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The second half of the Nashville Predators offensive preview has plenty of youth and a small dose of veteran leadership. Some names may get replaced with call-ups from Milwaukee, a few of these players will make up the future of the Nashville Predators and the others are a staple of talent dating back to the original draft choice.
Nashville will always be known, thanks in large part to Barry Trotz, as a defensive-first system. The Predators, however, also turned in some very good offensive numbers last season with a remarkable #1 PP and top ten in scoring. Another helper in the matter of the shortened season and quick turnaround is that the Predators have very little turnover in their personnel and won’t have to work people into the system that haven’t already played in Nashville (Scott Hannan aside).
DAVID LEGWAND – (2011-2012 Stats: 19g, 34a, 53pts, +3, 26PIM)
The last original Predator will keep things rolling smoothly. Legwand is the typical two-way forward that Coach Trotz loves to have at his disposal. Legwand gets called out more times than not for his play on the ice, but it can’t be overlooked that Legwand is a wonder in the playoffs (when he’s not throwing the puck in front of his own net for a Phoenix player to tap in).
It’s a hard case for Legwand not to get the “A” left by Suter as Legwand has the history with the Predators dating back to the franchise’s inception, but more than likely the “A” will go to Fisher and Erat. Legwand centering the second line will provide that experience for Wilson, Hornqvist or Smith if they crack the top two lines.
BRIAN MCGRATTAN – (2011-2012 Stats: 0g, 2a, 2pts, -1, 61PIM)
McGrattan is a fan favorite of many for his sandpaper style and willingness to throw down with any heavyweight in the business. The only concern for the Predators would be the using up of a roster spot for a bruiser that might see 4-6 minutes of playing time.
The shortened season guarantees that points will come at a premium and that means roster spots for scoring players will be chosen over the guardian role McGrattan provides. But on nights when Chicago or Anaheim come to town, look for McGrattan to crack the line-up and keep the other team in check.
CHRIS MUELLER – (Career NHL Stats: 0g, 3a, 3pts, -1, 2PIM)
Mueller only has 4 starts with the Nashville Predators in the regular season. With the Milwaukee Admirals, Mueller has been on a tear in the 2012-2013 season posting 12 goals and 9 assists giving him 21 points. Chris Mueller has always been a steady go-to call up for a game here and there, but hasn’t shown the offensive prowess to stay with the club for an extended period of time.
Look for Mueller to finally be given that chance centering the fourth line for the Predators. His utility style of play is perfect in the Trotz-ian system and much like Halischuk did last season, I expect Mueller to cause a ton of mismatches from the fourth line and pot a few timely goals in the process.
CRAIG SMITH – (2011-2012 Stats: 14g, 22a, 36pts, -9, 30PIM)
Much will be said about Craig Smith and for the greenhorns on the Predators roster, Smith and Wilson probably have the most to prove. Working on a sophomore year is sometimes a very touchy subject (sophomore slump etc.) but the shortened season may play into Craig Smith’s favor.
About the time Craig Smith’s numbers tailed off last season was about the time that college hockey would have been wrapping up. A shorter year will help Craig Smith in his conditioning and allow for less of a dip in production going into the playoffs. Smith may start on the third line with Gaustad on opening night, but many expect Smith to crack the top 2 lines in short time.
NICK SPALING – (2011-2012 Stats: 10g, 12a, 22pts, -7, 18PIM)
Spaling is yet another Nashville two-way forward. Listed as a LW on the Predators roster, Spaling is quite adept in the center position and plays a great defensive game from the pivot.
Spaling will continue to shut down opposing offense while chipping in with a few goals and assists this year. He will more than likely start on the 4th line either centering or flanking on the left. Look for Nick Spaling to continue in the footsteps of David Legwand in the defensive side of hockey for the Nashville Predators.
COLIN WILSON – (2011-2012 Stats: 15g, 20a, 35pts, +5, 21PIM)
Wilson has struggled in Trotz’ system to stay out of the doghouse and onto the playing surface. Wilson is an offensive juggernaut when he wants to be. Sometimes he tries to do too much with the puck, but that kind of tenacity and energy will hopefully gain some control and push Colin Wilson into competing for the scoring lead for the Predators this year.
Wilson can also benefit from having Paul Gaustad back in the lineup for Nashville. From taking face-offs to setting himself up for scoring opportunities with his teammates, Gaustad will provide Wilson with the tutelage and experience needed to turn an eager player that makes rookie mistakes into a patient scorer who can evolve into the game-changer they drafted him to be.
BRANDON YIP – (2011-2012 Stats: 3g, 4a, 7pts, +1, 28PIM)
Yip was a waiver wire acquisition last season for the Predators. He is pretty good at digging out the puck in the corners, similar to what Ward used to bring to Nashville. Yip also has a mean streak and will defend his teammates to the utmost if need be, hence the 28 PIM in 35 games. Without Tootoo, it’ll be up to Yip and Gaustad to patrol the ice and if Yip can come through with the occasional point or two, that’s icing on the cake.
But, I do believe that Watson or Latta might make the journey up from Milwaukee at some point in the year. If the Predators are desperate for some goal-scoring, Yip might be the odd man out with McGrattan if minor league call-ups come a-knocking.
OFFENSE PRE-SEASON GRADE (PART 2): C+
The majority of players listed here are a solid C+. Many of them being utility players makes them an easy target for the C+ grade and their play is going to be crucial to stopping the other team. The exceptions being Wilson, Smith and Legwand. These three, while maintaining the defensive responsibility put on them by Coach Trotz will need to step up most and contribute nightly for the Predators “scoring-by-committee” approach to continue to work.
I do have a feeling that Chris Mueller’s coming out party (similar to Halischuk’s last season) will happen this year and his play might move Gaustad to fourth line duties while Mueller alongside Halischuk and Smith might do considerable damage on the 3rd line.