The National Hockey League has confirmed the squad sizes that each of the play-in and playoff teams are allowed. Goalies are unlimited but there is a cap of 28 roster spots for defenders and forwards on each team. This means that several minor league players and prospects will be joining each franchise to bulk out their post-season rosters. Ideally, for teams, the reserve players will not be required. But franchises will end up needing them when an injury occurs. Today, we are looking at the Nashville Predators Black Aces.
Who could be the Nashville Predators Black Aces?
For the purpose of this article, a Black Ace is a player that the Predators will be including in their expanded Stanley Cup Playoff roster. A Black Ace wouldn’t regularly have featured in the standard roster and therefore is most likely a minor/junior league call-up.
The term “Black Ace” was once used negatively. The term originated from Eddie Shore, who would refer to spare players as a “Black Ace.” Shore would say that a team would be in bad shape if they had to use one of their Black Aces in a game. However, recently, it has been used more positively. A team would use a Black Ace to help them overcome the loss of a player or if they thought a different player could be utilized in a way to help the team win. Let’s look at the Predators aces in the hole.
The Predators general manager, David Poile recently confirmed that there are no injury concerns heading into the training camp. Everyone is “100 percent”. But the question remains, who will be there to step into the starting lineup for Nashville, should an injury occur during the gruelling Stanley Cup run?
Daniel Carr is the most successful skater this year on the Predators AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. He topped the team in points and goals and finished fourth in assists. Last season, he won the Les Cunningham Award, the AHL’s MVP accolade. This was after amassing 30 goals and 71 points for the Chicago Wolves. It seems that he has found a prominent groove within the minor league setup.
In his previous stints in the NHL he has often struggled to translate the evident hockey IQ he possesses into tangible scoring. Carr is known for getting into high danger scoring areas. But he has been unable to pull the trigger on the chances that were borne out of that.
Carr has tallied only once in 11 appearances for the Predators this season. The last time he played in the NHL, was in early December. Hopefully, the time in the AHL, garnering another commanding minor league campaign will provide much-needed confidence. Carr will certainly compete for a fourth-line spot and is an essential depth piece with NHL experience.
Eeli Tolvanen is one of the most intriguing of the Nashville Predators Black Aces. Although he was picked 30th in the 2017 draft, most mocks had him going much earlier than that and so he was considered quite the steal by the Nashville Predators. However, expectations were wildly out of whack when Tolvanen was called up to the soon-to-be President Trophy winning Predator’s roster during the 2017-18 stretch run.
In the lead up to his debut, the Finnish sniper was hailed as the missing piece of the Predators Championship puzzle; he was viewed as the equivalent to a deadline day premium pick-up.
But Tolvanen managed just three shots in three games with zero points in the 2017-18 regular season. The winger wouldn’t play for the Predators again until December 2018, where he had another brief and unfruitful stint in the NHL.
Now, while the bubble has burst, and the star-in-the-making rhetoric has waned, Tolvanen still has much to offer an NHL roster. The guy is only 23 and has scored 21 goals this season in Milwaukee. A good skater and an even better shooter, Tolvanen could feature as a depth scorer or even a power-play specialist. With the snipes he has produced between the dots, this year, he could become a serious weapon on the man advantage, an area in which the Predators need help more than a human needs oxygen.
The 23-year-old center has made huge strides in the last two seasons. After a monster junior year at the University of Minnesota, Rem Pitlick scored 20 goals in his rookie season in the AHL.
The LWOH’s prospect expert, Ben Kerr, remarks that Pitlick, “has a very good arsenal of shots” and “has a good release.” “His vision and passing skills are extremely good, allowing Pitlick to be an effective playmaker.”
The pieces are there to offer the Predators a decent center option in the bottom-six should anyone go down during the playoffs.
This pick will get a lot of Predator fans excited. Philip Tomasino blew up in his rookie year for both the Niagara Ice Dogs and the Oshawa Generals, scoring 40 goals and hitting 100 points in the OHL.
The temptation will be to draw comparisons to Tolvanen, who seemed to be exposed too soon to the highest level of hockey. Conversely, Tomasino’s inclusion to a playoff roster may be more of an experienced exercise than a serious intention to have him play. The opportunity to get that first taste of the NHL will provide the Canadian centre with the reality of what potentially awaits him next season.
His puck carrying ability under pressure and his skating have produced some wondrous moves, topped off by some electric finishing. He is the most interesting prospect to keep tabs on within the Predators farm right now.
Out of all of the Nashville Predators Black Aces, Alexandre Carrier is probably the closest player to consistent NHL appearances. Carrier is seen as the defenceman next in line to become a Predators regular. And, with Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber and Korbinian Holzer all set for free agency, there are spots on the roster to fill.
His strength in the AHL is an offensive threat. He topped the Admirals defence for the fourth consecutive season in points and finished tied seventh among AHL defencemen. However, a lot of this production is due to quarterbacking the man advantage. Only 14 of his 37 points this year have come at even strength.
Meanwhile, his defence is more of a concern, due to the fact that he isn’t great at preventing opponent’s offensive zone entries (49.21% this season).
The real challenge for Carrier in stepping up will be doing good work with limited ice time. He won’t be on the power play and he will be relied upon to be dependable on the backend. What will support his cause is his excellent transition game. This gives the Predators the chance for increased puck possession when their third defensive pair is on the ice.
Jeremy Davies was acquired from the New Jersey Devils in 2019 as part of the P.K. Subban trade and has produced in a fine debut season in the AHL. Among AHL rookies Davies ranks sixth in points (28), seventh in assists (24) and fourth in penalty minutes (46). He is also one of the leading defencemen on a Calder Cup-winning side in his first year. Safe to say, the Predators have been extremely pleased with his returns during his inaugural season.
And while Carrier will most likely move up to the NHL next year, this leaves Davies with a fresh challenge in his sophomore season. Despite the fact that the prospect of playoff game time is limited, the opportunity to train with the Predators will provide unparalleled learning potential.
This is another player the Predators must be pinching themselves over acquiring. In June 2019, Nashville traded for Connor Ingram in exchange for a seventh-round pick with the Tampa Bay Lightning. This was on the back of a season that Ingram finished tied for the shutout lead (six) in the AHL.
This year, Ingram followed that up with a .933 save percentage, good enough for third in the AHL among regular goalies. He also posted a 1.92 goals-against average and a record of 21-5-5.
Had the Predators not had such a strong pair in goal, Ingram may have already played several NHL games. Unfortunately, Pekka Rinne is the franchise’s favourite player and Juuse Saros has been slowly creeping into the starter’s position.
However, if one of these goalies were to get injured, Ingram would suit up for potentially his first NHL game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Sadly, it is more likely that he will not face any action in this year’s postseason. Although, he is a player the Predators will have between the pipes sooner rather than later. Rinne won’t have many seasons left at the highest level. When he departs, Ingram will slot in to maintain the Predators dominant tandem in goal for years to come.
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