Fantasy Puck Preview: Nashville Predators

Scott Cullen
9/17/2008 3:30:16 PM
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Nashville's hopes for the season may rest largely on an arbitrator's ruling, as the Predators could find it difficult to score without Alexander Radulov.

Radulov isn't a star, yet, but the Predators can't afford to lose 26 goals and 58 points from the lineup without finding an adequate replacement.

The leaders of the Nashville attack are Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, both of whom recorded 72 points last season.

Arnott puts up solid offensive numbers, but he typically enhances that value with a double-digit plus rating and double-digit power play goals.

Dumont is coming off his career-best season, posting career highs in goals (29) and points (72), part of which could be attributed to his prominent role with the Predators, which allowed him to record another career-high: 192 shots on goal.

If Radulov isn't around to provide strong second-line scoring, though, Arnott and Dumont will be under even more pressure to produce.

Martin Erat is coming off back-to-back 57-point seasons and could possibly take his game up another notch, though he's unlikely to climb as high as a point-per-game.

Smooth-skating David Legwand dipped from 63 points in 2006-2007 to 44 last year, but he'll need to have a bounceback season if the Predators are going to provide enough complementary offence behind the number one line.

Without Radulov, however, Legwand isn't exactly looking at proven scorers on his wings. Vernon Fiddler (32 points in 2007-2008), Patric Hornqvist (30 points in 53 games in Sweden last year) or Antti Pihlstrom (45 points in 79 AHL games last year) are the leading candidates for those roles, but it's hard to have high expectations for any of them.

While there is trouble up front, the Predators do have a strong crop of defencemen (perhaps one of whom could be moved for a proven scorer).

Shea Weber has the potential to be a first-rate defenceman, though he couldn't get on track last season after an injury in the opening game.

Although he's gone through stints in the doghouse, Ryan Suter has made steady progress in his three NHL seasons, progress that figures to continue this year.

An offensive decline in recent seasons has limited the appeal of Dan Hamhuis, who still plays a big role for the Predators, but he hasn't been asked to handle as much of an offensive role.

One possible blueline sleeper would be Ville Koistinen, who was impressive in part-time duty last year. If Koistinen is indeed ready to handle top-four duty, then the Predators will be well-stocked along the blueline.

Quite possibly the biggest surprise among goaltenders last season, Dan Ellis will be hard-pressed to match a 2.34 goals against average and .924 save percentage, but will likely get more than 37 starts so the trade-off should come with more wins.

Given Ellis' minimal pedigree, it's worth using a late-round pick in deep leagues on Pekka Rinne, who is slated to be the backup, but don't forget that Ellis was an unpoven minor leaguer, playing behind a new number one goaltender, going into last season too.

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