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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
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.

SMASHVILLE CENTRAL

SCHEDULE
 

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS
 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 55 35 16 4 153 127 74
2 DAL 52 33 14 5 169 137 71
3 STL 54 29 17 8 128 128 66
4 LAK 51 31 17 3 135 117 65
5 SJS 50 27 19 4 145 132 58
6 COL 54 27 23 4 146 148 58
7 ANA 50 25 18 7 111 115 57
8 NSH 52 24 20 8 130 137 56
9 MIN 51 23 19 9 126 122 55
10 ARI 52 24 22 6 138 161 54
11 VAN 51 20 19 12 119 138 52
12 CGY 50 22 25 3 130 147 47
13 WPG 51 22 26 3 132 148 47
14 EDM 52 21 26 5 130 151 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Josi 52 10 27 -4 37
S. Weber 52 13 20 -6 33
J. Neal 52 18 13 16 31
M. Ribeiro 52 6 25 1 31
F. Forsberg 52 14 16 -9 30
M. Ekholm 52 6 16 1 22
R. Ellis 51 6 15 0 21
C. Smith 52 11 6 -1 17
C. Wilson 36 4 12 0 16
C. Jarnkrok 51 8 7 -3 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 19 17 7 .903 2.51
C. Hutton 5 2 1 .916 2.36