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Nashville Predators

Predators’ Biggest Pre-All-Star Break Over And Underachievers

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Photo of Gustav Nyquist, left, Colton Sissons, center, and Roman Josi by John Russell/Nashville Predators

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Nashville Predators through 51 games.

The Predators (26-23-2) went 5-10 to open the 2023-24 campaign, then won nine of their next 11 before cooling off in January and losing six of their final eight before the NHL All-Star break.

In line with those swings, first-year head coach Andrew Brunette’s lineup has flashed at times and looked more like a work-in-progress during other moments.

Here are three Predators players who’ve outshined expectations in the first half, along with three players who are hoping for better results over the final two months:

Overachiever No. 1: Jeremy Lauzon

The second-round pick Nashville sent to Seattle to acquire Lauzon in March 2022 has turned out to be a more than fair price.

The bruising defenseman is enjoying a career year as the Predators’ modern-day enforcer. He leads the NHL with 229 hits, up 29 following a league-wide audit this week. That puts him nearly 50 hits ahead of New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck, who holds second with 181.

Lauzon has already secured a career-high in goals (5), and he may shatter his personal best in hits (250 last season) if he continues his current pace of 4.5 hits per game. The 26-year-old also leads Nashville’s defensive corps in penalty minutes (66), penalty minutes drawn (51) and goals above expected (2.1).

Overachiever No. 2: Colton Sissons

Sissons is one of a handful of Predators players who remain from the team’s franchise-altering run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.

He’s been a reliable bottom-six center since that point, hovering around 10 goals per season. But this year, at age 30, Sissons is performing better than ever.

His 13 goals, 12 assists and 25 points could all easily wind up as career highs if he keeps it going for 82 games. Sissons has reached 30 points twice since he entered the league – first in 2018-19 and again last season – but has never surpassed that mark.

Brunette has rewarded the former second-round pick with 17:12 of ice time per game, more than two minutes above his career average of 14:49. In a season of growing pains, Sissons has served as a model of stability for the new-look Predators lineup.

Overachiever No. 3: Gustav Nyquist

Nashville’s top forward line – consisting of Nyquist, Ryan O’Reilly and Filip Forsberg – has carried the team for much of the year.

While O’Reilly and Forsberg have produced their fair share of 60-point seasons, Nyquist could reach that threshold for the first time in his career this season. The summer free-agent signing had 38 points in the first half and hasn’t missed a game yet.

Nyquist ranks third on the Predators in assists (26) and fourth in goals (12), expected goals (14.1) and points. If he continues to be a top-line fixture (he didn’t play with Forsberg and O’Reilly for the first 10-15 games), he should easily have a career year and could become the 15th player in franchise history to reach the 60-point plateau.

Underachiever No. 1: Cody Glass

Glass probably welcomed the All-Star break as much as any Nashville player.

The former Vegas Golden Knights first-rounder signed a two-year, $5 million deal last summer and was primed for a top-six role following his 14-goal, 35-point breakout season for the Predators in 2022-23. Instead, injuries and confidence issues have interrupted those plans.

Glass scored just once and added two assists with a minus-12 rating across 23 games in the first half. Brunette made Glass a healthy scratch for most of a three-week stretch from late December to mid-January, and the center’s production hasn’t picked up since he returned to the ice. If there’s a player on the roster with the most to prove over the final 31 games, it’s Glass.

Underachiever No. 2: Tyson Barrie

It’s been a difficult year for Barrie, who’s missed time with an upper-body injury and as a healthy scratch.

The 32-year-old NHL veteran doesn’t appear to be a great fit for Brunette’s new system, posting just one goal and 10 assists with a minus-8 rating in 32 games, and his ice time has reflected that.

Barrie’s standing with the team became awkward in December when news surfaced that the Predators had granted him permission to speak with other teams about a potential trade. General manager Barry Trotz wasn’t pleased with their conversation being made public, and he’s still trying to find a willing trade partner for the disgruntled defenseman.

Underachiever No. 3: Juuso Parssinen

Though he started the year with plenty of promise, Parssinen is working to find his game in the AHL after hitting an apparent sophomore slump.

Like Glass, Parssinen looked to be an important part of Nashville’s offensive plans after he tallied 25 points (6 goals, 19 assists) in 45 games as a rookie last year, but somewhere along the line, he seemed to have lost his confidence.

The 22-year-old Finn’s output dropped to 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) in 44 games with the Predators this season. Three of his goals came against empty nets, and he put together just one multi-point game.

Since being demoted to Milwaukee last month, Parssinen has already notched five assists in five games and helped the Admirals to a historic 11-game win streak and an undefeated month of January. He could re-join the NHL club if Nashville deals a forward at the trade deadline or loses one to injury.

Follow Russell Vannozzi on X/Twitter @RussellV_MSP.

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