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Youth Movement Pays Off For Preds

Thursday, 01.26.2012 / 1:35 PM CT / Features
By Jay Levin  - Nashville Predators
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Youth Movement Pays Off For Preds
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The Nashville Predators took a calculated risk this summer. When veterans Shane O'Brien, Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward entered free agency the team opted to look internally for their replacements. David Poile and Barry Trotz had confidence the team's young forwards were ready for more prominent roles and the cadre of top defensive prospects were deserving of opportunities at the next level.

While several other teams in the division went on spending sprees and brought in big name veterans, the Preds went with a youth movement.

As the League heads into the All-Star Break, the strategy has has paid dividends, especially in the offensive zone. The Preds have nine skaters who have scored at least 10 goals this season, tied with Philedelphia for most in the league. And of those nine top scorers, five are 25-years old or younger, including rookie Craig Smith and second-year Pred Matt Halischuk  -- linemates providing key scoring depth behind the Fisher and Legwand lines. Nick Spaling, 23-years old and in his second full NHL campaign, isn't far behind with seven goals while anchoring the team's checking line and serving as a lead contributor on the penalty kill.

As the young forwards have adapted to their new roles the team has experienced increased success. The Preds opened the season 12-11-4, averaging 2.59 goals per game. Since then, the team has averaged 2.91 goals per game to rip off an 18-5-0 run, despite playing four games without Shea Weber in late December and three games without Ryan Suter last week.

Similarly, the Preds have leaned on young defensemen; 21-year old rookies Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis both made their NHL debuts during the first half of this season. Josi, a second round pick in the '08 Entry Draft, was a standout in Switzerland before making a splash in the AHL last season. After being eased into the lineup from Thanksgiving through Christmas, he's steadily taken on a larger role starting when Weber was injured and has stabilized the team's top-4 defensive rotation, seeing over 20 minutes of ice time in each of the past eight games. Not coincidentally, the Preds have allowed just 12 goals against in those eight games.

Ellis, the No. 11 overall selection in the 2009 NHL Draft with a legendary list of accolades and accomplishments at the Canadian Junior level, has provided an extra dynamic element from the backend for the Preds. His check in a preseason game at Washington and more recently his hipcheck on Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds have furthered his reputation as a fierce competitor, while his puck-moving skills have been a big asset to the team's transition game.

Ellis and Josi have also formed a potent No. 2 power-play unit behind All-Stars Suter and Weber.

The youth movement has helped the Preds enter the All-Star Break with the fouth-highest point total in the NHL and a ton of optimism heading into the final 32 games of the regular season.

SCHEDULE
 

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS
 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 228 221 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 239 197 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 226 202 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 220 186 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 236 220 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 227 198 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 223 204 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 237 213 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 218 197 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 257 257 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 209 223 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 224 226 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 193 276 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 165 267 56

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
F. Forsberg 82 26 37 15 63
M. Ribeiro 82 15 47 11 62
R. Josi 81 15 40 15 55
S. Weber 78 15 30 15 45
C. Smith 82 23 21 11 44
C. Wilson 77 20 22 19 42
M. Fisher 59 19 20 4 39
J. Neal 67 23 14 12 37
R. Ellis 58 9 18 8 27
S. Jones 82 8 19 3 27
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 41 17 6 .923 2.18
C. Hutton 6 7 4 .902 2.61