Josi and Saros

Entering this season, the Nashville Predators were expected to be in a retooling phase under first-year general manager Barry Trotz and coach Andrew Brunette. Then, Nashville was a fringe Stanley Cup Playoff team for most of the season with big decisions to make leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, especially with workhorse goalie Juuse Saros.

But the Predators have been among the leaders in various NHL EDGE stats categories all season long, and suddenly become the hottest team in the League with the postseason just one month away in part because of their elite core and some sneaky roster moves along the way.

The Predators are 15-0-2 in their past 17 games since Feb. 17, comfortably in playoff position and could pose a threat to whichever elite Western Conference team they match up with. Per NHL EDGE stats, Nashville ranks tied for sixth in the League in high-danger shots on goal (603), tied for eighth in high-danger goals (121), fourth in offensive zone time percentage at all strengths (43.6 percent), and eighth in total miles skated (3,232.41).

During the transition from longtime general manager David Poile to Trotz, who coached the Predators from 1998-99 to 2013-14, Nashville kept its established core of forward Filip Forsberg, defenseman Roman Josi and Saros intact and signed veteran center Ryan O'Reilly to a four-year contract July 1, 2023.

They also signed forward Gustav Nyquist to a two-year contract that same day, and he has been a fixture on the top line with Forsberg and O’Reilly with an NHL career-high 63 points (19 goals, 44 assists) through 71 games. Then on March 8, they acquired forward Jason Zucker in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes and he has scored two goals on 21 shots on goal in his first seven games and boosted their middle-six outlook for the rest of the season.

Josi has skated the fourth-most miles (253.19) among NHL players this season, is tied for the fourth-most shots of at least 90 miles per hour (44) and tied for third in long-range goals (seven). Forsberg is tied for fifth in the League in high-danger goals (25), and O’Reilly is just outside the top 10 in the category (19).

Saros, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2024-25 season, leads the NHL in mid-range saves (435) and is second in mid-range save percentage (.922). He also has the second-most saves in all locations (1,441), behind Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders (1,505). Saros has played the most games (56) among NHL goalies.

So Nashville, which missed the playoffs last season but previously qualified in eight straight seasons, including a run to Stanley Cup Final in 2017 where they lost to Pittsburgh Penguins, not only has avoided a rebuild but also is getting much stronger as the season goes on. Considering surprising teams have qualified for the Cup Final in four of the past five years (St. Louis Blues in 2019; Dallas Stars in 2020; Montreal Canadiens in 2021; Florida Panthers in 2023), Nashville has a chance to be the lower-seeded team that shakes up this year’s bracket.