Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011-12 Season preview: Player edition



The 2011-12 season is rapidly approaching us. This season, the Nashville Predators will be looking to build off the most successful season in franchise history. Here is what I expect out of each player this season:



FORWARDS

Niclas Bergfors- Many Predators fans are really excited about the acquisition of Bergfors. He's got really good speed and has pretty good offensive upside. Last season, Bergfors had 36 combined points with the Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Panthers. I think Bergfors will be on a line with Martin Erat and David Legwand, which would be very interesting. I expect Bergfors to end the season with 47 points.

Martin Erat- I think Erat is going to have a bit of a "breakout" year. By no means will he become a 80-90 point guy, but I think his level of production will increase. A lot of that, I think, will depend on Niclas Bergfors. Depending on how they gel, Bergfors could have as big of an impact on the Preds as Sergei Kostitsyn had last year. However, I think the impact Bergfors will have will be on the players around him. I think Erat will end the season with 68 points.

Mike Fisher- A full season of Fisher will be beneficial for the Predators in several different aspects of the game. Fisher is the smartest player on the Preds roster without the puck. He knows exactly where to be, and his style of play is very intense. I expect him to be one of the most valuable players on the Nashville roster this year, and to end up with 42 points.

Blake Geoffrion- The Brentwood, Tennessee native broke into the NHL last year and was fairly productive. Geoffrion had 8 points in 20 games, including a hat trick against the Buffalo Sabres. My ideal place for Geoffrion would be on a line with Cal O'Reilly and Colin Wilson. I think that would be a very exciting line to watch. I expect Geoffrion to have 21 points this year.

Patric Hornqvist- The Swedish punching bag does all he can to get under the skin of the opposition. Usually, he's very successful. Hornqvist is very skilled at having a sense of always knowing where the puck is. He saw a bit of a drop off in goals last year, with 21, but I think that will increase this year. I expect Hornqvist to finish the season with 31 goals and 60 points.

Sergei Kostitsyn- Kostitsyn had a breakout year last year for the Preds, scoring 23 goals and ending the season with 50 points. He was the leading goal-scorer on the team despite only having 93 shots on the year. While I still expect him to be productive this year, I don't think he will be as productive as he was last year. I expect Kostitsyn to end the season with 41 points.

David Legwand- Legwand's play was much improved after the acquisition of Mike Fisher last year. He ended the season with 41 points, and was very valuable on both ends of the ice. With Legwand and Erat playing together once again, I think Leggy could have his most offensively productive year since the days of Paul Kariya. Fisher's ability to shut down an opposition's top line center will also benefit Legwand on the offensive end. I think Legwand will end the season with 53 points.

Cal O'Reilly- Before breaking his fibula and being lost for the remainder of the season, O'Reilly had a pretty decent start to the season. He's a creative player offensively, but lacks defensive responsibility. However, the Preds have their fair share of defensively responsible forwards. I think O'Reilly will have a decent season, and finish the year with 30 points.

Jerred Smithson- Hard work and determination are what defines Jerred Smithson. While not an offensive juggernaut, Smithson is still an extremely valuable player to the Predators. He's the best player on the team when it comes to winning faceoffs, and he is probably the top penalty killer on the team. For the past three seasons, Smithson has ended each season with 13 points. This year, I expect him to get one extra stroke of fortune and end the year with 14 points.

Nick Spaling- Spaling and Smithson are really the same mold of player. Both work really hard and excel in the little things that make teams successful. Spaling showed that he could contribute on the offensive side during the playoffs. He had 2 goals in Game 6 against Anaheim. I expect Spaling to finish the season with 18 points.

Jordin Tootoo- Out of all the players on the Nashville roster, I believe Tootoo will be the most improved in all aspects of the game. I expect his offensive production to go up, and I expect his impact on a game to be at an all-time high for him. Tootoo is definitely a leader on the team, and a fan favorite. I expect Tootoo to put up 31 points this year.

Colin Wilson- Wilson could be the most unpredictable player going into the season. Depending on how much he's matured, he could be a real threat. I've often said that Wilson has the best hands on the team. The professionalism and willingness to go to the hard areas must be a driving force for Wilson this year. If that's the case, he will have a great year. If not, he might not be on the ice. I expect Wilson to end the year with 40 points.

DEFENSE

Jon Blum- While he will technically still be a rookie, Blum got his fair share of experience last season. He played in 23 games and had 8 points on the year. He rarely made big mistakes that cost the team, which was very encouraging to see during his first experience in the NHL. I expect Blum to contribute more this year, and put up 24 points on the year.

Jack Hillen- Recently acquired from the New York Islanders, Hillen is a pretty solid defenseman. He was only a minus-5 last year, which is saying something when you play for the Islanders. I expect him to crack the opening day lineup, but could be challenged by one of the rookies that will be pushing for a spot on the big club. I expect Hillen to finish the year with 15 points.

Kevin Klein- Klein's job will be very important for the Preds this year. Last year, Klein had his best season since being in the NHL. I think he'll continue to improve his game this year. He's not necessarily an offensive threat from the blue line, but I do expect his defensive game to be stronger. I expect him to end the year with 13 points.

Ryan Suter- "Robin" is one of the most defensively sound players in the game. He's the best puck moving defenseman in the league. Period. His vision on the ice makes him an extremely valuable player, and his defensive ability is second to none. I expect Suter to finish the year with 43 points.

Shea Weber- While it certainly hasn't been an easy off-season for Weber and the Preds, he still has world class skill on the ice. His defensive presence is as intimidating as anyone in the league, as is is slapshot. Weber and Suter are like peanut butter and jelly. They just go together. I think Weber will surpass his career high in points(53), and will end the year with 55 points.

GOALTENDING

Anders Lindback- Lindback came in last season and looked like a veteran. He was calm, cool and collected, and really filled a void when Pekka Rinne went out with injury. I expect Lindback to continue to make improvements to his game this year.

Pekka Rinne- Coming off of a spectacular Vezina Trophy caliber season, Rinne has established himself as an elite goaltender in the league. However, I don't expect Rinne to have as good of a year this year as he did last year. Rinne's numbers last year were staggering, and it will be very difficult to repeat those numbers. I still expect Rinne to be a Top 3 goalie, but I don't think he'll be as incredible as he was last year.

WILDCARDS

Francis Bouillon- Hopefully Bouillon will fully recover from his concussion and return to the ice for the Preds. His veteran defensive presence would be very valuable for Nashville during a postseason run.

Matt Halischuk- I think Halischuk will get a fair amount of playing time this year for the Preds. While in uniform last year, Halischuk was an effective player for the Preds. I expect him to put up 13 points this year.

Ryan Ellis/Roman Josi- I expect both of them to crack the roster at some point for the Preds this year. Both have lots of talent, and it will be interesting to see how they develop.

What do you think? Were some players overestimated? Were some underestimated? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.









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