Nashville Predators Finalize 2015-2016 Roster

The roster is decided. It's time for hockey.

The ice is set. The concession stands have been fully stocked. Your jersey has been unfolded from the bowels of your closet and washed.

Hockey is back.

Finally, it's time to say goodbye to your husband, wife, children, family and/or non-hockey watching friends. Hopefully you won't have to reacquaint yourself until at least June. The couple of summer months you spent with them were great, but it's time to rejoin your real family.

Some of them you are very familiar with. Others are merely acquaintances with whom you'll become closer in time. Ladies and gents, say hello to your 2015-16 Nashville Predators:


Austin Watson (51)

(Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)

23-year-old from Ann Arbor, Michigan. First season.

What to Watch For: An annual 20-goal scorer in the American Hockey League, Watson will be getting his first NHL action since 2013. His call up was only for six games, so now he'll be able to get used to the game and try and chip in some offense here and there. He isn't yet guaranteed a sweater every night, but Eric Nystrom and Gabriel Bourque may be on a short leash if Watson starts playing well.

Prediction: By November, Watson will be a permanent fixture on the fourth line and score eight goals this season.

Gabriel Bourque (57)

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Image)

25-year-old from Rimouski, Quebec, Canada. Fifth season.

What to Watch For: Bourque had a terrible year last year, only scoring three goals and bouncing all over (and out of) the lineup. He accepted the qualifying offer Nashville sent him, meaning the organization will give him at least another year to prove he belongs.

Prediction: Gabby has a better year, but it isn't enough to keep him in the lineup after the trade deadline. (Hi, Jimmy Vesey.) His tenure in Nashville is over after this season.

Eric Nystrom (24)

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

32-year-old veteran from Syosset, New York. Ninth season.

What to Watch For: Nystrom is an old-school grinder that coaches love. He's physical, a great presence in the locker room and isn't afraid to drop the gloves when he has to. Unfortunately, those are the only aspects of his game where he succeeds. His absence due to injury at the end of last year showed the younger, cheaper options (like Taylor Beck) are just as capable at filling his role.

Prediction: He's kept around because of his character and leadership, but starts finding himself in the press box more than on the ice.

Paul Gaustad (28)

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

33-year-old from Fargo, North Dakota. 12th season.

What to Watch For: Nothing will be different from his previous years in Nashville. Gaustad will be a defensive zone face-off specialist on the fourth line, who will also be tasked with killing penalties.

Prediction: Gaustad keeps his fourth-line center position all year, but hits free agency when his contract expires after the season. His parting gift to Nashville is five goals and nine assists in 75 games.

Viktor Arvidsson (38)

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

22-year-old from Skelleftea, Sweden. First season.

What to Watch For: Arvidsson was one of the standouts from Nashville's training camp, and deservedly earned a roster spot. In the AHL last year, Arvidsson scored 55 points (22G, 33A) in 70 games, and was named to the 2014-15 All-Rookie Team. He'll be tasked with helping to alleviate the Preds' secondary scoring problem and could find himself bouncing between the third and second line.

Predictions: Scores his first NHL goal in the season opener against Carolina.

Calle Jarnkrok (19)

(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

23-year-old from Gavle, Sweden. Second full season.

What to Watch For: "Ironhook" will be transitioning away from center to start the season on the wing. This potentially will allow him to focus a little less on his position and rather use his coach-lauded hockey IQ to generate scoring chances. Last year was considered a disappointment, but he has another year to grow as a player and earn a bigger, longer contract this summer.

Prediction: Jarnkrok has a much better season and hits the 30-point mark. But just barely.

Cody Hodgson (11)

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

25-year-old from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Sixth season.

What to Watch For: Hodgson is this year's low-risk/high-reward deal for a shade over a million bucks. He missed most of the preseason due to an injury, but will start the year centering the third line. As you've probably heard, his production and play last year were garbage, which led to him being bought out by the Buffalo Sabres. He's looking for redemption, the team is looking for more scoring from the third line. The idea is perfect, but all parties hope he doesn't become this year's other former Sabre signed for a cheap deal: Derek Roy.

Prediction: The plan looks rocky at first, but Hodgson finds a home on the Preds and gets back to the 30-point mark. He signs a three-year extension in the offseason.

Mike Fisher (12)

(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

35-year-old from Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. 15th season.

What to Watch For: Fisher is getting up there in age (and miles), but that didn't stop management from signing him to a two-year extension this summer. It wasn't a bad idea, though you might disagree on the part about giving him a raise. Fisher will score some goals, kill some penalties, make some hits, and do just about everything you could want from a hockey player.

Prediction: He still helps on both special teams, but has his worst statistical season in some time. Eventually, Hodgson replaces him as the second-line center.

Colin Wilson (33)

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

25-year-old from Greenwich, Connecticut. Sixth full season.

What to Watch For: Everything you've been watching for before... consistency. Wilson is the proud new owner of a four-year, $15.75 million contract, but that won't alleviate any concerns that he can't quite keep it all together at times. But Wilson thrived for much of the year under Peter Laviolette, and having that familiarity coming into this year could be a big boost. It better, because the team is going to count on him for scoring.

Prediction: Wilson has another 20/20 year, but still doesn't hit 50 points.

Craig Smith (15)

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

26-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin. Fifth season.

What to Watch For: 25 goals and 50 points, or there about. Smith is one of those players that isn't a superstar, but is much better than your average NHLer. Whereas Wilson has always had question marks around him, Smith quietly puts up points while piling up the shots.

Prediction: Smith excels at every assignment he's given, and has his best season to date.

Mike Ribeiro (63)

(Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

35-year-old from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 14th season.

