2015. As an RFA in 2017, his price won't change much, so it just depends on whether the Preds think they have room for him.

Cody Bass

What he adds to the mix:

No one could have predicted that Cody Bass would be a partial contributor in the playoffs last year. Yet when he dressed for six of the seven games against Anaheim and played well, we all sat around acting like we knew that Cody Bass was a better option than Paul Gaustad on the 4th line. We definitely didn't.

Still though, Bass should only be a marginal player on this team. He is best at agitating opponents and dropping the gloves every now and then. He is a pretty awful possession player and every second he has the puck is too many seconds. With only two career goals in 66 games, when Bass is on the ice expect to see less pucks in net, more gloves dropping, more fists flying, and the crowd to be cheering.

Expectations for this season:

On a two-way contract, Bass will see more time in Milwaukee than in Nashville this season. Known more for his grittiness than his scoring ability, Bass should provide 4th line depth for the Predators should they need a fill-in forward.

What does the future hold?

At 29 years old, it is seemingly too late for Bass to make a significant impact at the NHL-level. Bass is the casual fan's favorite for his willingness to drop the gloves, so look for him to meander around the NHL, providing the occasional fight, and playing some moderate 4th line minutes.