As reported this morning at morning skate, Nashville Predators center Tommy Novak will miss the next 4-6 weeks after placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.
This news could not have come at a worse time for Novak or the Predators coaching staff, but it could provide an opportunity for a younger player on Nashville’s current 23-man roster, or someone to be called up from the Milwaukee Admirals who’s champing at the bit to prove themselves.
“It’s going to be tough (replacing Novak),” Predators coach Andrew Brunette said. “He’s been really good for us and been very creative and generates a lot of offense.”
When placed on IR, a player is removed from the 23-man roster, permitting the Predators to recall a player from their AHL affiliate if they choose. General manager Barry Trotz recalled defenseman Spenser Stastney on Tuesday, joining fellow Milwaukee compatriot Marc Del Gaizo, who was called up on Oct. 30.
Currently, Nashville’s roster stands is comprised of two goaltenders, eight defenseman and 13 forwards. Bringing Stastney up is a bit of a head scratcher due to the considerable loss of offensive production in losing Novak, which signals that the team may — at least for now — give first dibs on Novak’s spot to a player already on the active roster.
Here are the players who have the most to gain in Novak’s absence:
Whenever roster questions arise, Tomasino’s name is bound to be mentioned. Trotz’s decision to waive forward Samuel Fagemo last week demonstrated that Tomasino had gained some ground in the forward logjam. The acquisitions of Fagemo and Liam Foudy off waivers was undoubtedly — at least in part — a warning shot in Tomasino’s direction.
While he’s primarily played right wing, the need for offensive production is most certainly present, which is something that anyone who’s followed the Predators knows that the organization desperately wants to see out of Tomasino. He started to gain some confidence in Nashville’s last game, a 7-5 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. He made a particularly impressive play along the right side boards where he beat the defenseman with a nice move and drove straight to the net. A goal did not result, but that’s exactly the type of offensive prowess that’s been missing from his game for some time.
Brunette’s decision to scratch Tomasino against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday in favor of Michael McCarron doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially against a young, fast-paced, highly skilled Ducks team. But despite the decision, Tomasino should be given the opportunity to prove his offensive skills over the next month or so.
“I was scratched a few times my first year,” Tomasino said on Monday, via The Tennessean. “I think I’m used to it by now. Obviously, it’s not ideal to be in that situation, but it is what it is, right? I want to prove that I belong, you know? I don’t want to be in that situation again. That’s the message that I need to continue to prove to our coaches, show them that. I know I belong here.”
Parssinen was my pick to not only lead all Predators forwards 23 or younger in points but to lead the team in goals this year as well. Unfortunately, his season hasn’t continued the way it started, or how I anticipated it would, but I chalk up the majority of that to him being removed from the top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Flip Forsberg, which was really forming some chemistry.
But if Parssinen can become a bona-fide center, then moving him to a different line makes sense and everyone wins. He’s big, strong, and has some speed, as we witnessed in his Preds debut against the New York Rangers last season. But from the eye test, his conditioning seems to leave much to be desired.
Centers cover a lot of ground and they must control the middle of the ice, so getting Parssinen’s conditioning up to par is paramount. As has been the case with Tomasino — but to a lesser degree — Parssinen has become the victim of the healthy scratch this season. The absence of Novak opens up a spot at center, where Parssinen can really solidify his spot on the nightly roster. He’s played center recently, most notably flanked by Foudy and Tomasino against the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to the roadtrip. The opportunity is there for Parssinen despite some of the nay-sayers out there.
“It’s been a little frustrating with him,” Brunette said of Parssinen. “He’s been inconsistent through the season so far. Again, he kind of got off on the wrong foot with missing most of camp and he’s fallen on a hard time finding his game his groove game in and game out. It’s been a little inconsistent. He’s got to find a way to bring the consistency to the professional level and it starts by putting a good game together and another one together. … We’re hoping tonight, he’s going to get the opportunity to play on a pretty good line so we’ll see what he can do.”
Glass found himself back in the lineup against the Coyotes on Saturday after missing a few weeks with a lower-body injury.
Nashville’s second line, which featured Novak, Kiefer Sherwood and Luke Evangelista, performed among the league’s best. Of all forward lines to play 80 or more minutes together, the trio ranked fourth in goals percentage (75), 20th in expected goals percentage (54.5), 21st in Corsi percentage (52.3) and 25th in expected goals for per 60 (2.65), and they are tied for 18th in goals for (6), per Money Puck.
That line should be reformed once Novak is healthy again. But his absence not only frustrates the chemistry of that line, it also puts into question how the rest of the lineup will be constructed. Enter Glass, who now has an opportunity to prove that he is a top-six center who can will a team to a win both offensively and defensively.
Glass has the ability to play like Filip Forsberg. He has the same play style, but he’s not as heavy of a skater, which results in him getting pushed off the puck too easily. I’m still not sold on his ability to be the guy down the middle, but the next month or so will really open up the gates for him to everyone wrong. Like many players on this list, the potential is there, but one can only rely on potential for so long before production needs to match it.
Though he’s not on the Predators roster, Afanasyev should be given serious consideration to get some NHL games in during the next 4-6 weeks. The 22-year-old Russian leads the Admirals with six goals in 10 games, including a hat trick on Nov. 8 against the Toronto Marlies.
When a highly productive player goes down for a considerable amount of time, it would only make sense to bring up an equally productive player from the AHL to see if he can catch lightning in a bottle much like Novak did last season. No one believed Novak could do what he did last season (17 goals, 43 points in 51 games), let alone continue at a point-per-game pace into this season.
Afanasyev is strong, skilled power forward with a dazzling shot and that heavy, Russian style of skating. He brings a lot to the table, and not just offensively. He could be an excellent fit in Brunette’s system skating alongside Glass or Parssinen.
Gurianov remains one of the more surprising developments this season after not making the opening-night roster. The late waiver acquisition of Fagemo seemed to seal Gurianov’s ticket to Milwaukee to begin the year, but that’s turned out not to be such a bad thing. Gurianov leads The Admirals with 10 points in 10 games, and he ranks behind only Afanasyev in shots (33 to 30).
He has NHL experience and a pedigree of putting the puck in the net, despite many pundits having written him off. But Gurianov is still young(ish) and still has unreached potential. He deserves an honest chance to fight for his spot back in the NHL, and with Nashville in desperate need for goal scoring, Gurianov might just get a look. Nashville needs to have a sense of urgency, and what better way to find it than by adding an eighth-year forward desperate to stay in the NHL?
Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10