What to Watch For: Ribeiro's name will be met with strong emotions all season. Aside from the obvious, he'll be shouldered with replicating last year's performance in order to keep the team afloat. As we mentioned plenty this off season, that's a tall order for someone who's logged as many miles as he has. It's not unheard of, especially with the quality wingers he has, but it's another gamble David Poile is taking on Ribs.

Prediction: His production takes an unwanted (but not unexpected dip), but the Predators are saved by a player who is currently not on the roster. (Yeah, right.)

James Neal (18)

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

28-year-old from Whitby, Ontario, Canada. Ninth season.

What to Watch For: The expectations for Neal at this time last year were to lead the Predators' offensive attack. Thanks to Filip Forsberg, those fell by the wayside. Neal didn't have the best of years, but now eyes are on him to produce. He's had time to acclimate to a new system, a new town, a new team, and a new coach, which should make him plenty comfy on the ice.

Prediction: Neal scores 32 goals.

Filip Forsberg (9)

21-year-old from Ostervala, Sweden. Second full season.

What to Watch For: Goals, goals, goals. The young man from Sweden shattered expectations last year, and has cemented himself as the cornerstone of Nashville's offense. He still has a little bit of work to do in order to prove he can keep up the pace and avoid regressing, but anyone that watched him full-time last year would say he's the real deal. He needs a new contract at the end of this year, so you'll hear "cha-chings" with every goal he scored, while waiting with bated breath for him to sign on the dotted line.

Prediction: Not content with breaking tons of rookie scoring records, Forsberg breaks the all-time goal scoring record with a 35-goal campaign.


Anthony Bitetto (2)

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

25-year-old from Island Park, New York. First full season.

What to Watch For: Bitetto played seven games with the Predators last year, and now starts the season in Nashville full time. He'll likely be swapping with Victor Bartley as the seventh defensemen, and on a healthy roster wouldn't be spending much time on the ice. We shall see.

Prediction: Actually spends almost entire season in Nashville, for some reason.

Victor Bartley (64)

27-year-old from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Fourth season.

What to Watch For: Basically apply the same school of thought as Bitetto to Bartley. He's a depth player that shouldn't see much time if the roster is healthy.

Prediction: For one reason or another, Bartley is not on the team by the time the trade deadline gets here.

Barret Jackman (5)

(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

34-year-old from Trail, British Columbia, Canada. 13th season.

What to Watch For: If Jackman is doing things right, you won't notice him on the ice at all. He'll be Seth Jones' anchor, and provide a physical presence on the back end.

Prediction: Jackman and Jones find a groove together, and the big guy even finds a way to pot two goals.

Mattias Ekholm (14)

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

25-year-old from Borlange, Sweden. Third season.

What to Watch For: He's another one of the big RFAs, so he'll be playing like he wants to get paid. He'll earn it, too. Ekholm is overshadowed by many of the names on Nashville's blue line, but he's incredibly talented at what he does.

Prediction: Ekholm signs his next contract before Christmas. (Yeah, right.)

Ryan Ellis (4)

24-year-old from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Fifth season.

What to Watch For: Less injuries. Ellis only suited up for 58 games last season, thanks to some lower body issues. The good news? He still scored 27 points, which took him 80 games to do the season before. If he's healthy all (or most of the) year, he should have no problem eclipsing that this time out.

Prediction: Ellis shaves his beard and the team spirals into a five-game losing streak. He glues it back on to stop it.

UPDATE - 6:34 p.m. Central: Sources close to the situation have informed me that Ellis already shaved his beard. They're doomed.

Seth Jones (3)

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

21-year-old from Arlington, Texas. Third season.

What to Watch For: A breakout. As we covered earlier in the off season, Jones has spent two years eating up NHL minutes. He's still extremely young, but as with most of the players on the roster, he knows what's expected of him now. Having a steady veteran like Jackman next to him should help, as he worked well with Anton Volchenkov last year.

Prediction: All aboard the breakout bandwagon. 15 goals for the kid this year.

Roman Josi (59)

(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

25-year-old from Bern, Switzerland. Fifth season.

What to Watch For: Josi broke out in his third season, and continued that excellent development last year. He's slowly nudged himself into the Norris Trophy Dark Horse conversation, and may supplant Weber as the best defenseman on the team. Keep your eyes peeled for more gorgeous play (on both ends of the ice) from a gorgeous man.

Prediction: Josi actually does get a Norris nomination but, in true Nashville fashion, doesn't win.

Shea Weber (6)

(Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

30-year-old from Sicamous, British Columbia, Canada. 10th season.

What to Watch For: Weber is coming back from a bad injury and a down season. (That's a down season by our lofty standards for him.) The big question is going to be if he's lost a step from a couple of years ago, or how much has he lost if that's the case. He's still the big guy on campus, but he's this year's Pekka Rinne when it comes to superstar with an asterisk by his name to start the year.

Prediction: Weber has a rebound season and actually shows amounts of personality as host of the All Star Game in January.


Carter Hutton (30)

(Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

29-year-old from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Third season.

What to Watch For: His third period interviews during home games. If things go like they did last year, Hutton probably won't see much ice time, even though he really should. Of course, the other side of that is he hasn't performed up to standards when he is on the ice.

Prediction: This is his last year in Nashville. Heythanksforhavingmeguys.

Pekka Rinne (35)

32-year-old from Kempele, Finland. Eight season.

What to Watch For: Does he have another Vezina caliber season in him, and can it come despite playing a ton of games? The man himself will tell you that he thrives on a heavy workload, and he looks forward to it. Nashville will indeed need him to start majority of their games, but they'll also need him to play well in the games that matter: the playoffs, should they get there.

Prediction: Rinne has a more even season. Rather than stop everything but time in the first half, and falter later, he's good all season. Good, but not spectacular. His play won't give him a Vezina nod this time out, but it will get the Preds to the playoffs, and a little beyond.