Fantasy Puck Preview: Nashville Predators

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Scott Cullen
9/11/2009 11:04:29 AM
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It's not easy to put together a competitive squad on the Predators' tight budget, but they continue to re-generate the roster with young talent and this season should be no different.

Even so, the veterans will hold the most fantasy appeal in Nashville.

While J.P. Dumont isn't the sexiest fantasy pick, and his 16 goals last season represented his lowest total since 2002-2003, he's also put up at least 65 points in three consecutive seasons and there's something to be said for that reliability.

Veteran pivot Jason Arnott was limited to 65 games last season due to a series of injuries, yet was still productive enough to rank second on the team with 57 points while tying his career-high of 33 goals. His goal-scoring ability, power play presence, a consistent plus rating and even some penalty minute potential makes Arnott a strong fantasy player.

After a couple of years away, receovering from back surgery, Steve Sullivan found his form again late last season, scoring 27 points in his final 25 games. It may be risky to presume that Sullivan can suddenly stay healthy and play 70-plus games for the first time since 2003-2004, but he could provide outstanding value if injury concerns cause him to slide on draft day.

While he can be streaky in-season, Martin Erat provides a certain measure of consistency from year-to-year, scoring at least 49 points in five straight seasons. His upside is limited with Sullivan and Dumont both in the lineup, but Erat is a solid complementary scorer who has value in deeper fantasy leagues.

Speedy David Legwand plays a sound, reliable game, but it looks like his 2006-2007 season (during which he scored 62 points and was plus-23) was an aberration. Legwand has scored between 40 and 48 points in five of the last eight seasons, so it seems reasonable to hold him to those expectations again.

A late-season surge (17 points in his last 22 games) from Joel Ward could make the late-bloomer a sleeper candidate for the upcoming season.

For those scouting rookies, the Predators have a promising forward in Colin Wilson, the sturdy Boston University product. Wilson has the size and strength to play in the NHL now, but it may require an adjustment period for him to become a productive scorer.

On defence, the Predators have one of the very best in Shea Weber, who enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2008-2009, setting career highs in goals (23), assists (30), points (53) and penalty minutes (80). Weber's rocket shot from the blueline assures power play production and he plays with some nastiness so he'll contribute in leagues that count penalty minutes making him an all-around fantasy stud.

Ryan Suter continues to make steady progress, improving his point production in each of his four NHL seasons. However, last year's unsightly minus-16 rating will give some reason for pause before selecting him this year. Given that Suter was a plus player in each of his first three seasons, it's fair to expect him to bounce back.

The rest of the Nashville blueline isn't quite so appealing, yet. Veteran Dan Hamhuis is steady, but doesn't quite score enough to be a fantasy contributor in most formats, while young defencemen like Alexander Sulzer, Cody Franson, Jonathon Blum and even 2009 first-round pick Ryan Ellis all have potential, but it's too soon to expect significant production.

Who knows who will finish the season as Nashville's number one goaltender? Certainly, the plan ought to be for Pekka Rinne to pick up where he left off in 2008-2009, challenging for the Calder Trophy after pulling ahead of Dan Ellis in the Predators' goalie rotation.

Given how the recent trend has gone, though, the Predators are probably happy to still have Ellis on hand in case Rinne can't handle the pressure of being the number one. Even though Ellis slumped when handed the starting job last year, he's capable of pushing Rinne and even re-capturing the starting job should Rinne falter.

Steve Sullivan (Photo: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
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