Projecting the Nashville Predators' Opening Night Roster

While the season has officially begun, there are some teams who still have a few days before they drop the puck on their first games. One of those teams, the Nashville Predators, had a spectacular finish to their 2021 season after a slow start that had fans wondering if a rebuild was on the horizon. They managed to climb their way into a playoff spot, and while they lost in the 1st round to Carolina, the Preds put up a good fight, showing that this squad isn't ready to roll over just yet. GM David Poile attempted to reward that performance by making the team a little younger and a little more skilled this summer. Some new pieces were added, let's see where they slot into the lineup. We'll start with the forwards:

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Matt Duchene

Eeli Tolvanen - Mikael Granlund - Luke Kunin

Nick Cousins - Cody Glass - Philip Tomasino

Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Tanner Jeannot

Rocco Grimaldi

Cole Smith

The Preds will be missing Matthieu Olivier to start the season, although there's a good chance he spends most of this season as the 13th forward regardless. That's because rookie Phil Tomasino had made the team's roster out of training camp. He impressed both head coach John Hynes and Poile over the course of the pre-season and won himself a spot on the third line RW. He'll line up alongside Cody Glass, another newcomer, although he arrived as the result of a trade that saw Nolan Patrick head to Vegas. Accompanying those two will be Nick Cousins, who can help out with a more veteran presence to offset the young duo. If Tomasino and Glass can find some chemistry, the Preds may start seeing a top 6 future for the two of them, certainly a possibility given their high draft pedigree.

On defence, another new face arrives via trade, and a longtime Pred will slot in after recently signing a long-term deal:

Roman Josi - Dante Fabbro

Mattias Ekholm - Philippe Myers

Mark Borowiecki - Alexandre Carrier

Matt Benning

Ben Harpur

Acquiring Philippe Myers in the deal that sent Ryan Ellis to Philadelphia allows the Preds to spread out their skill on the blueline. Josi is still their top guy and will be for a long time, but the Preds were loaded both financially and talent-wise on their top pair, and have now spread that talent out a little more between the 1st pairing and the 2nd. Ekholm will anchor that 2nd pair after having just signed a new deal that will keep him in Nashville for the next five years. That should carry him to the point where he starts winding down his career, but it means the Preds will have another excellent defenceman who plays the majority of his NHL career in Nashville, and the fans will love that.

In net, the Preds return to the same starter as last year, but have brought in a new guy to back him up:

Juuse Saros

David Rittich

Connor Ingram

Until the time that Jaroslav Askarov makes his way to North America, Saros is the clear-cut starter in Nashville. He has been groomed for the position for years, apprenticing under the great Pekka Rinne for his whole NHL career until Rinne retired last year. That meant it was time for Saros to take over the goal crease, and through one (admittedly unusual) season he succeeded in doing so. There is no reason to think he can't do it again. Backing him up is David Rittich, who looked to be a stud in Calgary at one time, but has since fallen off and bounced around the league to a few different teams. He landed this summer on the Predators and will be the backup for Saros to start the year. However, don't doubt Connor Ingram's ability to leapfrog into that spot. Ingram is now 24 years old, right around the age when he'd look to break into the league. If Rittich struggles to start and Ingram looks solid in the AHL, they may get swapped before long.

What do you think of this Predators' lineup, and what would you change?

Photo credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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