Throughout the off-season, the NHL Network and NHL.com have released lists of the top players in the league at each position. Admittedly, this type of exercise always excludes players who many think should be ranked, and vice versa. These lists are a point of contention among fans and may be hotly debated. Even so, they can provide a measuring stick and a gauge for each franchise’s top-end talent. Whether or not the actual ranking is correct, to be named to one of these lists and be viewed in the company of the league’s best is an accomplishment worth noting. The Nashville Predators have at least one representative on each of the NHL Network’s top lists per position. Here are the Predators who made the cut, and what that says about each player.
Even so, they can provide a measuring stick and a gauge for each franchise’s top-end talent. Whether or not the actual ranking is correct, to be named to one of these lists and be viewed in the company of the league’s best is an accomplishment worth noting. The Nashville Predators have at least one representative on each of the NHL Network’s top lists per position. Here are the Predators who made the cut, and what that says about each player.
Nashville Predators Top Players Appear on Lists of NHL Elite
Top 10 Goaltenders – #10 Pekka Rinne
That Pekka Rinne was included on the list of top NHL goaltenders may or may not come as a surprise. Given the Predators recent success and Rinne’s relatively heavy workload, he probably lands right where he belongs. Some may want him higher on the list but consider his company. Not surprisingly, Montreal’s Carey Price tops the list, followed by Braden Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky. Immediately in front of Rinne, at spots nine and eight are Martin Jones and living legend Henrik Lundqvist.
Rinne and Jones have been comparable the past couple of seasons as far as their numbers are concerned. The difference comes when looking at the defense in front of each player. Nashville’s blueline is much more complete than San Jose’s, despite the Sharks having Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Even with the defensive strength of Nashville, Rinne’s numbers have hovered around, or just above, league average since a stellar 2010-2011 campaign. Jones is a young netminder on the come-up after establishing himself as a starter in San Jose. Rinne is aging out of the starting position. Even so, he likely remains a top-ten goaltender next season as long as he continues to perform at his average and the defense in front of him remains strong.
Top 20 Wingers – #14 Filip Forsberg
Filip Forsberg is the only Nashville Predators player to make the NHL Network’s list of the top 20 wingers in the game right now. He comes in at number fourteen on a list populated by some of the most offensively gifted players in the game. Patrick Kane leads the group, followed by Nikita Kucherov and Brad Marchand. Forsberg came in just behind Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens and just ahead of David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins.
Forsberg and Predators fans should be proud of this position. After his third full season in the league, Forsberg has established himself as one of the most talented goal scorers in the game. Last season, he scored 31 goals and 58 total points, playing in all 82 regular season games. This came following a 33 goal, 64 point season in 2015-16. Forsberg will see his stock rise as he continues to mature as an NHL player and improve his all-around game. At just 23 years old, he likely has yet to reach his peak potential.
While Forsberg is undoubtedly the Predators best winger, Viktor Arvidsson earned a nod from the NHL Network as well. He came in at number 22 overall, earning an honorable mention. Few players improved as much from the 2015-16 season as much as Arvidsson did last season. His production jumped from eight goals and 16 points in 56 regular season games in 2015-16 to 31 goals and 61 points in 80 games in 2016-17. This tied Ryan Johansen for the team lead in points. If Arvidsson can match that production level, he may crack the top 20 next off-season.
Top 20 Centers – #16 Ryan Johansen
The final member of the “Jofa” line makes the top 20 centers list as the team’s second forward representative. Ryan Johansen comes in as the number 16 best center currently in the NHL. Johansen showed defensive prowess, particularly in the playoffs, all while staying productive on offense. According to the NHL Network, he trails the likes of young up-and-comers Leon Draisaitl and Jack Eichel but leads similarly aged players Aleksander Barkov and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Great teams need a top-line pivot, and Johansen is quickly establishing himself as elite at his position. Freshly turned 25, Johansen signed a massive contract this summer with the Predators. He appears to have grown comfortable with his current team and line-mates, putting up 61 points in 82 regular season games last season. He managed a career high 47 assists, scoring just 14 goals.
While he’s branded as a playmaking center, he has more ability to bury goals than he has shown thus far with the Predators. He scored 33 goals in 2013-14, his breakout season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. If he can find more scoring touch and push his number totals closer to 80 in a season, he will become the elite center that teams drool over, akin to John Tavares and Tyler Seguin.
Top 20 Defensemen – #19 Ryan Ellis, #7 Roman Josi, #6 P.K. Subban
There’s no question that the Nashville Predators greatest strength is at the defense position. The NHL Network considers three of the Predators top-four among the league’s 20 best blueliners. Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and P.K. Subban make a list topped by Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. While Ellis squeaked in at 19, Josi and Subban come in back-to-back at numbers seven and six respectively. The Predators are the only team to have three players named to this list.
Much has been made of the Predators defense, and the players present come at no surprise, but what about the missing Mattias Ekholm? He also missed an honorable mention as one of the five players who just missed the top-20. In the playoffs, Ekholm often looked like the Predators best defenseman, so why is he not top 20 or even considered for the list?
This is a league that currently places heavy value on defensemen who put up big offensive numbers. This is evidenced by Ryan McDonagh dropping to 17 on the list. An established, highly effective defenseman, McDonagh scored just six goals last season. Meanwhile, Zach Werenski a rookie who needs to round out his game was ranked at number 13 after scoring 11 goals and 47 points. Taking nothing away from Werenski, it’s no surprise that Ekholm, known more for his defensive game, missed the top 25. No complaints from the Predators, though. Management and fans are proud of their team’s assemblage of defensemen and with good reason.
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