4 surprises for the Predators at the halfway mark of the 2022-23 season

Nashville has had their share of ups and downs up to the All-Star break, but these players are on the positive side of things.

Most might agree that the Nashville Predators have been an organization full of conflicting views on how things should be run, from the general manager’s seat to the fans in the arena. Primarily through the first half of the first half, underperformance was rampant, certain players were not being appropriately utilized by the head coach, and the goaltending was not Vezina-level yet, so the team looked rough. But as we’ve torn on, things have gotten slightly better.

Even though some people (including myself) would say that the process is still relatively poor, the Predators have been winning games against good teams, so why not focus on some players that have come out of the woodwork this season?

Kevin Lankinen

Former OTF writer Shaun Smith and one of my favorite people wrote an article over at A to Z Sports about how the Predators media (and everyone) was wrong about Kevin Lankinen, who has had a very impressive first half of the season. Smith points out that the signing didn’t make sense at the time after an impressive performance from Connor Ingram in the playoffs against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, and it’s true. But Lankinen has been very strong as Juuse Saros’s backup.

Lankinen has only played 11 games in 2022-23 to this point, but his workload has been rough, and he has dealt with tons of shots coming from high-danger areas. If we were to broaden his workload to something around what Juuse Saros is getting these days, he would be in the top 10 of expected goals against among all goaltenders with a minimum of 450 Fenwick attempts against.

After a tough year from David Rittich in 2021-22, the Predators needed a competent backup goaltender, and everyone thought it would be Ingram. And even though some were disappointed in the organization’s decision to part with Ingram, that’s not to say that Lankinen hasn’t been valuable. He has been excellent.

Tanner Jeannot

With the good comes the bad, unfortunately, and this season has been nightmarish for Tanner Jeannot and his scoring numbers. He has 13 points in 48 games with only five goals—including a 40-game goal drought after his third goal on October 27th against the St. Louis Blues.

Before the season started, it was pretty much common knowledge that Jeannot wouldn’t be shooting as well as he did in 2021-22. But going from 19.4 percent shooting to 6.3 percent was a steep drop that no one could have pictured. His defense has also not been as strong as it was last season, so overall he has been one of the least valuable players to the Predators at this point. His minus-4.9 expected goals above replacement (xGAR) and minus-1.1 goals above replacement (GAR) are both close to the bottom of the leaderboard for the team.

While I don’t think that last season’s performance is going to happen often, I do think that Jeannot is a more effective player than the box score this season is showing. He should be okay, and will again for the second season in a row, eventually find a way to regress back to the mean.

Mikael Granlund

Probably the even bigger surprise by the analytics is the performance of Mikael Granlund this season. Although he ranks fourth on the team in points with 28 in 48 (a 10-point separation from third-on-the-team Matt Duchene, who has 38 in 47), he sits at the bottom of both GAR and xGAR leaderboards along with most other statistics you can think of. I mean, just take a look at his regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) chart. It’s pretty ugly.

So, yes, he may not exactly be at the bottom of the scoresheet, but his underlying numbers have been nothing but horrendous this season, and it’s hard to pick out exactly why. He isn’t the Granlund we knew from last season, and that was evident just through watching the games. His impact on both ends of the ice had clearly waned. But I didn’t expect the analytics to be THIS bad.

Juuso Pärssinen

I don’t want to end this piece on a bad note, so let’s talk about a good surprise in Juuso Pärssinen, everyone’s favorite rookie. He was making noise in Milwaukee, and it was almost universally agreed upon that he would come up and make a solid impact, but I don’t think anyone foresaw this kind of performance.

Since coming into the lineup, Pärssinen sits seventh on the team in points with 21 in 34 games. That is ninth among all rookies, and his points per 60 minutes is fourth among all rookies as well. He is also tied for sixth in GAR and sits 10th in xGAR on the Predators.

Pärssinen’s expected goals for numbers have been good, and they argue that he should probably be producing more than he already is, which makes what he has done even more impressive.

Along with Cody Glass, he has been an instrumental part of getting the Predators back on the right track. He’s a physical player with plenty of offensive upside, and I’m still so impressed that our very own Eric Dunay called that selecting him in the seventh round was a steal. He has made himself an integral part of this roster, and is helping to prove that playing the young guys in significant roles and allowing them to make mistakes is for the betterment of the franchise moving forward.

The Predators have had a season many would classify as having more downs than ups, but when young players like Pärssinen succeed or the new backup in Lankinen comes in and does well with limited playing time, it’s always great to see. However, if the team is going to achieve what David Poile and John Hynes want, then they’re going to need the players who are underperforming heavily, like Jeannot and Granlund, to step up.