The Nashville Predators have been one of the biggest surprises of this NHL season. They sit atop the Central Division with 100 points and their 46-21-8 record has them sitting third in the entire league as of March 27. If you had this team near the top of the standings before the season started you may have gotten a few funny looks, but here we are.
One of the biggest reasons Nashville has been so successful this season is the stellar play from 20-year-old Filip Forsberg. Entering the season, the young Swede had 18 combined NHL games under his belt, five in 2012-13 and 13 in 2013-14. In those 18 games he had a combined five points. This season the forward has 56 points (22G, 34A) through 75 games and is in the Calder Trophy conversation.
It’s tough to name a Nashville skater who has benefited more in Peter Laviolette’s new system. Forsberg has been a bright spot all season for the Preds and we may not be talking about him being one of the best forwards if Barry Trotz was still behind the Nashville bench.
Forsberg is atop the Nashville ‘prospect’ list, and that list is a very impressive one.
Recently Predators’ fans have been able to see Viktor Arvidsson at the NHL level as he’s played the last three games with Colin Wilson and James Neal battling day-to-day type injuries. Before being recalled to Nashville, he was having a phenomenal year with the Predators’ farm club, the Milwuakee Admirals.
Arvidsson had 51 points (19G, 32A) in 63 games. Pretty impressive for his first time playing the North American style game and for a player who was passed up in three straight NHL Drafts before finally being selected by Nashville in the fourth-round this past summer.
The 5’8” winger has been noticeable on the ice in his first three contests in the show, throwing six shots on net and averaging just over 11 minutes of ice time. He looks to shoot the puck each time he gets it, which fits in perfectly with Laviolette’s system. He fired 236 shots on net in the AHL this year, 74 more shots than anyone else on the Admirals’ roster.
Arvidsson isn’t the only young gun to put on the gold sweater this season. Another Nashville pick of this past year’s draft has also excelled on North American soil. Kevin Fiala was the eleventh-overall pick this summer and turned heads throughout the offseason at the Predators’ rookie tournament and training camp.
Fiala began the year in his homeland of Switzerland, playing for HV71 Jonkoping for the second consecutive season. He tallied 14 points in 20 games overseas before the Predators recalled him to North America and to Milwaukee to start the process of him evolving his game to the more physical style of play.
He adjusted quickly.
The 18-year-old scored nine times and added eight helpers in 26 games for the Admirals before the surprise recall to Nashville on March 24 on an emergency basis. He made his debut the same night and fired three shots on net in 11:25 of ice time in a 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens.
He was then reassigned to Milwaukee on March 26 prior to the Predators game in Tampa Bay against the Lightning. The team then announced on March 27 he was recalled by the Predators on emergency conditions again. The winger has definitely had his fair share of traveling over the past four days.
Other top prospects in Nashville’s system:
Austin Watson (F, 2010 1st-round pick) – 23 goals, 15 assists for the Admirals; six games with Predators in 2012-13
Colton Sissons (F, 2012 2nd-round pick) – 23 goals, 13 assists for the Admirals; 17 games with Predators in 2013-14
Pontus Aberg (F, 2012 2nd-round pick) – 15 goals, 14 assists for the Admirals; zero NHL experience
Forsberg has graduated from the ‘prospect’ title as he will be a regular at the NHL level it seems. With Arvidsson and Fiala getting their feet wet in North America and surprisingly at the NHL level the same year they were drafted adds fuel to the Predators’ prospect roaring, and impressive, fire.