With the possibility of the NHL and NHLPA coming together to start up hockey soon (sure..it may be a long shot this early) the Predatorial wants to take a look at some Predators who might exceed expectations this season and who will go the way of Milwaukee or worse.
In the boom category of forwards, no one has more pressure or more potential to excel in the upcoming season than Craig Smith. Having altogether bypassed the usual requirement of going through Milwaukee in his rookie campaign, Craig Smith had a solid outing with the Predators posting 14 goals and 22 assists.
The longer season with games every other night took its toll on Smith and his numbers dropped towards the end of the season, namely after his unfortunate missed open-net against Toronto. He will need to work more on his defensive skills, but his speed and willingness to take shots on goal will serve him well into the 2012-2013 season. The possibility of work stoppage only could open up the opportunity for Smith to do more damage in a shortened season.
On defense, many would say that Roman Josi is primed to have a stellar campaign playing opposite of Captain Shea Weber. But, while Josi will get the points, Ryan Ellis will have his breakout season.
Ellis has the resources, a cannon from the blue line and on-ice vision that rivals the departed Ryan Suter. Ellis can quarterback the power play either with Weber, Josi or Hannan. Even though his size has been his primary nemesis according to many other hockey writers, Ellis will use that frame to out-angle and speedily race out of the zone with the puck making clear tape-to-tape passes to set up scoring chances for the Predators.
And now for the busts…
Brandon Yip is another player that has huge potential but it has not translated into on-ice success. Yip was an afterthought pick-up off the waiver wire for the Predators and in 25 games only scored seven points.
There is a strong feeling that Yip could be the first roster player to lose his spot if one of the other Predator prospects earns their way into the big show, probably Austin Watson or Taylor Beck.
On defense, the biggest bust could come from Scott Hannan. In 78 games for the Calgary Flames last season, Hannan scored only 12 points. Hannan will more than likely be paired with Kevin Klein and the potential for scoring is not getting any better. For comparison, when Hal Gill came over to the Predators at the trade deadline, he had 5 assists in 23 games with a +4 rating for Nashville.
Perhaps the biggest bust for the Predators was not ponying up the money for Carlo Colaiacovo. The 29 year old defenseman who scored 19 points in only 64 games was just signed by the rival Detroit Red Wings for 2 yrs/$2.5M per year. Colaiacovo could have been the best partner for Kevin Klein and a key element for the second line PP with Ryan Ellis. Instead, the Predators will have to face him 6 times this year.