NHL: Meet Colin Wilson and the Revamped Nashville Predators
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- They draft well,
- They scout well
- They are prospect deep at every position
- They are the most stable organization in the league, having a Coach Barry Trotz and General Manager David Poile at the helm since inception in 1998-99.
The Predators operate business usually with one of the lowest team payroll's in the game. This season is no different as they sit 26th in terms of team salary. They get the most out of their players and usually overachieve to make their mark in the standings.
It's been a long journey for the Predators franchise, starting in 1998-99 with their expansion team, struggling to win and to attract a following in Tennessee. Having to battle a budget in the pre-cap era of the NHL, the Predators struggled for years to make their mark in the league.
When the lockout hit after the 2003-04 season, the Predators began to turn the corner and a brighter future was in store for the Predators franchise. Since the lockout and the institution of a salary cap, the Predators have found a way to compete in the league and remain competitive for years.
Starting in 2005-06, the Predators have managed to make the post-season four times the past five seasons, having succumbed to their opponents in the Conference Quarter-Finals each of the four years.
What They Lost From Last Season
Heading into this season, the Predators have lost possibly three of their better players from years past in Jason Arnott, Dan Hamhuis and Dan Ellis.
Having only a limited amount of cash to spend and an even smaller amount of fanfare for free agents to move to Nashville, most of their re-tooling would have to come by way of the trade.
They traded Jason Arnott to the New Jersey Devils this past summer for Matt Halischuk and a draft pick. Halischuk is best remembered for scoring the game winning goal in overtime for Team Canada against the Swedes at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
The Predators made a huge swap a little later by acquiring Sergei Kostitsyn for the rights to Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd and also traded Dan Hamhuis' rights to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for defenseman Ryan Parent, who will be having his second go round with the club.
To replace Arnott's void left as the first line center, the Predators did manage to make a small splash in the free agent market by adding former Coyote Matthew Lombardi to a three-year $10.5 million dollar contract.
His combination of speed and skill will fir in nicely on Nashville's older first line that includes right winger J.P. Dumont and left winger Steve Sullivan.
Lastly, defenceman Denis Grebeshkov decided to take his talents to the KHL and opted to return home to Russia to continue his hockey career.
What Remains From Last Season
Goalender Pekka Rinne will now have full command of goaltending duties with the departure of Dan Ellis to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rinne had a good year last year going 32-16-5 with a 2.53 GAA and seven shutouts. This season should be one of Rinne's best. Fantasy wise, he may be a better pickup as opposed to other newly honored number one's such as Carey Price in Montreal or Dan Ellis in Tampa Bay.
Veteran forwards JP Dumont, Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat and David Legwand will all look to bounce back from down years. The whole organization as a whole did not perform well offensively last year, as 51 points was the most any Predator player could muster.
On the other hand, impressive seasons were put in by winger Patric Hornqvist and Joel Ward last season. They'll look to improve and build upon their great 2009-10 seasons.
On the backend, returnees Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, Ryan Parent,and Francis Bouillon will help anchor an already impressive Predator defence corps. That core group will only get better in the coming years.
What Predator Fans Can Look Forward to in the Coming Years
The Predators have done their due diligence in the past years by drafting extremely well. They pride themselves on building a solid defense and then go from there.
American Jonathan Blum is one of the more underrated offensive defenceman prospects in the NHL. Blessed with a good shot and great vision, Blum has the potential to anchor the Predators powerplay along with Shea Weber for many years.
Canadian Ryan Ellis, at 5'10" 172 lbs will need to add about another 20-25 pounds of muscle before ever garnering attention as a viable defensive option in the NHL. However, his numbers in junior are ridiculous as he's putting up forward-like numbers from the back-end.
Former Vancouver Giants defender Cody Franson is another gem on defence that the Predators fans could see become a regular on their defence. Franson is a decent all around defenceman and at 6'4" 210 pounds, Franson has the size to really be useful in the league.
In goal the Predators feature Chet Pickard, a solid all around goalie, who at 6'2" 215 lbs, has the frame to be a good number one goalie in this league someday. He'll push Rinne for the starting job in a year or two from now.
Lastly, up front, the Predators have former Boston University Grad center Colin Wilson, who will probably see third line minutes to start out his first full year in the league. Wilson is an elite level thinker of the game and possesses great skill, size and power and will easily be the Predators top line center in a year or two. At 6'1" 215 lbs, Wilson already has the body to compete in the NHL on a regular basis, and with his work ethic never in question, Wilson should improve year by year in the NHL and eventually evolve into that top line player the Predators drafted him as.
Other forward prospects include power forward Taylor Beck, recently drafted Austin Watson of the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, Nick Spaling, and Matt Halischuk who all figure into the Predators future plans.
With an already improving prospect base, and the team making strides continually, the Predators remain a team on the rise in the Western Conference and are one of only a few teams that could serve as a wonderful model of how to succeed as an organization. Predator fans, get excited because the best is yet to come.
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