While the Predators are preparing for training camp there is a lot of speculation about what the lineup will look like on opening night this fall and the progression of prospects.
Thank you for submitting your questions to the mailbag and as always keep them coming as the 2023-24 season kicks off with general manager Barry Trotz in the saddle for Nashville.
Free agent signings have produced some sticker shock this offseason and it’s leaving more questions than answers. The Predators are now on their fourth head coach Andrew Brunette and it will all be a new product on the ice this fall.
How could it all look when the Predators start the season in Tampa Bay?
Question: What’s our trade package for a 2nd line center at the trade deadline for this season?
NK: While the Predators just signed Ryan O’Reilly I don’t see them going into the trade deadline as buyers this season. It’ll be a similar approach to what David Poile had this spring. General manager Barry Trotz has been unsuspecting so far, therefore, I will pitch an idea for a potential trade. Nashville trades their 2025 1st rounder, a 2024 2nd, and Fedor Svechkov to Calgary for Elias Lindholm.
If Trotz is taking a big swing why not on a centerman who wants to win in the long run but will turn 29 this December? In order for this to remotely work Lindholm would need to agree to a new contract. The Swede would be walking into a franchise on the rise with younger talent on the wing.
Question: Do any beneath-the-radar prospects you think have a shot at debuting in Nashville before the season’s end?
NK: I’ll give you two to keep tabs on this season and perhaps training camp. Defenseman Jake Livingstone is one since he has a two-way contract and the other being forward Zachary L’Heureux. Both skaters are physically prepared to make an impression if they earn a call-up from Milwuakee. It may take some time but an honorable mention for me is Luke Prokop. I suspect almost any prospect is fair game under Trotz, but he appears to have more patience to develop players as his philosophy suggests. The emotions that players in their 20s have can significantly influence how they mentally develop moving forward. Trotz doesn’t seem like a GM that will make too many recalls unless his hand is forced to do so.
Question: Is Joakim Kemell the real deal? Does he have any chance of making the opening night roster?
NK: The short answer is yes, but don’t get caught up on his awareness and ability to shoot the puck. He is gifted at those things and more, however, he just arrived to play on North American soil and has impressed. He feels like a 30-goal scorer in Milwaukee to me. While that’s a called shot his elite precision on one-timers suggests he’ll be a force to reckon with on the powerplay. To be even more specific just watch him float around the circles in the offensive zone waiting on a pass, so far he has burned goalies so bad by the time you hear the shot it’s already bounced back out of the net.
Question: Crystal ball question here but still fun… Who of the young guns do you all think has the biggest ceiling? Tomasino, Parssinen, Evangelista, Glass, etc… I’ll even throw in Kemell for extra fun.
NK: In light of the previous question I would suggest Kemell but there is more to be seen in Milwaukee this season. This will be one to circle back to in January or February. Right now it’s Jusso Parssinen in my books. As soon as he was recalled from the Admirals last November he’s kept his propeller humming. The consistent energy he brings has been contagious for his linemates and he isn’t afraid to dish hits and take a chance on a creative play. I’ll be watching for where new head coach Andrew Brunette plugs him in the lineup. Center seems like an open spot for roughly five skaters.
Question: Will we see any long form interviews (video, audio or written) with any of the players this season?
NK: Absolutely, my colleagues and I plan on doing more once training camp and the regular season rolls around. Bear with us as we’re establishing the best plan of action in this department. We will have strong written content all season long so stay tuned. The Gold Standard is a good resource as well.
Question: How do they resolve the center position? Presumably you’ve got O’Reilly, Glass, Novak, Sissons, and Parssinen along with anyone they pull up from Milwaukee.
NK: These are the five skaters I had in mind up the middle. If you lock in O’Reilly and toss in Mark Jankowski you have more recipes for combinations this season. I feel as if there will be a few Swiss Army knives in the lineup all year i.e; Tommy Novak and Parssinen. Anthony Angello could be a fit for the dynamic Nashville wants in the lineup if there’s an injury. Maybe Nolan Burke is playing solid and could earn his NHL debut for a few cups of coffee depending on where Nashville is in the standings later in the season. Still a fluid situation.
Question: Is Novak a wing option allowing Parssinen space to develop at Center?
NK: I got a few questions on Novak throughout the season and it’s continued this offseason. Could Novak be a winger at the NHL level for Parssinen to fill that spot? Yes he could be and that is a storyline to keep an eye on as training camp is coming up in September. That was a duo without a lot of time together on the same line in the NHL.
Question: Wondering if Kemell has had any lasting effects from his injury in the playoffs. Is he still on track to play this fall?
NK: For anyone who missed it Kemell suffered an injury in Game 4 of the AHL Western Conference Final as time expired but was able to bounce back to play in Game 5. I think it would be safe to assume he’ll be ok and ready to roll this fall. Concussions aren’t taken lightly and if he was able to return for a playoff game he’ll be fine by the time camp starts.
Question: Will L’Heureux make the jump to pro hockey this year, and how soon do you expect Kemell to make the jump to the NHL?
NK: He is regardless of his current situation. By rule, he cannot return to play for the Halifax Mooseheads. L’Heureux is now 20 years old and his birthday would’ve needed to be in the middle of the season to stay in the QMJHL. Kemell could earn a call-up potentially there is no doubt, but I don’t expect him to play anywhere near 20 games.
How many of the kids that ended last season in Nashville will actually start this year in Nashville? How many of them will be in the top six? How long before Kemell is brought up?
NK: Philip Tomasino is an NHLer to me. He’s spent one year in Nashville and one in Milwaukee and has seen it all in terms of pace and what it takes to keep up. I think he’s done what’s required to be a solid top-six skater. Luke Evangelista is less of a lock to me, but no doubt is a talented prospect. He could be playing with Svechkov or a Burke this season and learn from a veteran like Cal O’Reilly. And as I’ve eluded to Kemell will be a project to keep an eye on. It’s more of how he adjusts to a full pro season in the States as opposed to Finland.
Question: Is Nashville a playoff team? Do we want playoffs or a higher draft pick?
NK: Nashville is rich in draft picks. Trotz could be fast tracking his way back to the playoffs. While it wouldn’t shock me if the young prospects plus veterans clinch the second wild card spot. On the contrary barely not making the postseason feels more likely given how last season ended. My window of success is in the next three seasons. Give it time to grow and select solid prospects to store for the future.