Looking forward at the possible 2012-13 line combinations

With the Nashville Predators adding Scott Hannan to the roster Friday, it seems that general manager David Poile is done with his off-season signings. However, there is still a need for a top six forward and Shane Doan is still available, but is slowly making his decision on where to go.

The Predators have a young lineup. And it seems like they will be going into next season like last season with the mentality of “we will be better in the second half of the season than the first half,” said Poile on Fox Sports Tennessee in October.

Read more after the jump.

Going into the 2012-13 season, here is how the lines could look with the current roster.

LW C RW
#74 Sergei Kostitsyn #12 Mike Fisher #10 Martin Erat
#33 Colin Wilson #11 David Legwand #27 Patric Hornqvist
#57 Gabriel Bourque #15 Craig Smith #18 Brandon Yip
#13 Nick Spaling #28 Paul Gaustad #24 Matt Halischuk
#23 Brian McGratton*
D D
#6 Shea Weber #59 Roman Josi
#75 Hal Gill #8 Kevin Klein
# Scott Hannan #49 Ryan Ellis
#7 Jon Blun* #42 Mattias Ekholm*
G
#35 Pekka Rinne
#30 Chris Mason

* – Healthy Scratch

Offense

First Line

The first line for the Nashville Predators can’t match up with any other teams’ first line in the NHL. However, the Predators’ first liners’ goal is to frustrate the opponents and play a “shut-down role”. As many of you can tell by looking at the stats, Sergei Kostitsyn, Martin Erat and Mike Fisher aren’t scorers. Combined, they had 152 points which average to just over 50 points per player. Other teams will have a combined average in upwards of 60-70 points per player.

Again, the first line isn’t extremely skilled and will have to just take advantage of the opportunities given to them with a solid defense backing up.

Second Line

All around, if this line played to their full potential, the results would be amazing for the Nashville Predators. Colin Wilson has yet to play to his full potential at the age of 22, but that will come eventually. Wilson’s size, 6’1″, and speed can make him into a prototypical gritty forward. David Legwand is aging and is at the end of his prime, but has yet to play to the best of his ability. The goal for Legwand this season should be to at least equal the amount of points he had in the 2006-07 season, 63. Patric Hornqvist is a hard nosed player who can take a few hits and also give some himself. Standing in front of the net, Hornqvist has been slashed, hit, cut and bruised just about everywhere in his body from everyone. Hornqvist has the ability to become the next Tomas Holmstrom, fellow Swede who played for the Detroit Red Wings.

Third Line

This a line made up of players who want to be well-known and respected. Gabriel Bourque came off a great end to the season with excellent play on both ends of the ice. At only 21, Bourque can only become a better player. One thing he needs to be better at is his hands. Bourque lacks the ability to score goals. If that improves, the Predators will have a star on their hands. Craig Smith never recovered after that missed empty-netter against the Toronto Maple Leafs. This season, he will look to improve his conditioning and be more accustomed to the long and treacherous NHL season. Brandon Yip was picked off waivers at the start of the “playoff hunt”. Yip proved to be a solid acquisition by being a nice asset on the fourth line.

Fourth Line

The fourth line will be playing “Predators hockey” every shift. Paul Gaustad, Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk together have similar roles. They dig and fight for every puck they have a chance for.
Paul Gaustad was a great pick-up before the Trade Deadline last season. Gaustad has great size and is a face-off winning machine, which was the main reason Poile traded for him at the deadline because our face-off winning percentage was so bad. Also, Gaustad isn’t afraid to drop the gloves. Nick Spaling is the prototypical Barry Trotz forward, without the scoring touch. Spaling is an excellent forechecker and an even better penalty-killer. However, the only thing he lacks is a scoring touch. Matt Halischuk and Nick Spaling are two very similar players. The only thing that is different between them is that Halischuk has a better scoring touch, while Spaling is a better PK-er.

Defense

First Line

This line has the potential to do great things. Shea Weber will continue to play stellar hockey with his new contract and Roman Josi should be able to continue his development into a star defenseman. Should is the word used because he can’t suffer a “sophomore slump” like Jonathan Blum did. If Josi is able to keep his play at a high level, the line with Josi and Weber could be better than the one with Suter and Weber.

Second Line

Hal Gill is starting to get old. And with his new contract, which could be the end of his career once it is up, should motivate him. Gill is a slow defenseman, but the Predators didn’t acquire him for his speed. Poile acquired him because of his size, shot blocking ability, ability to clear players out of the slot and Stanley Cup experience.

Kevin Klein had a tremendous playoffs last season. With his play against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarter-Finals, he very well could have lifted the Predators to the series win. If Klein is able to play half as good as he did during the playoffs, the Predators will have a great second line.

Third Line

With the latest signing being defenseman Scott Hannan, it makes the defensive depth look a lot better. Hannan, 33 years old, was given a chance this season to show David Poile if he is worth more than a one year contract. If he doesn’t pan out, oh well because he won’t be back next season. 

Last season with the Calgary Flames, Hannan played 78 games and had a -10. Playing 78 games at 33 is a nice asset to have. Hannan is well-known for playing many games throughout a season. He is rarely injured and that is a good sign for Nashville. In his NHL career from 2000-12, Scott Hannan has yet to play a season in which he played less than 75 games. Also, the -10 should improve due to better goaltending in Nashville.

Ryan Ellis has a lot to prove in the upcoming Training Camp. Ellis found a lot of success in the Ontario Hockey League with the Windsor Spitfires, but has yet to find similar success in the NHL. Last season, being a rookie, Ellis looked to just feel the NHL game out. Now he is not a rookie anymore and should be able to be an effective offensive defenseman on the third line and on the power play.

Goalies

Pekka Rinne will look to continue another Vezina Trophy worthy season. There is little doubt to what is expected from him night in and night out. Rinne is expected to play on his head and win games with great saves. This season, Pekka may have to be the one to fall back on almost every night.

Chris Mason will be the back-up to Rinne this season. Mason, a former Pred, is now back in Nashville where he will be remembered. He is a solid back-up option and will allow Rinne to get some rest ever so often.

There are still some viable options that may be NHL ready and played in either Milwaukee, the Predators’ AHL affiliate, like Michael Latta or in the junior level like Austin Watson, of the London Knights. Latta and Watson will have the chance to prove to Barry Trotz and the coaching staff in September during training camp.

Also, there would be three scratches on the roster with Brian McGrattan, Mattias Ekholm and Jonathan Blum. Most likely, if Blum and/or Ekholm can’t prove themselves in training camp, they will be sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals.

Mattias Ekholm looks to be NHL ready after playing in Swedish Elite League and having 17 points, 9 goals 8 assists, in 41 games. Last season, Ekholm started the season with the Predators, but due to his lack of play and being in Barry Trotz’s dog house, he was sent to play in the SEL. This season, expect Ekholm to come into training camp strong wanting a second chance to play in the NHL. 

Jonathan Blum’s last season in the NHL was not a very good one and spent most of the year in Milwaukee. Blum went through the notorious “sophomore slump” and needs to at least get back to the way he played two seasons ago as a solid third liner and was occasionally a power play defenseman.

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