Welcome to part 2 of our blogger round table, where we have asked some of the bloggers covering the Predators to give their opinion some critical aspects of the team. In part 1, we asked the group to give an overview of their expectations for the upcoming season.
In part two, we ask the group if the young players are ready to step into more prominent roles. Here is their response:
I do. I believe Blake Geoffrion will be a standout. I've thought since this time last year that Nick Spaling will be a special player for this team; I think we really see that becoming evident starting this year. And like a lot of other observers, I anxiously await the potential impact of Ryan Ellis and/or Mattias Ekholm. I really don't see the team missing Cody Franson all that much with these two coming aboard. They may not be real difference makers, but they will provide enough of their own special sauce that the veterans will be able to relax and shine as they should (read: Mike Fisher, David Legwand, Marty Erat).
Coming from Europe, juniors, college, or even the AHL, it is difficult to project whether a player is ready to step into a role in the NHL. Training camp will go a long way toward telling whether they are ready to advance, but even preseason games are not an accurate predictor of what a player will go through during the 82-game grind of the NHL season. Of the young players, I'd say that Roman Josi is the most NHL ready, but Craig Smith's showing at the World Championships gives hope that he may have a chance at sticking out of camp.
I guess it all depends on the role; I'm excited to see what someone like Roman Josi can bring on the 3rd defensive pair, but with Francis Bouillon hurting, who's going to work the penalty kill? You'd rather not
put more of a burden there on Shea Weber & Ryan Suter, who are needed offensively. Up front, I can see a kid or two working their way in, but I'm skeptical of some of the talk that Nick Spaling will add significant
contributions offensively, or that Matt Halischuk could develop into a Joel Ward replacement. The major pressure is on Colin Wilson, who should be ready to take the training wheels off and demonstrate that he was
worthy of a Top 10 pick at the NHL Entry Draft.
If there was going to be any season that was prime for a "youth rising", it's this coming season. Having seen the steps Ryan Ellis made in junior in the last season and after seeing the way he performed during Prospect Camp, he looks like he could become a franchise player. He simply appears to have the makings of an elite skill set. In addition, there are several other talented defensemen that are primed to make a run to the big time - namely Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi and Teemu Laakso. On the other hand, Nashville doesn't appear to have the same sort of depth in the ranks at forward. While Gabriel Bourque has the makings of a future NHLer, most of the others are a few years off. The big question mark is with Blake Geoffrion. If Geoffrion continues to progress and the game "slows down" for him in time, he could become a monster. It happened for him at Wisconsin and it happened in Milwaukee. All of a sudden something "clicks" with him and he becomes an extremely reliable and consistent player...it's probably more of a question of "when" than "if".
Towards the end of last season, Jon Blum and Blake Geoffrion proved they were ready to step up for Nashville and play in the NHL. This season, it appears that Nashville will have an extremely young
roster. Whether or not all the youth are ready to assume that role, we will soon find out, but consistency might be the key to whether they do succeed at the NHL level. During training camp last season, Colin Wilson
talked about needing to work on being more consistent on the ice. Geoffrion, Halischuk, Blum as well as many other young players may be faced with a similar struggle, playing 100% every shift.
The young forwards are the biggest question mark. Blake Geoffrion performed really well in his first 12 NHL games but he disappeared after that. And, while he does the little things right, he's not ready for
full-time duty. Matt Halischuk may be able to provide some scoring depth on the third or fourth line. He consistently found the score sheet in big games last season and then, of course, went on to become a playoff
overtime hero for the Preds. Colin Wilson needs to show he can adjust his attitude in order to play big minutes and be at his best. So while most people will focus on the young defense (the third pairing, in
particular), this team needs to score goals and the young forwards are going to be relied on to do that.
I do. From what we saw out of Jonathon Blum and Nick Spaling late last year, they're ready to step up. Blake Geoffrion may need more AHL seasoning, but he's close. Ryan Ellis could be the exception to Barry
Trotz's rule that the 'road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee'. Matt Halischuk looks like a Trotz-type player. So yes, I do think the youngsters are ready to take their game to the next level.
Oh absolutely! If you don't think so, you really need to take a look at the players on the active roster, their ages, and what they have already accomplished. Players like Hornqvist/Kostitsyn/Bergfors haven't even hit
the prime of their careers and they are leading the team in scoring. Spaling, Halischuk, Mueller, and Geoffrion were great additions to the team throughout last season as well. Not to mention, without Spaling, who knows if Nashville would have made it out of the first round? You may think that is a silly question, but Spaling was a huge factor for the Predators first round series against the Ducks. And can anyone forget Halischuk's double-overtime game winner against Vancouver? It'll go down as one of the biggest goals in Nashville Predators history, coming from a 23 year old kid we got for Jason Arnott.
The Predators are going to rely on younger players to step into prominent roles this upcoming season. Do you feel the young talent in the organization is ready to do so?The Predators have been ranked number one in prospect talent for the last two years by Hockey’s Future. The team has slowly migrated players into the system and has one of the highest percentages of home-grown talent in the NHL.This year is no different. Spaling has firmly established himself on the team. Blum, Geoffrion, O’Reilly, and Halischuk have the chance to make a full transition to the NHL level this year.Depending on whether another veteran defenseman is added, I expect that two or three of the group of young D-Men will play significant minutes with the team this season. Teemu Laakso, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattian Ekholm have the best chance to stick with Laakso and Josi as my front-runners. Ellis is the x-factor with his play at camp being make or break for him. He will have to stand out significantly to force the team not to send him back to Milwaukee.Of the forward group, Craig Smith will be given every opportunity to stick with the team. However his he cannot earn second or third line minutes he will start on the top line in Milwaukee. Taylor Beck and Gabriel Bourque may also see time in Nashville before the season is over.
So there you have it. I would consider this group cautiously optimistic about our younger players, but all in agreement that the forwards will be the biggest question mark. I concur, and if some of the young guys can make the next step, Predator fans will be pleasantly surprised.
In the next installment, the group is going to answer two questions: who will be the biggest surprise (good or bad) this season; and which of the recently departed players will the Predators miss the most.