The Nashville Predators are less than one week away from the start of rookie camp and 18 days away from their preseason opener against the Florida Panthers on the road.
But before the team takes the ice next week, Nashville Hockey Now will be diving into the important topics Predators fans need to know for the upcoming season, starting with a look at some of the top storylines to keep an eye on during training camp, where first-year head coach Andrew Brunette will get his first look at Nashville’s returning players from last year as well as the free-agent additions brought in by new general manager Barry Trotz.
Here are the top offseason storylines to watch:
What is Ryan O’Reilly‘s role?
Nashville’s biggest offseason addition via free agency came in forward Ryan O’Reilly. His brother Cal was also signed by the organization and was assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s American Hockey League affiliate.
In O’Reilly, Trotz brought in a skater who has been a solid point-producer and defender in his own end of the ice. The 32-year-old O’Reilly could possibly assume the top-line center role, but it’s clear he’ll need to earn it with young guns Cody Glass and Tommy Novak pushing for more ice time.
The 15-year veteran is someone to keep an eye on as he enters camp with Nashville after 11 years as a Central Division foe. Now, the Predators have him on their side as a reliable two-way player who should help drive offense under Brunette.
Where do the Predators slot Juuso Parssinen?
The young Finnish forward did it all in 45 games last season after being called up from Milwaukee. He scored six goals and 25 points and picked up 76 hits all while challenging to be a permanent resident in the NHL after just 10 games in the AHL.
Last season may have been enough to showcase his offensive prowess, Parssinen will need to back it up and show he can consistently put up points as he enters camp with a little over half of an NHL season under his belt. Parssinen was cross-checked by Sharks forward Nico Sturm back in February — something that held him out of the lineup for approximately six weeks — in the middle of adjusting to the NHL.
Will the 22-year-old play center or on the wing? Parssinen did see time playing with Filip Forsberg last season as a center after being called up and he finished the season with a face-off percentage of 50.2% while contributing eight power-play points. If Nashville wants Parssinen to play in the top six, however, its best bet would be to move him to the wing.
Where does Alexandre Carrier stand among the defensemen?
Trotz mentioned during in his July press conference that he noticed Carrier when he was coaching the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders, and now, he’s handed Carrier an opportunity to prove he’s a long-term solution on the blue-line after missing 39 games last year.
The right-handed defender posted 30 points in 77 games during the 21-22 campaign, showing he has underrated offensive ability that fits in nicely with the Predators system that typically relies on plenty of points from the defense.
But with a crowded blue-line that also features Dante Fabbro, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jake Livingstone — plus free-agent addition Luke Schenn — where does Carrier fit? The French Canadian played a decent amount with both Roman Josi and Ryan McDonagh last season, and he could potentially earn himself a spot in the top four with a solid showing during camp and the preseason.
Does Jake Livingstone have an outside chance of sticking in the NHL?
Speaking of Livingstone, the Predators could always use more two-way defenders and the 24-year-old fits the bill having scored 21 goals and 80 points in 111 games at Minnesota State.
Livingstone has a solid 6-foot-4 frame that helps him defend the front of the net well and he’s capable of jumping up on the rush if he sees an opportunity. Nashville signed Livingstone to a two-year deal over the summer, and he could get the chance to challenge players like Carrier, Fabbro and Lauzon for the final spot on the Predators defense but he’s more than likely destined to start the year in Milwaukee.
If that’s the case, the Admirals will have a loaded blue-line next season as well with as many as four potential future NHLers — Livingstone, Luke Prokop, Marc del Gaizo, and Spencer Stastney.
Is the second-line center job Cody Glass‘ to lose?
Glass has big shoes to fill with Ryan Johansen now playing for the Colorado Avalanche. Trotz signed Glass to a two-year deal worth $5 million, which could lead to a bigger, more lucrative contract if Glass turns into the top-six force the Predators think he can be.
The 24-year-old forward scored 14 goals and 35 points in 72 games in 2022, and he could be looking at a second-line role this season. But he still has a few questions he needs to answer like how much more physical can he be in front of the net and can he produce some points on the man-advantage?
At camp, Glass will be have to hold off the likes of Novak and Parssinen for the No. 2 center spot as they all ease into Brunette’s new system. The vision for the Predators on-ice product has yet to be seen, but Trotz has made it clear he wants to see what the younger players like Glass have to offer, and they should get plenty of chances this year.