The Nashville Predators have not been as dominant this season as they were to start the 2014-15 season — due in part to injury — but the team is once again in the thick of what is a very competitive Central Division race.
One encouraging sign is the success of the club’s two minor league affiliates. Both the AHL‘s Milwaukee Admirals and the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL have had to shuffle their lineups at times but no matter who is in the lineup those players seem to be contributing.
The 2014-15 season saw a shift in focus in the Predators’ organization from the Smashville philosophy of the early years to a more wide open skating style. Partly due to necessity, Nashville featured bigger, hard-hitting players playing tight defense and making things difficult on opposition players during its early years. That changed this season as new coach Peter Laviolette emphasized a north-south skating game that fit the talents of scorers like rookie Filip Forsberg and veteran Mike Ribeiro, who had a resurgence in his first year with the Predators.
Filip Forsberg’s Calder Trophy-caliber campaign has pushed Nashville to the top of the NHL standings, making his the most notable graduation of the season. Add to that the trade that sent Brendan Leipsic to the Leafs, Patrick Cehlin’s return to Sweden, and solid pro seasons for Calle Jarnkrok and Taylor Beck, and the result is a shake-up in Nashville’s Top 20.