Juuse Saros, Luke Evangelista, Nashville Predators, Nashville Predators Season Preview, Roman Josi, Season Previews

3 Predators’ Bold Player Predictions for 2023-24

The Nashville Predators kick off the 2023-24 NHL Season against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 10. With the regular season under a month away, it only feels right to make some bold claims as hockey quickly approaches. These are three bold Predators player predictions.

Luke Evangelista Will Hit 55 Points

Luke Evangelista will draw a lot of attention from Predators fans this season, and rightfully so. After his fantastic finish last season, scoring 15 points in 24 NHL games, hype mounted around the winger. The 2020 second-round pick has a chance to play in the top six this season. The only right-wingers on the roster, as listed on the Predators’ NHL site, are Evangelista, Joakim Kemell, Michael McCarron, and Dennis Gurianov. Of course, players like Gustav Nyqvist, Filip Forsberg, and others can play on the right side, but the lack of depth makes a top-six role Evangelista’s to lose.

Luke Evangelista Nashville Predators
Luke Evangelista, Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Only two Predators players had above 55 points during the 2022-23 season—Roman Josi (59) and Matt Duchene (56), although the Preds did face more than their fair share of injuries. Three of their top-four scorers, Josi, Duchene, and Forsberg, missed significant time with injuries. With the additions of Gustav Nyquist and Ryan O’Reilly and hopefully a healthier roster, scoring should come by a little easier. Evangelista will likely get power play time with Josi, Forsberg, and O’Reilly, helping boost his totals by feeding the Predators’ offensive weapons. 

Only one rookie scored over 50 points last—that rookie was Calder Trophy winner Matty Beniers. Evangelista scored at a 0.625 point-per-game (P/G) rate in his short stint last season. Over an 82-game season, that projects to about 51 points. Based on this, 55 points is not overly bold, but it is higher than some project. ESPN projects him to score 48 points in 77 games, still an impressive number for an NHL rookie. Fifty-five points seems a little high, but it’s not an absurd claim, considering Evangelista could be the Predators’ first-line right winger by American Thanksgiving.

Roman Josi Scores 25 Goals

Scoring 25 goals as a defenseman is an impressive feat. Roman Josi, the Predators superstar, reached the 20-goal mark once in his career in the 2021-22 season but came just short of 25. If not for injury, he likely would’ve scored at least 20 last season. Josi scored 18 goals in 67 games during his 2022-23 campaign. Based on these past two seasons, claiming he will hit 25 goals in a healthy season is bold but also very possible for the offensive dynamo.

Only three defensemen since the 2010-11 season have hit the 25-goal mark. Brent Burns did it twice, reaching the mark in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, Cale Makar in 2021-22, and most recently, Erik Karlsson last season. The closest Josi got to 25 goals was during the 2021-22 season, where he scored 23 goals in 80 games.

Roman Josi Nashville Predators
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Considering Josi is coming off of an injury, is 33 years old, and playing on a Predators team which lacks offensive firepower, 25 goals may seem a bit of a reach. However, he is the Predators’ number-one defenseman, led the team in scoring last year, and is arguably their most lethal scoring weapon behind Filip Forsberg. Twenty-five goals is a lot, but with an uptick in defensemen scoring goals and Josi producing more as he ages, it’s a number entirely possible with his skillset and determination.

Juuse Saros Plays Under 62 Games

Juuse Saros is an elite Vezina-calibre goaltender who can steal games. His skill is undeniable, so it makes sense why he’s played 131 games over the last two seasons. Saros is a goaltender who can play 60-plus games a season, have great stats, and will his team to victory. He’s also human, and playing so much season after season could lead to exhaustion. The Predators have a great backup goalie and an elite goaltending prospect in the American Hockey League (AHL). While Saros can play 62-plus games, it’s unfair and arguably unwise to expect that of him despite his fantastic numbers.

Related: Predators Top-10 Prospects Heading Into the 2023-24 Season

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Last season, Saros played 64 games, posting a .919 save percentage (SV%), 2.69 goals-against-average (GAA), and led the NHL in goals saved above expected (GSAE) with 46.7 and in wins above replacement (WAR) with 7.78. Kevin Lankinen, the Predators’ backup, had a .916 save percentage SV%, a 2.75 GAA, and was 17th in GSAE and WAR with 8.6 and 1.43, respectively. Despite these promising numbers, Lankinen only played 19 games. The Predators have a backup they can trust. With these numbers and prospect Yaroslav Askarov awaiting a call-up, we could see Saros get 20-plus games off this upcoming season.

The Predators could finish anywhere in the NHL’s standings. While an unpredictable season is on the horizon, making predictions for players on the team is always a fun tradition before the games begin. We will find out if these predictions come true in April, or potentially sooner, but for now, Predators hockey returns on Oct. 10, and that’s worth getting excited about.

Advanced stats taken from MoneyPuck

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