There were no real surprises when the Nashville Predators announced their 2021 opening night roster on Tuesday morning.
Everything was essentially as expected.
The Predators final opening night roster is listed below:
Forwards (14): Nick Cousins, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Cody Glass, Mikael Granlund, Rocco Grimaldi, Tanner Jeannot, Ryan Johansen, Luke Kunin, Colton Sissons, Eeli Tolvanen, Philip Tomasino, Yakov Trenin, Mathieu Olivier (IR)
Defensemen (8): Matt Benning, Mark Borowiecki, Alexandre Carrier, Mattias Ekholm, Dante Fabbro, Ben Harpur, Roman Josi, Philippe Myers
Goaltenders (2): David Rittich, Juuse Saros
The pieces to the puzzle may be laid out, but that doesn’t mean the puzzle is fully complete. That said, here are a few takeaways from the Predators’ opening night roster:
1. Nashville is all-in on the youth movement
Last season, the Predators had eight players 30 years or older play at some point during the season, and the team’s average age was 27.3. This year, Nashville’s average age is 26.5, and there are 10 players 25 or younger on the roster and only four players in their 30s.
While line combinations aren’t known yet, the Predators could have as many as four players in their top six age 24 or younger, and half of their blue line will be age 25 or younger. The formula clearly worked last season as the Predators got nearly one-quarter of their total goals (37) and points (83) from their 25 or younger players — none of whom played a full-time top-six role.
2. Predators coaches have full faith in Philip Tomasino
General Manager David Poile went on record several times during the offseason to say that Tomasino would be given every chance to make Nashville’s NHL roster, and the 20-year-old didn’t let him down.
During his first full season of professional hockey last year, Tomasino had 13 goals and 32 points in 29 AHL games, leading the Chicago Wolves in points, shots and plus/minus. He was also named to the AHL All-Rookie team.
If there were any questions about Tomasino being NHL-ready he answered them in the preseason, when he scored two goals on eight shots in four games and averaged around 16 minutes of ice time per game. He also saw sizeable time on the power play as well.
“I think Phil has come in and done a good job,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “He’s shown sometimes where he looks really good. What I really liked is his pace of play is strong. You see a player with offensive instincts and offensive ability, and that’s come out in almost every game. You’ve seen opportunities or chances that he’s had, he scored some nice goals.
“I’ve been impressed with his ability to work every day in a demanding setting for a young guy to come in, it’s his first NHL training camp, and there wasn’t a day went by that it wasn’t a highly competitive practice. I think Phil has handled himself, professionally, very well, and he’s had a good camp.”
3. There’s still some uncertainty with the third defensive pairing
The Predators have always traditionally carried an extra defenseman on their roster given how often the team likes to mix and match and try to exploit as many favorable matchups as they can along the blue line.
However, carrying eight D-men seems to be a bit of a peculiar move — even for the Predators. The top pairing looks to be Josi and Carrier while the second pairing will likely be Ekholm and Myers, leaving Fabbro on the third pairing with any random combination of Benning, Borowiecki and Harpur.
On its face, this indicates that Hynes may not be sold on any of the three remaining players and he may look to rotate different guys in depending on the matchups he thinks will play into Nashville’s favor, or whichever can develop the best chemistry with Fabbro.
Of the three, Benning played the most last year and could be the default first option. However, Borowiecki never really got to get his feet under him as he dealt with a severe concussion and mental health issues all year, and it’s no secret the Predators coaches like Harpur’s size (6-foot-6, 230 pounds).
The Predators may not have a traditional third pairing this season, as it’s likely all three players could see playing time at different points during the year.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_