Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Nashville Predators
For the last 14 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
This year, due to Dobber’s battle with cancer, he recruited Cam Robinson (of Frozen Pool Forensics fame) to pinch hit. The 15th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. 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 – The writing was on the wall: Nashville was going to lose a quality player in the expansion process. The decision was made to protect four defensemen and as such, the team was forced to expose former 40-goal man, James Neal. Of course, Neal had posted just 40 points this past season and was looking like an asset on the decline, but there is now a hole in the team’s top six forward grouping that is ripe for the taking. That spot will likely be filled by an up-and-coming young player. Kevin Fiala, Pontus Aberg or even Vladislav Kamenev will each throw their hat in the ring this fall. Returning to the organization is veteran Scott Hartnell. He’ll bring good leadership, physicality, and a net-front presence with the man advantage – a suitable replacement for Wilson. Bonino should be a seen as an upgrade on the retired Fisher, and Emelin will bring some more sandpaper to the team’s bottom pairing.
Ready for full-time – Kevin Fiala was just starting to look comfortable playing real minutes this past spring when he broke his femur in a gruesome collision with the boards. The recovery surely hasn’t been an easy one, but he’s experienced a rapid rate of improvement, hitting the ice again in June, just under two months since the injury occurred. The 21-year-old saw 54 contests in Nashville last season, recording 11 goals and 16 points while seeing just 13:31 a night. His 55 percent CF% mark was indicative of his play-driving ability even from the bottom six. The offensively-driven Swiss forward should have a top-six wing spot sewed up if he’s healthy enough to take it. Read more on Fiala here.
Pontus Aberg had himself a bit of a coming out party during the Predators’ recent playoff run. The soon-to-be 24-year-old suited up for his first 15 NHL contest last season chipping in a goal and an assist while playing 12 minutes a night from the bottom six. It wasn’t until the team lost their top line centre that Aberg was thrust into a more offensive role. Seeing more than 14 minutes and some time on the man-advantage, Aberg scored a crucial game winning goal against Anaheim in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and displayed his speed and skill against the Penguins in the finals. With a fresh one-way contract and subject to waivers, there should certainly be a spot for him on the roster. Read more on Aberg here.
Juuse Saros could easily be considered the best fantasy goaltending prospect in the world right now. His play last season in the NHL was indicative of his skill set and the way he’s dominated at both the Finnish top tier and AHL levels in the past. The 22-year-old gives up a ton of size (5’11”) on most netminders in the game, but makes up for it with extreme quickness and positioning. His 0.923 save percentage in 21 NHL contests was good for a share of the eighth-best mark among goaltenders with at least 500 shots saved. Longtime incumbent starter Pekke Rinne bolstered his position in the organization with a strong playoff run, but his age is beginning to show and his numbers mostly inconsistent the past five seasons. With two years left on Rinne’s contract, the opening for Saros to begin peeling starts is likely to occur this season and a push for a 1A/1B situation in 2018-19. Read more on Saros here.
21-year-old Russian Vladislav Kamenev has been ripening nicely in the AHL the past two seasons after seeing parts of the previous four campaigns in Russia’s pro circuit. The 6’2” forward brings a blend of speed and skill to the table and is an accomplished puck distributor in tight spaces. Kamenev’s ability to play both centre and wing should help in pursuit of a roster spot this fall. Read more on Kamenev here.
Fantasy Outlook – The Predators are a team chock full of legitimate fantasy assets. The 11th highest scoring team from last season lacks a truly dominant player, but that shouldn’t hold you back from stocking up on the Nashville gang. Roman Josi and PK Subban anchor one of the most dynamic back ends in the league and both project to break the 50-point barrier, while Saros and Rinne both bring value to the crease position. Up front, Filip Forsberg is a rising superstar and has 40-goal potential, while Viktor Arvidsson and his volume-shooting ways should be a threat to break 30 for the second consecutive year. Ryan Johansen has developed into a true, power top-line pivot. He should be healthy come training camp and will be looking for his second career 70-plus point campaign. The prospect pipeline is jammed packed with future players – especially on the blue line (surprise surprise) and the team should once again challenge for a division title and drive for a deep playoff run.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (Last year: B-)
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