Nashville Predators 2017-18 Season Preview: Fringe Players

The Predators are a deep team, but let’s take a look at some youngsters with outside chances of playing with the big club.

Position Strengths:

Defense. The Preds have continued their history of locating young talent on the back end. Samuel Girard, Alexandre Carrier, and Jack Dougherty have all shown promise, and all three certainly deserve call-ups before our old friend Petter Granberg. Girard showed off his pro-ready speed during the preseason. He looked like a perfect fit in a Predators system that encourages defensemen to activate up into the play. At only 19, no one should be surprised if the 2016 2nd rounder starts the season playing on the bottom pairing. He may have moved above his countryman Alexandre Carrier on the organizational depth chart, but Carrier still has top-4 NHL potential. He put up 33 assists in Milwaukee last year and even saw NHL action for 2 games. Dougherty probably has the toughest path to playing time in Nashville this season, sitting behind 7 healthy defenders with NHL experience, an injured Ryan Ellis, Girard, and Carrier. However, if he shows flashes in Milwaukee, he may force David Poile’s hand.

Position Weaknesses:

Wingers. The organizational depth at the wing could use some work. Eeli Tolvanen is absolutely tearing up the KHL, but we are a few years away from his inevitable Calder campaign. When examining the more immediate future on the roster of the Milwaukee Admirals, Trenin, Moy, Pettersson, and Kirkland are the only prospects who could wind up playing wing for the Preds in the next few years. Moy and Kirkland were the only ones to play on the wing in the Admirals’ first preseason game. With Salomaki, Aberg, Gaudreau, Watson, and McLeod competing for playing time, this is not a pressing need, but David Poile should consider drafting some promising wingers in the 2018 draft.

Catalyst of the Group:

Vladislav Kamenev. He might be the 6th best center on the roster, but if anyone gets injured down the middle, he’ll get his shot. The depth wingers on this team have sneaky goal scoring ability (especially Gaudreau and Salomaki), so Kamenev could become a dangerous playmaker on the 3rd or 4th line this season. He played serious top-6 minutes in the preseason and seemed to make his teammates better around him.

Breakout Player:

Sam Girard. If any of these fringe players play significant minutes for the Preds, it would be considered a breakout, but I’ll go with the breakout star of the preseason. Irwin-Yber was a mostly solid 3rd pairing until the Stanley Cup Final. However, they had little to no offensive production. We could see that same old 3rd pairing we saw most of last year, but I would be ecstatic to see Girard get his shot. I could see the undersized, offensive defenseman working his way into the top-4 if any defenders suffer injuries.

Samuel Girard

Last Season (with Shawnigan of QMJHL): 59 GP, 9 G, 66 A, 75 Pts.

What he adds to the mix:

Girard could give the Predators what they’ve lacked for the last several years: a 3rd pairing with upside. It makes a lot of sense for an Irwin or an Emelin to be his defensive partner, allowing Girard to develop his offensive game. However, all 3 are left-handed shooters, so how Girard fits into the puzzle is somewhat fuzzy. When Ryan Ellis gets healthy, they could create an exciting (if undersized) 2nd or 3rd pairing.

Expectations for this season:

He should get the full nine game tryout to see how well he fits in at the NHL level, but beyond that, the roster is very crowded with defensemen. He would have to show incredibly well to stay beyond that, and most likely will be returned to his QMJHL team to lead the league in scoring by a defenseman (again).

Vladislav Kamenev

Last Season (With Milwaukee Admirals): 70 GP, 21 G, 30 A, 51 Pts.

What he adds to the mix:

Kamenev is a big-bodied, play-making center a la Ryan Johansen. If his development continues down the path it is currently on, we could soon see Johansen and Kamenev as a deadly 1-2 punch at center. However, for this season, his playmaking ability will be limited to a bottom-6 role at best. If he develops chemistry with some of the depth wingers, watch out.

Expectations for this season:

17-18 Prediction (with Predators): 14 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 Pts.

I expect Kamenev to be on the outside looking in on Thursday. However, I expect several short stints in Nashville from the Russian. Like Aberg during the regular season last year, the NHL point production may not be there at first. Despite my modest projection for Vlad, he could make a huge leap in the 2018-19 season.

Yakov Trenin

Last Season (With Gatineau of QMJHL): 54 GP, 30 G, 37 A, 67 Pts.

What he adds to the mix:

Trenin will most likely play a middle-6 role in Milwaukee this season. The forward is a faceoff warrior, who could certainly get a call up for that skill alone if the Predators are struggling to win faceoffs.

Expectations for this season:

17-18 Prediction (with Admirals): 16 G, 18 A, 34 Pts.

Trenin’s numbers could be slightly disappointing in his first full season in Milwaukee, but expect him to get a real shot at making the show in ‘18-’19.

Tyler Moy

Last Season (With Harvard): 36 GP, 22 G, 23 A, 45 Pts.

What he adds to the mix:

Moy is a bit of a wild card. He’ll probably start in a bottom-6 role for Milwaukee, but his wrist shot is his best weapon. If he can produce like he did in his last season at Harvard, he’ll earn more playing time. Season-to-season consistency is not his strong suit, but he could threaten for a roster spot in the coming years.

Expectations for this season:

17-18 Prediction (with Admirals): 14 G, 14 A, 28 Pts.

Moy’s high upside and low floor make him an important cog in the plans of the Milwaukee Admirals this year. While the other three players on this list are shoe-ins for NHL gigs in the next several years, the former 6th round pick Moy will have to grind his way to an NHL roster.

Overall, the future is bright in Nashville, but I wouldn’t expect there to be a Calder candidate on the team this year. Girard and Kamenev will make small contributions in Nashville, while Moy and Trenin will lead the charge in Milwaukee.