NHL

Fantasy Preview: Nashville Predators

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Scott Cullen
9/17/2013 1:33:00 PM
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Lacking game-breaking scorers, the Nashville Predators don't have the greatest fantasy appeal, though they do have a top-end defenceman and goaltender to lead those that might provide value later in drafts.

Top Picks: Over the last five seasons, D Shea Weber has scored 83 goals, leading all defencemen (Washington's Mike Green is the only other one with more than 60), and Weber's 1081 shots on goal lead all defencemen in that time, so the production comes naturally through the Predators' dependence on their franchise player. He's not going to put up as many points as Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, but Weber could be the next defencemen off the board.

Over the last five seasons, G Pekka Rinne has posted a .919 save percentage, ranking fifth (among goalies with at least 150 games played), but last season's .910 save percentage was a career-low and he had hip surgery in the offseason.

Rinne plays a lot -- 116 of a possible 130 games in the last two seasons -- so if he's recovered from his hip woes then he's a quality fantasy starter. If not, then there is some risk because his heavy workload can play havoc with the percentages if isn't better than last season.

Value Plays: Mike Fisher 33-year-old C Mike Fisher played 19:28 per game for the Predators last season, the second-highest average ice time of his career, but there is a definite ceiling on his offensive production as he's topped 50 points twice and 20 goals five times in his career. With decent peripheral stats, Fisher is a safe option as a No. 4 fantasy centre, but generally one that will go very late in drafts, if at all, because he doesn't possess the same kind of scoring potential as other, younger, centres.

Sleepers/Breakthrough: It figures that one of Nashville's most useful fantasy forwards is a winger who tallied four goals last season. RW Patric Hornqvist is a three-time 20-goal scorer who generates lots of shots -- 3.31 per game over the last four seasons, ranking 17th -- but he scored on just 4.6% of his shots in 2013, half of his career rate. He also played only 24 games due to a variety of injuries, so he's a player who could provide value simply by returning to good health and previous form.

Coming over from Chicago, where he scored 31 goals in the last two seasons, LW Viktor Stalberg is looking for more ice time than the 14 minutes per game he received with the Blackhawks, perhaps even some time on the power play. His 31 even-strength goals over the last two seasons ranks 37th, ahead of Marian Hossa, Patrick Marleau, Jeff Carter, Ilya Kovalchuk and Daniel Sedin, some qaulity socring wingers, so Stalberg is worth a look based on the potential opportunity he has in Nashville.

Last year looked to be LW Colin Wilson's breakout campaign, as he put up 19 points in 25 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. One concern about Wilson is that he genrates so few shots on goal. Last year, it was 1.04 per game -- Calgary's Matt Stajan was the only player to finish with more points with fewer shots per game and Stajan played 43 games. Given the Predators' offensive needs, though, Wilson will get chances to produce this season, so he could be worth a late-round flier.

After scoring 36 points in 72 games as a rookie in 2011-2012, RW Craig Smith flopped to just 12 points in 44 games last season. Smith has skill, but is also minus-20 through 116 career NHL games, so he's not a finished product and may not have enough potential to be anything more than waiver wire material in most leagues.

D Roman Josi moved into a more prominent role on the Predators' blueline last season, playing 23:32 per game and scoring 18 points, so he has some offensive upside, but he also spent last season paired with Weber and could lost that spot to top pick Seth Jones. How the minutes get allocated, particularly on the power play, will determine if Josi still has fantasy appeal.

 

Rookies: Taylor Beck, Seth Jones, Filip Forsberg As justifiably excited as the Predators may be about landing D Seth Jones with the fourth pick in the draft, it would be asking a lot for him to step in and produce enough to generate fantasy interest. Jones did score 56 points in 61 WHL games last year, but it won't be easy for him to generate offence on a team that lacks goal-scorers.

A couple of young Predators wingers might be able to help in that regard. RW Taylor Beck had 41 points in 50 AHL games last season before adding seven points in 16 games with the Predators. If he wins a spot in the top six, he could score enough to help in deep leagues.

Acquired from Washington in the Martin Erat trade, LW Filip Forsberg is a talented prospect, and he had one point in five late-season games with Nashville last season, but it would be asking a lot for the 19-year-old to move from the Allsvenskan, which is the league below the Elite League in Sweden, to having an immediate impact in the NHL. It's possible, but seems like a wait-and-see situation.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Shea Weber (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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