The Nashville Predators don't have elite forward talent, offering more depth and sleeper options, but they do have impact players on defense and, potentially, in goal.
Team captain Shea Weber has scored 39 goals over the last two seasons, ranking second in the league to Capitals defenceman Mike Green in that category. Weber's penalty minutes dropped off last season (from 80 to 36) and his point production is likely limited by the skill level of his teammates, yet he's still a Top 10 defenceman.
The No. 2 on the Predators' blueline, Ryan Suter, continues to improve, playing 24 minutes per game and scoring 82 points over the last two seasons. He's not quite as productive as Weber, but Suter is durable (playing 82 games three times in the last four years) and well worth fantasy consideration.
Nashville's other elite fantasy option could be goaltender Pekka Rinne, the 28-year-old who has performed well as the starter in back-to-back seasons. Rinne could see his numbers improve this year since he doesn't have an established backup, so it's possible he'll see action in even more than the 58 games he played last season.
Newcomer Matthew Lombardi effectively steps into the lineup for the departed Jason Arnott. Lombardi had a career-high 53 points last season and is generally a solid plus player, but his production for a centre may limit him to fringe fantasy status or only for those in deeper leagues.
Breaking through for a 30-goal season in 2009-2010, Patric Hornqvist augmented his impressive goal total with a plus-18 rating. Considering only six right wingers in the league scored 30 goals last year, there is obvious value in Hornqvist, even if his point total (51) was lowest of that particular six-pack.
While consistency from game-to-game isn't necessarily a strength of Martin Erat, the skilled Czech winger is remarkably consistent in his offensive production from year to year, ranging from 49 to 57 points in each of the last six seasons. When he's on his game Erat can tease with his ability, like last December when he had 10 goals and 18 points in 14 games.
Steve Sullivan was healthy, playing all 82 games last year, which was notable in its own right after the 36-year-old missed nearly two years with back troubles. Sullivan's production wasn't up to his previous standards and, at this stage of his career, that may not be a reasonable expectation anyway, so he's likely more of a fantasy sleeper than a strong draft-day recommendation.
Veteran J.P. Dumont has been a productive player in the past, but the 32-year-old saw his ice time decrease as last year progressed and he finished with eight points in his final 21 games. If Dumont remains in a role playing 13 minutes a night, then he may only be of real fantasy value in a new location. At the same time, he has 248 points in four seasons with the Predators, so he shouldn't be ignored altogether.
The Predators do have some young players that could take the next step in their development and become viable fantasy performers. Defenceman Cody Franson was one of 16 defencemen in the league to have at least 20 points and at least a plus-15 rating and was certainly the only one playing just 14 minutes per game. Can his production go up with more minutes in his second season?
Second-year forward Colin Wilson could also be ready for a breakthrough after 15 points in 35 games as a rookie. Wilson is a big, strong forward who adds a much-needed element to the Predators and if he secures regular playing time in the top six and on the power play, his production could jump significantly.
|Martin Erat||Matthew Lombardi||Patric Hornqvist|
|Colin Wilson||David Legwand||Steve Sullivan|
|J.P. Dumont||Marcel Goc||Joel Ward|
|Sergei Kostitsyn||Jerred Smithson||Jordin Tootoo|
|Wade Belak||Cal O'Reilly||Jonas Andersson|
|Shea Weber||Ryan Suter|
|Kevin Klein||Cody Franson|
|Francis Bouillon||Ryan Parent|
|Aaron Johnson||Teemu Laakso|