Forty-five percent of the goals the Nashville Predators have scored this season have come from just four players, three of which play on the same line.
Which is why general manager Barry Trotz has contemplated the different ways he can bolster Nashville’s secondary scoring — the most likely of which involves dipping into his highly regarded farm system and plucking away a few of the Milwaukee Admirals top performers.
“We’ve got a couple of young players that if we’re not getting the scoring we’ll probably reach down and pull some of them up and give them a try,” Trotz recently said during a radio interview with 102.5 The Game. “This is a hard part of the year for teams, especially teams that are situated where we are; we’re not one of those elite teams that are really deep like Vegas.”
Filip Forsberg (22 goals), Ryan O’Reilly (16), Colton Sissons (12) and Gustav Nyquist (11) have accounted for the bulk of Nashville’s goals through 43 games. Beyond those four, no other Predators player has more than eight goals.
And while Nashville has come to rely heavily on the offense of such a small group, Trotz admitted that’s not a sustainable strategy for the rest of the season.
“You get into January, February and you’re trying to get to the All-Star break, and I look at guys like O’Reilly and Nyquist — the other day they looked tired,” he stated. “I’ll just say it plain and simple: We’ve leaned so heavily on them they’ve looked tired.”
Fortunately for the Predators, they have a deep well of up-and-coming talent, some of which Trotz has had his eye on for some time.
If it’s more scoring he wants, it might just be a matter of time before Egor Afanasyev finds his way to Nashville. The 22-year-old Russian not only leads the Admirals with 16 goals, he’s also tied for fifth in the AHL in goal scoring.
— Milwaukee Admirals (@mkeadmirals) January 14, 2024
Milwaukee also has a pair of first-round picks who have been putting up points in bunches.
Joakim Kemell reeled off a seven-game point streak from Dec. 2 to Dec. 20, and he’s totaled nine goals and 22 points through 32 games in his first full AHL season. The 19-year-old Finn leads the Admirals with three power-play goals, and he’s tied for the second-most shots (79) on the team.
— Michael Gallagher (@MGsports_) January 11, 2024
Fedor Svechkov, who played just 46 combined games last year across three different leagues in Russia, is having a breakout season in which he’s scored 11 goals and 22 points in 33 games, ranking fifth on the team in scoring. He’s scored points in seven of his last eight games, and he has 10 points in 14 games dating back to early December.
— Milwaukee Admirals (@mkeadmirals) January 11, 2024
“You might see Egor come up or Kemell or one of those guys — a Svechkov maybe — come up for a game and see if we can get a little energy there,” Trotz continued. “…I know if we bring (them) up, they’ll do real well. They can give us some games. I don’t think they’re ready to come up and give us the rest of their career.”
While Trotz seems open to injecting even more youth into his lineup beyond the three 22-and-under forwards the Predators already have, he also admitted it’s simply a temporary solution.
In Trotz’s eyes, there’s no one on the Admirals roster equipped to handle a full-time NHL role quite yet. But that doesn’t mean he can’t strategically use one or all three players to help steer the Predators offense out of the doldrums.
“I think that probably the process that I’ve seen work the best…is some of the kids when you need a little bump, some of the kids that are playing really well, you bring them in, the play a couple games — two, three games — they might have a little success and you start to send them back,” Trotz added. “They get a feel for the (NHL) and they get a little bit of confidence.
“…Usually what they give you is a little bit of spark and the energy and that youthful enthusiasm with a young player coming in. But if you hit a hot young guy, you could ride him maybe for six or seven games or eight games and send them back. But I don’t think they’re ready for full-time (NHL minutes).”
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