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NHL - Nashville Predators 2018-19 season preview, rankings, projections, bold predictions, playoff chances

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-09-29 00:01:22

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

After a Presidents' Trophy in 2017-18, the Predators are after a bigger prize this season.


How they finished in 2017-18: 53-18-11 (117 points), Finished 1st in NHL, 1st in Central Division

A dominant regular season finished with a thud. After a regular season that won him his first Vezina Trophy, Pekka Rinne collapsed in the playoffs (7-6, 3.07 goals-against average, .904 save percentage) as the Predators were ousted by the Winnipeg Jets in the second round. Production from outside the top line (and P.K. Subban) dried up.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 105.5

Best-case scenario: The Predators finish first in the Central, find some extra offense in their lineup and someone is kind enough to eliminate Winnipeg in the first round to make their path to the Stanley Cup Final easier.

Worst-case scenario: What if the playoff meltdown lingers with Rinne? What if he can't get himself out of a funk? Then what if Nashville opts for Juuse Saros, he struggles too, and a goaltending crisis brews? Let's be honest: the more likely situation is that the Predators dominate the regular season again, and bow out of the playoffs with a whimper -- again.

Forward overview: The Predators' top line commands your attention; Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson are among the league's best. There's balance behind them, though Nashville needs more consistent secondary scoring. GM David Poile is probably looking for some youngsters (Kevin Fiala, Eeli Tolvanen) to take the next step. NHL rank: 10th

Defense overview: Name a better top four than what Nashville boasts. Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi and Subban might all profile as a No. 1 for any other team. Free-agent signing Dan Hamhuis gives the Predators some veteran depth for the bottom pairing. NHL rank: 2nd

Goalie overview: Rinne, coming off a Vezina season, enters the final year of his contract. The Predators have a succession plan, with the talented 23-year-old Saros waiting for an extended role, but we have a feeling this isn't the last we see of Rinne. NHL rank: 1st

Special teams: The Predators had the league's sixth-best penalty kill (83.2 percent) but lagged a bit in the power play (13th, 21.2 percent, though Forsberg was a monster with 13 power-play goals). With virtually the same personnel back, we'd project something similar.

Pipeline overview: The Predators didn't have any picks until the fourth round in last year's draft, making it hard to replenish a system being thinned out by NHL graduations, trades and a focus on winning now. That said, they still have two very strong prospects to anchor their system for now. Super sniper Tolvanen could be a major producer at the next level. Dante Fabbro has been slowed a bit by injuries, but he still has impressive upside as a potential top-four defender one day. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: If Tolvanen makes the Predators' roster out of camp, he'll be offered ample chance to contribute. With all the markings of a keeper jewel, Tolvanen also merits weighty consideration in all but the shallowest of re-draft leagues. Playing with the big boys in the KHL this past season, the then 18-year-old collected 19 goals and 17 assists in 49 contests. Read more -- Victoria Matiash

Coach on the hot seat? Peter Laviolette's contract runs through the 2020-21 season. He's bound to lead the team to another strong regular season, but if the Preds falter in the playoffs yet again, it's not unreasonable for management to want to shake things up with a different voice.

Bold prediction: Ryan Hartman, a former first-round pick of the Blackhawks shipped at last year's trade deadline, finally breaks through with his first full season -- and first 30-goal campaign.

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