The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.
To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for the Nashville Predators:
2022-23 Fantasy Outlook: Nashville Predators
Last season: 45-30-7, 5th Central, 16th overall. GF: 13th, GA: 17th, PP: 6th, PK: 18th.
No matter what, the Predators always just find a way to make the cut. The problem is that they’ve been in the middle of the food chain for far too long, and squeaking into the playoffs as the lowest seed and then getting ousted in the opening round for the fourth straight season doesn’t really signify any real improvement. Remember that we may have just seen the apex version of this team with Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene all having career seasons.
Josi’s 73 assists and 96 points were new single-season franchise records, as was Duchene’s 43 goals. It was also the first time the Preds had a player who eclipsed the 40-goal mark, and they had two of them with Duchene and Forsberg (42). It’s important to note all three players had career-high shooting percentages, and it’s unlikely all three would maintain or exceed those numbers again.
Still, John Hynes deserves a lot of credit for squeezing so much out of a roster that many had pegged to finish outside the playoff picture, especially for the ingenious decision to move Duchene to the right wing. Their possession numbers weren’t as good, but they were terrifying on the counterattack and played with a physical edge they weren’t always known for. They ended up leading the league in hits with Forsberg eclipsing 100 hits for the fourth time in his career, and Tanner Jeannot led the league among forwards with 318. It is, however, a double-edged sword; leading the league in hits implied the Preds were chasing the puck around a lot, and there was certainly a sense that fatigue was creeping in by the end of the season. They could only rely on their top stars to exceed expectations for so long before the inevitable reality check came at the Avs' hands in a four-game sweep.
Best fantasy option: Roman Josi, D
There is no better option than Josi, who is a better bet to pace the Preds in scoring than Forsberg or Duchene, whose spectacular seasons raised a few eyebrows. There is some discrepancy about just how effective the Preds’ offense can be under Hynes’ aggressive system with THN’s Pool Guide projecting 75 points for Josi while BetMGM’s over/under is set at 91. Where Josi holds a definitive edge over Forsberg (relatively low-volume shooter) and Duchene (no longer a center for faceoff wins) is in the peripheral categories, especially in shots, where Josi ranked 12th in the league with 281. Cale Makar had the next highest total among defensemen with 240, which ranked 33rd in the league, and only 13 defensemen registered at least 200. In most standard leagues, Josi and Makar would rank 1-2 among defensemen. Who ranks ahead of the other will ultimately depend on your fantasy league’s settings and whether the bet is on the ultra-dependable Josi or Makar’s seemingly unlimited ceiling.
Hidden gem: Nino Niederreiter, LW
El Nino’s signing went a little under the radar since it was a little after free agency had opened, and it’s a very good fit with his scoring prowess from the wing – it’s likely he’ll gain dual-winger eligibility at some point – and his ability to generate a lot of hits. Niederreiter’s addition will take some pressure off Forsberg and Duchene and add another layer of offense; only four forwards scored more than 20 goals last season, a big reason why the Preds were middle of the pack even though they had two of the league’s 17 players who scored at least 40 goals. If Niederreiter can stay healthy, you’re looking at a potential 50-point player with extra value in banger leagues who should be readily available in the draft's later rounds. Eeli Tolvanen is a breakout candidate, but the hype has fizzled a little with two nondescript seasons. The emergence of Jeannot and the signing of Niederreiter may have pushed him further down the depth chart. Tolvanen is a high-risk, medium-reward option while Niederreiter has the far higher floor.
Juuse Saros is a top-tier goalie and his workload will be massive once again after leading the league with 67 appearances last season. If there’s any question about his ability, note that in his past three seasons he ranks eighth with 76 wins, third with .919 Sv% and seventh with 2.57 GAA among goalies with at least 100 appearances. naturalstattrick.com has Saros saving a league-high 43.91 goals above average at 5-on-5 during the same time span, and also sixth in high-danger save percentage. Tack on the addition of Ryan McDonagh, and Saros could be in line for another good season. He’s a borderline top-five fantasy goalie, and held back only because the team in front of him may not be as good as they were last season.
Another potential issue: is it wise for Saros to handle such a big workload, considering how fatigue was a factor in their demise and his injury in the playoffs? His backup will be Kevin Lankinen, who played well in his rookie season but may be no better than Dave Rittich, who went from “Big Save Dave” to “No Save Dave” in two years. In other words, the Preds don’t exactly have a strong insurance policy. There are good goalies in the system, including Connor Ingram and top prospect Yaroslav Askarov, but neither are expected to play significant roles with the big club.
It’s simultaneously easy and tough to say what the Preds will do. The easy part is knowing that they’ll never bottom out – they’ve held only one top-10 pick since 2008 – and they will always be lurking around for the final few playoff spots, and past history suggests they’ll be able to clinch one.
The tough part is not knowing how they’ll get there. Are they a tough defensive team? Are they an offensive, counter-attacking team? Which version of Duchene and Ryan Johansen will show up? Will any of their prospects, including Tolvanen and Dante Fabbro, ever develop into top players? Other than Josi and Forsberg, the Preds offer up a nice diet of mid-tier options including Johansen, Jeannot, Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Mattias Ekholm. Still, there’s a general feeling that what they did last season would be difficult to replicate, which means they all carry some risk.