The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps open, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Nashville Predators.
Coach: John Hynes (fourth season)
Last season: 45-30-7, fifth place in Central Division; lost to Colorado Avalanche in Western Conference First Round
1. Saros' workload
Goalie Juuse Saros led the NHL with 67 games last season after never having started more than 35. But late in the season he sustained a lower-body injury that kept him out during the Predators' four-game loss to the Avalanche in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Saros was a Vezina Trophy finalist and told the Predators website earlier this month that he felt great all season. But playing that many games in multiple seasons can be wearing. Kevin Lankinen was signed to a one-year contract, and if he can provide a dependable backup option, it would lessen the load on Saros and allow him to be fresh and healthy for the push to the playoffs, and potentially a deep run.
Video: Top 10 Juuse Saros Saves from the 2021-22 Season
2. Tolvanen stepping up
In 2020-21, forward Eeli Tolvanen led the Predators with six power-play goals and had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 40 games, sparking hopes that the No. 30 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft was ready for a big-time role. Last season, the 23-year-old had 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 75 games, and scored one power-play goal. Nashville scored 262 goals last season, but nearly one-third of that (32.4 percent) came from forwards Matt Duchene (Predators-record 43 goals) and Filip Forsberg (NHL career-best 42). Ryan Johansen (26) was the only other player to score more than 25. Tolvanen has been a goal scorer at every other level of hockey he's played at, and the Predators certainly hope he can find that scoring touch in the NHL.
3. Meeting high expectations
The Predators traded for defenseman Ryan McDonagh to join a unit that is led by Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, and they signed six-time 20-goal scorer Nino Niederreiter to provide secondary scoring at forward behind Forsberg, Duchene and Johansen. With Saros, who was third in the NHL with 38 wins and third in voting for the Vezina Trophy, there will be high expectations for a team that hasn't won a playoff series since 2018. How the players handle it, especially early, will be worth watching.
Making the cut
Five of the top six forward spots appear set with Forsberg, Johansen, Duchene, Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund all assured spots on the top two lines. Who plays with them? Tolvanen likely will get the first shot, but Tanner Jeannot, who led NHL rookies with 24 goals last season, could get a chance as well. Another option could be Philip Tomasino, who had 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 76 games as a rookie.
Most intriguing addition
McDonagh brings experience gained by two Stanley Cup championships and three consecutive trips to the Cup Final with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 33-year-old can play in any situation, including against the opposition's best lines, which would ease the workload on Josi similar to the way he eased the workload for Victor Hedman with Tampa Bay.
Biggest potential surprise
Tomasino could steal a top-six forward spot after an impressive rookie season. The 21-year-old averaged 1.74 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, ninth among rookie forwards to play at least 50 games, despite averaging 10:00 of 5-on-5 ice time per game, which was 29th among 30 qualifying players. He finished the regular season strong with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in his final 28 games, including three of his four multipoint games.
Ready to break through
Cody Glass was acquired in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Nolan Patrick on July 17, 2021, with the hope the center could hit on the potential Vegas saw when it selected him with the No. 6 pick of the 2017 draft. He had one assist in eight NHL games but excelled in the American Hockey League, leading Milwaukee with 62 points (14 goals, 48 assists) in 66 games. Still 23 years old and entering his fourth season of professional hockey, this could be the season Glass establishes himself as a full-time NHL player.
Niederreiter, LW (fantasy average draft position: 172.7) -- He led the Carolina Hurricanes in 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes (1.10) last season and has a history of strong fantasy category coverage (57 points, 14 power-play points, 186 shots on goal with Minnesota Wild in 2016-17). Niederreiter, who also provides strong hits coverage (1.5 per game in 732 NHL games), is a fantasy deep fantasy sleeper ahead of a top-nine role for the Predators, who were tied for 12th in goals per game (3.20) last season and improved this offseason. -- Pete Jensen
Filip Forsberg -- Mikael Granlund -- Matt Duchene
Nino Niederreiter -- Ryan Johansen -- Eeli Tolvanen
Tanner Jeannot -- Colton Sissons -- Yakov Trenin
Zach Sanford -- Cody Glass -- Philip Tomasino
Roman Josi -- Dante Fabbro
Mattias Ekholm -- Ryan McDonagh
Jeremy Lauzon -- Alexandre Carrier