After Saturday night's game with Carolina, the Nashville Predators pared their roster down to 25 healthy players. Today, they will announce who will make the opening day roster, barring any trades or waiver pick-ups.
After Saturday's game Barry Trotz explained, “We’ve had a change of plans on a couple guys so we’re really undecided. There is no question that all preseason, a lot of guys have made it really hard. That’s a great thing."
We'll take a look at the options that may lead to the make up of the final squad, taking in consideration Trotz's most recent comments and other factors like contracts and schedules.
The team has the ability to open with 22 player instead of the full 23 man roster. Neither the Predators or Milwaukee play many games during the first two weeks so there will be more practice than games regardless of where the players land.
Mike Fisher and Francis Bouillon will be unable to start the season due to injuries. There is no question that Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback will be the top two in goal.
At forward, there is no question that Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist, Sergei Kostitsyn, David Legwand, Cal O'Reilly, Jerred Smithson, Nick Spaling, Jordin Tootoo, and Colin Wilson are staying with the team. Of the remaining group, there will be at least one player departing.
Niclas Bergfors has impressed the team with his potential to shoot the puck and score goals. Kyle Wilson was an unknown quantity before camp and the team was pleased with what he brought to the table.
For the others in the mix, we listen to what Trotz has to say about them...
Matt Halischuk - "I like the confidence that he has come in with."
Blake Geoffrion - "Boomer's going to be in the mix with Cal O'Reilly and Smith. Do we start the season with Spaling in the middle and wait for Mike Fisher to catch up? Leggy's in the middle. Boomer could move to the wall if we need him at left wing."
"Boomer's also a guy who can play in front of the net on the power play. One of the things that we lack is a net presence when Patrick (Hornqvist) is not out there. Boomer can provide that and also gives a left handed draw."
Craig Smith - "Smitty has played really well in the preseason. We've played him at center and on the wing and I know that he really wanted to score a goal (on Saturday). He felt like that would ease the burden on his mind so I was really happy for him."
"That goal summed up how he played in the rookie camp and how he played in certain stretches of the main camp. He seems to have a lot more ability to do things at center ice than at the wing. I think he's going to start at center ice. It gives him some freedom and a chance to use his speed. He's going to be a good young player."
When asked directly if Smith would go down, Trotz said emphatically, "No, No, He's not."
Zack Stortini - "There's an element that is needed. Last night, Tanner Glass was running in to Sutes a couple of times with a little extra effort on his part and Zack went out there and tamed him down a little bit. That's an element that doesn't get enough recognition."
At the other end of the ice, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein and Jon Blum are set as the top four. After that, four players remain for two or three slots on the opening day roster.
Again, let's see what Trotz has said about each player...
Teemu Laakso - "More of a heavy defenseman, he plays a simple game and a little more physical around the crease," There is also the consideration that he has paid his dues in Milwaukee for three seasons and would be almost certainly lost is sent through waivers.
Jack Hillen - ""Consistency, poise... he's got great skating ability. He's not a big physical guy. He's really a transporter. He can get back there, get pucks out, and make good decisions."
"Defending-wise, he just stays in front of you. He so fast that you can't go around him and you can't go through him because he's just in the way and it's effective for him.
Mattias Ekholm - "He's over from Sweden and his adjustment is to the North American game and the pressure game that's on you and he's adjusting well."
Ekholm has the option to return to Sweden if he doesn't make the roster which seemed plausible until he spoke with Amanda DiPaolo of Inside Smashville and said, "“I will have a meeting with the coaches and see what they think. It isn’t just my decision. I know if I go back to Sweden, I will play 25 minutes a night, but Milwaukee is still a good place to be.”
Ryan Ellis - "He's a really intelligent player. Stuff that he was trying early in camp was junior stuff that works in junior but not here. He's adjusting his game. You saw today that he made some adjustments and we saw what he could do on the power play."
So basically, in summary, to get the numbers to 22 or 23, the team will have to send a forward and one or two defensemen to Milwaukee to start the season.
Trotz seems elated that there are so many good players. "We've got a lot of guys that could play for us right now. If any of the guys back off because of their effort or their play, we've got lots of people that could jump in their and do a real good job."
"It's exciting for us. Not only do we have young defensemen, but we've got young forwards that are coming and we've also got a couple of goaltenders that are coming. The pipeline is really good right now."
Trotz knows that with injuries, all the players on the bubble will play in Nashville this season. "We're just looking for the right mix and combination that will help us win. I guarantee you that there's probably 27 guys that will be a big part of us having success this year."
"It's the way the league is right now. It's really hard and if you don't have the depth you're not going to make the playoffs."
Later today, we will see where the chips fall and who will be in Columbus on Friday night.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass