Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Nashville Predators
For the last 12 years over at The Hockey News, I have reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them. Now that I am no longer with THN, my 13th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – Volchenkov will be replaced by Jackman, but Franson hasn't been replaced by anyone. Meaning that the Preds will lean on Seth Jones and Ryan Ellis a little more. And that's a good thing, not only for the team but for the fantasy owners of Jones and Ellis (duh).
And so far Beck, Stalberg and Santorelli have only been replaced by one guy – Hodgson. Of course, those three players who are leaving were occasional healthy scratches. Bit players. So let's combine them and say the team lost two roster players and will bring in one. That leaves one spot open for a rookie. And as you will see below, four rookies will vie for that spot. However, veteran Gabriel Bourque is clinging to his NHL job so it's certainly possible for two of the rookies to make this team with strong camps. And if Hodgson implodes, well…
Ready for full-time – Kevin Fiala is Nashville's top prospect and he appears to be ready for the NHL. Then again, so did Filip Forsberg two years ago and he didn't make the jump until a year later. So I would count on Fiala to at least start the year in the AHL, as he is eligible to go there. Then later in the season he'll get the call (if he earns it). Fiala, a left winger, was drafted 11th overall last season.
(scouting report on Fiala here)
Austin Watson was drafted 18th overall in 2010 and he didn't even get a sniff of NHL duty last year. Offensively, he's stagnated at the AHL level, but he's learning to better use his 6-4 size better. Now 23 years old, it's time for him to make the jump, and the Predators will give him that opportunity because no team wants to waste a first-round pick. And honestly, if he's still in the AHL at 24 then the pick was pretty much wasted.
(scouting report on Watson here)
Steve Moses was the hot free agent that a handful of teams went after. The 26-year-old signed with Nashville back in April after leading the KHL with 36 goals in 60 games. He's 5-9, 170, which could be an issue. But his contract is a one-way deal at $1 million, indicating that he'd have to be pretty bad to not stick in the NHL. Whether that means fringe player and press box, or scoring-line phenom, is another matter. But for his size and skill set, any other spot but on a scoring line is a waste of everyone's time.
(scouting report on Moses here)
Colton Sissons was Nashville's second-round pick in 2012 (50th overall). He showed during a 17-game stint in 2013-14 that's he's close to being NHL ready, but he didn't get a chance last year. He's a two-way center who can chip in some offense.
(scouting report on Sissons here)
Kristian Nakyva is another undrafted free agent, this time from out of the Swedish Hockey League. An offense-oriented blueliner, he has a chance to crack the lineup as the No.7 defenseman. I've set my expectations of this guy to "Raphael Diaz" mode. But everyone reacts to the rigors of the NHL differently.
(scouting report on Nakyva here)
Fantasy Outlook – The Predators were much better than we thought last season, and not just in real life. In fantasy hockey, expectations were hopeful but tempered. And they really came through for us, scoring 14th in the league despite the sixth-worst power play. Yes, goalie Pekka Rinne was back to his old fantasy-gold self. And yes, Shea Weber was a stud. But Roman Josi has now joined him under the "stud" column, and Filip Forsberg has emerged as a star (reviving Mike Ribeiro's career along the way). They do have one fantasy stud prospect in the pipeline in Fiala, but otherwise there is nothing to get excited about. And it would be nice if someone like Craig Smith or Colin Wilson would emerge as a 60-point force. Because right now there are too many 'so-so' fantasy owns with potential.
Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was C)