While a few fans are lucky enough to have a team remaining in contention for Lord Stanley's Cup, the rest of the hockey world starts to focus in on next season. That being said, it's time for the "5 BOLD PREDICTIONS" for the 2010-2011 Nashville Predators.
1. They will win the Central Division.
Nashville showed great growth as they increased 2009's point production from 88 to an even 100 in 2010. I'm expecting to see at least a 5 win improvement over this season's performance. The Predators could very well be sitting around the 110 mark, which could very well put them in contention for the Central crown.
This improvement in wins will be due to the fact that Pekka Rinne will get almost all of the starts next season. The increase in starts will lead to at least 2 more wins via the shutout, and cut down on the length of losing streaks. Nashville had two losing streaks of more than 5 games in 2009/10, which accounted for a major portion of their losses for the entire season.
2. They will have 3 goal scorers with more than 30 goals.
Barring lengthy injury, Erat and Hornqvist will be virtual locks to hit the 30-goal mark. The list of other possible candidates is Legwand, Arnott, Sullivan, Dumont, and even defenseman Shea Weber. Of course it would take a career year for that to happen, but it is definitely a possibility.
3. Blake Geoffrion will win Rookie of the Year.
The 2010 Hobey Baker Award winner will jump straight to the NHL in his first full season to help a team that is weak on the power play. Geoffrion was an offensive force on the power play in the WCHA last season. His 4 years at the University of Wisconsin helped him enter a position that is much similar to that of Colin Wilson this season. However, with the benefit of playing more like 60+ games, Geoffrion will have more of an impact on the scoresheet.
4. Colin Wilson will be next year's Patric Hornqvist (not Ryan Jones I hope).
Due to a nagging groin injury, Wilson's play was limited this year. Even so, his 8 goals and 7 assists in 35 games were respectable for a rookie. Wilson can play both center and winger, so the opportunity for ice time is available (especially with Arnott's recent history of concussions).
5. The Predators will send 4 players to the All-Star game.
Suter and Weber headline the list of probable All-Star candidates. After the high level of play displayed by both of them in Vancouver, the secret is out that the best defensive pairing in the NHL plays in Nashville. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see Denis Grebeshkov (if kept) emerge as another defensive stud.
The third All-Star next season will be Pekka Rinne. This will be his third season in the NHL, but his first as an undisputed starter. Rinne has been near the top in shutouts the past couple of season, so with the increase in starts, a 10-shutout season is not out of the question.
The fourth All-Star from the roster will come in the form of Hornqvist or Erat. Both of these players have the potential to score at point per game rates, but injury and luck will have to factor into the equation for that to happen.