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O'Reilly believes Predators can compete for Stanley Cup this season

Ryan O'Reilly Ryan O'Reilly - The Canadian Press

Despite an off-season filled with change, veteran forward Ryan O'Reilly believes the Nashville Predators will be a Stanley Cup contender this season.

O'Reilly was among the Predators' additions on July 1, with fellow veterans Luke Schenn and Gustav Nyquist also signing in Nashville.

"I think the veteran players that are here right now, the way they impact the game is so impressive," O'Reilly told on Thursday. "I think, too, watching last year and the youth, and what they do, there's a great balance of both.

"Me coming here, I think it was something I look forward to. I think we can take a step and be right there competing for the [Stanley] Cup."

The Predators traded Ryan Johansen to the Colorado Avalanche and bought out winger Matt Duchene in June, continuing their path from the trade deadline, when defenceman Mattias Ekholm headlined the list of players moved out.

O'Reilly, however, believes the Predators' late-season success, which led the franchise to finishing just three points out of the playoffs, will provide a foundation to improving.

"[What the young players did was] obviously impressive," O'Reilly said. "I think injuries just got to them, and [people were] thinking they were going to fall off and kind of fizzle out. Seeing the youth kind of take control and bring this team to almost make the playoffs was very impressive.

"I think that caught everyone's eye, that there's some great talent coming up here. Definitely special."

O’Reilly finished the 2022-23 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs after being acquired, along with forward Noel Acciari, from the St. Louis Blues for forward Mikhail Abramov, Adam Gaudette, and three draft picks on Feb. 17.

He posted 16 goals and 30 points in 53 games last season split between the Blues and Maple Leafs, adding three goals and nine points in 11 playoff games with Toronto.

The 32-year-old won the Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019, when he was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.