Let the first edition of this year’s mailbag get you prepared for the fast-approaching Nashville Predators season.
Story written by Mark Harris
It may be hard to believe, but we are just six short days away from the Nashville Predators beginning their 2017-18 campaign. While the defending Western Conference champions looks poised for another impressive season, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the club and we’re here to answer your questions each and every week.
It feels good to be back.
What are your expectations for Craig Smith this year? I think he's one that can help replace the goals from 18 & 12 if he has a better year.
— Melissa Duncan (@mel_duncan1) September 28, 2017
Craig Smith is coming off of his worst season as a Predator. After scoring 20+ goals in each of the three seasons prior to this past year he managed to light the lamp only 12 times in 78 regular season games while finishing the year with just 29 points.
There is no doubting that this season holds a big opportunity for Smith. With James Neal in Las Vegas and Colin Wilson off to Colorado it should mean a bit more responsibility and even higher expectations for the 28-year-old on the wing. I see Smith being a staple on the second-line which will likely be centered by Nick Bonino and those two could become a scary duo, not to mention the fact Kevin Fiala or Viktor Arvidsson may be on the opposite wing.
I don’t see Smith having another off year this season, he should be back to his 20-goal scoring form.
out of these 4 players, which do u expect to have an Ardvi-like season from last year: Aberg, Fiala, Sissons, Jarnkrok.
— Matt Gray (@MattGray463) September 28, 2017
Kevin Fiala. Kevin Fiala. Kevin Fiala. There is very serious hype around the 21-year-old heading into the season. He netted 13 goals in 59 total games last year before suffering a brutal injury in the playoffs against St. Louis, but prior to the injury anyone and everyone could tell he was playing the best hockey of his career. Fiala is an incredibly skilled skater and puck handler that if he continues to trend upwards at the pace he showed at the end of last year, then Nashville fans could witness another remarkable breakout year like they saw from Viktor Arvidsson a season ago.
Will he score 31 goals like Arvidsson did last year? Maybe, but with that being said, nobody should be shocked if Fiala scores 25 or more goals this season.
Without Neal, Fisher, & Wilson will NSH still be able to matchup vs big physical teams?
— Richard Daugherty (@Richard_RND) September 28, 2017
Before diving into some of the ‘physical numbers’ it’s worth noting that Nashville finished 21st in the NHL last season with 1,660 hits.
Mike Fisher led the Predators in hits last season with 160 and combined with Wilson and Neal the team lost a combined 294 hits from a season ago. Nashville does however still have the likes of Austin Watson who is an extremely physical player who finished second on the team in hits with 143. Colton Sissons is another very physical player that can skate and Cody McLeod is still on this roster and is one of the more physical players in all of the league.
Nashville also added Nick Bonino to the fold as well as Scott Hartnell who last year registered 60 hits and 94 hits, respectively. Don’t expect the Preds to change their style and be the most physical team in the league, but from a matchup standpoint, yes, they still have the personnel to matchup with the bigger clubs around the NHL.
Featured image via David E. Klutho