It’s hard to believe it, but the Nashville Predators season has only 30 games remaining in the regular season and it’s time to turn our eyes toward the playoffs.
With plenty of action ahead of us over the next few months, here’s five important things to watch for before playoff hockey finally hits.
The return of Kyle Turris
Kyle Turris has only played in 30 games this year. He missed some time in late November early December, and has most recently been sidelined since December 27th with an undisclosed injury.
David Poile mentioned recently that while he doesn’t think Turris will return in the two games after the All-Star break (later this week), he could be “close.”
But what does “close” mean?
Well, back when Poile mentioned that Forsberg and Subban were “close” to returning, they were back in the lineup within a couple weeks. So, given that, I think we could see Turris back in the lineup at the latest by mid-February, perhaps even earlier.
Finally having that important final piece of the top six–a playmaking center that can create space for Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith–will automatically make a difference in the Preds’ forward lineup.
What moves will Poile make at the trade deadline?
It’s always an adventure this time of year, especially with David Poile in charge. While you never know what Poile is going to do, you do know he’s going to do something.
Here’s a look at some of David Poile’s trades in the month of February over the years:
- Ryan Hartman for Victor Ejdsell, draft picks (Feb 26th, 2018)
- Vernon Fiddler for 4th round pick (Feb 3rd, 2017)
- Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli for Olli Jokinen, Brandon Leipsic, and picks (Feb 15th, 2015)
- Andrei Kostitsyn for 2nd & 5th round picks (Feb 27th, 2012)
- Paul Gaustad for 1st round pick (Feb 27th, 2012)
- Hal Gill for Blake Geoffrion & Robert Slaney, and a pick (Feb 17th, 2012)
- Mike Fisher for 1st round pick & 3rd round pick (Feb 10th, 2011)
- Peter Forsberg for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, and picks (Feb 15th, 2007)
- Steve Sullivan for 2nd & 4th round picks (Feb 16th, 2004)
Look at that list of names. David Poile is just as likely to acquire a Hall of Famer as he is to get some defensive depth.
And it’s not always about rentals either. Several of these trade deadline acquisitions have become franchise staples, like Mike Fisher and Steve Sullivan.
Like I said: you never know what Poile is going to do.
Dante Fabbro: does he sign?
The Preds’ top defensive prospect Dante Fabbro is currently in his junior season at Boston University. The team holds his signing rights until June 1st after he leaves college/graduates.
The BU Terriers are not having a great season, though Fabbro leads the team with 21 points in 23 games. It seems unlikely that BU will go on a deep run in the college hockey tournament, so it could be as early as mid-March before we will know if Fabbro will return to college for his senior year or leave early.
Fabbro’s decision at the end of this season is going to tell us a lot about what will happen. If he decides to return for his senior season, the general thought is that he will most likely not sign with Nashville. Think Jimmy Vesey in 2016. But if he decides to leave BU after this year, signing in Nashville would be almost guaranteed.
Why is this important for the Predators right now?
Well, because as things stand, Fabbro would be an instant upgrade on the bottom pairing defensively. He is certainly better than Matt Irwin and the team just waived Anthony Bitetto. This would leave Fabbro to play with Dan Hamhuis or Yannick Weber. Fabbro plays on the right side, so he’d likely be paired with Hamhuis to start off.
If Fabbro signs in March (or later), he could be a nice depth addition for a playoff run this year.
The Black Aces: who and when?
Speaking of late season additions, every year after the trade deadline, the usual roster limit of 23 is lifted. After Monday February 29th, teams can have as many players on their NHL roster as they choose, as long as they are still following cap rules.
This means the Preds can call up some “Black Aces” for the late playoff push. In the past, names like Harry Zolnierczyk and Freddy Gaudreau have made headlines for their contributions. So who will it be this year?
Here’s some guys you might see join the team in March and April:
- Eeli Tolvanen: Has already played in four games this season, notching two points. He has seven goals in fifteen games with Milwaukee and is maybe the best replacement scoring option for the top six.
- Anthony Richard: Had a cup of coffee with Nashville earlier this season. Brings a lot of speed and skill. Could play anywhere in the lineup. Has 31 points in 43 games with the Admirals.
- Colin Blackwell: Might not count as a Black Ace since he’s already here, but he brings speed and aggression to the lineup.
- Emil Pettersson: The brother of Elias Pettersson, Emil brings some skill and bit of size to the middle of the ice, though nothing like what the Preds need.
- Frederic Allard: Agile defender that would only play if one of the other 8 defenseman goes down with an injury.
- Matt Donovan: A bright spot on the Admirals this season, but like Allard, probably only plays if there are some injury issues.
Maintain playoff position
And then there’s the most anticipated arrival of the Spring: the Predators first round opponent.
Right now, the Predators (currently #2 in the Central) would play the Minnesota Wild (currently #3 in the Central) in the first round with home ice advantage. The winner would advance to play the winner of Jets (#1) and Stars (#4).
There’s 30 games left and a lot can happen, but here are the most likely first round opponents according to Sportclubstats:
- Minnesota: 30.8%
- Colorado: 23.7%
- Dallas: 23.3%
- St. Louis: 6.6%
With the distance they’ve built between themselves and the rest of the bottom half of the division, it looks like the Predators are definitely headed for a Central showdown in the first round. Whether they do that from the #1 spot or the #2 spot remains to be seen.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —