By Jake Aferiat
If somebody asked you to name a powerhouse in the Western Conference, you wouldn’t say the Predators, and for good reason.
Before this season, the only thing noteworthy the Predators did was have Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber on their roster. Pekka Rinne has emerged as the Vezina favorite and is the reason the Predators ranked 2nd in goals allowed per game with 2.25. Rinne also currently ranks 1st in wins with 34, 2nd in save percentage at .932 and 1st in GAA at 1.92. Not to mention, they just acquired D Cody Franson from Toronto who will help solidify a young, but blossoming blue line to play in front of Rinne. Franson was drafted by the club and spent his first two seasons there, recording 50 points. He also helped lead the franchise, born in 1998, to win their first playoff series.
Center Mike Santorelli was also acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Cody Franson deal. Santorelli will play on Nashville’s third line and he has put up 29 points this season, far better than third-liner Olli Jokinen who went to the Leafs in the deal.
Nashville’s real diamond in the rough is rookie F Filip Forsberg. Forsberg appears to be the Calder favorite as he’s recorded 50 points in 56 games, and is on pace to record 72 points. He currently ranks 22nd in the NHL in points and is ahead of big names like Alex Steen, Phil Kessel, and Henrik Sedin.
Coach Peter Laviolette is also a reason why the Predators have an NHL high 84 points and have a 39-12-6 record. Laviolette has a great track record as he’s posted a winning record in 9 out of his 13 seasons behind the bench, and even coached the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup.
The Predators are on pace to record 90+ points for the fifth time in six seasons and it’s all because they don’t do any one thing spectacularly, but rather are good in every facet. All in all, Nashville is a force to be reckoned with and they’re the feel-good team of the NHL. The Predators will be a perennial West powerhouse for years to come, and that’s a good thing.