After missing time during training camp with a lower-body injury, Nashville Predators forward Juuso Parssinen skated in the Gold Star Showcase last Thursday in Clarksville and then in Saturday’s preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
He logged 15:28 of ice time against the Lightning in a 5-4 loss but said he’s feeling good as he works his way back to the lineup in preparation of Nashville’s season opener on Oct. 10 against Tampa.
As the Predators continued to establish their new-look offense under head coach Andrew Brunette, the Finnish forward has seen some power-play time with two of the Predators top young forwards in Joakim Kemell and Fedor Svechkov plus Colton Sissons and Alexandre Carrier in the preseason (Kemell and Svechkov were sent to Milwaukee on Sunday).
“Yeah, they’re really good kids; I like them both a lot,” Parssinen said. “Of course, Kemell is a Finnish guy so it helps on the ice, I can talk Finnish on the ice. Svechkov as well, he’s Russian though, but they’re really good guys. I like to play with them on the powerplay.”
Parssinen was in Kemell and Svechkov’s shoes at this point last season, working with most of what’s expected to be the opening-night roster while getting an extended look from the Predators coaching staff. His advice to the young duo? Believe in what they’re doing on the ice and work hard every day when they have a chance to play.
In his first preseason action, Parssinen played 2:03 on the man advantage in Tampa Bay, getting plenty of time to knock any rust off now that he’s been able to hop into a live game situation.
Parssinen has also spent some time as the third forward with the Predators presumed top line of Ryan O’Reilly and Filip Forsberg at practice since last Friday. He played the third period with them against Tampa in an attempt to ignite some chemistry.
O’Reilly and Forsberg have been awaiting a consistent teammate to work alongside them as Brunette’s quick style of offense has demanded quick and consistent effort. The team has experimented with several forwards in that position.
“I’m playing winger on that line, that’s fun for me,” Parssinen said. “I can play both center and wing, but I just got to use my body and strength.”
The 22-year-old’s versatility to play both center and wing is invaluable, but either way, Parssinen says to be an effective forward in the lineup, he has to be at his best.
He had 25 points in 45 games last season after being called up from the American Hockey League. Since then, he hasn’t looked back. His early call up was a result of the case he made for himself during training camp last year and the strong impression he made on the coaches with his work ethic and versatility.
“My confidence level is higher,” Parssinen said of preparing for 2023. “Of course, I played one season over with all the guys, I know how stuff works; it makes it a lot easier. But of course, we have a new staff, so you’re going to have to prove yourself every day.”
This season will be Parssinen’s first full year in the NHL, barring an injury or reassignment to the Milwaukee Admirals. But going into his first offseason with an NHL roster spot waiting for him, Parssinen had an offseason full of working on his game and fine-tuning his offensive skillset before coming back to Nashville.
“I think overall strength has taken a big step over the summer, so that’s good,” he said. “That helps the battles in the corners and skating as well and shooting.”
Along with nine other Predators players, Parssinen is slated to become a restricted free agent next offseason. But with a strong season, the 2019 seventh-round pick could earn himself a solid new contract from first-year general manager Barry Trotz, who will likely be assessing Parssinen as the season plays out.
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