In the previous edition of the 2020-21 Nashville Predators School Reports, I looked at young players who were brought in during crucial injury-ridden times. In this post, I’m still going to be looking at some relatively young guys, but not initially dubbed as part of the ‘youth movement’ GM David Poile talked about before the start of the season. All the players I’m going to see today have spent time together on the lines, especially towards the end of the season.
Jarnkrok burst onto the scene at the start of the season. He was close to breaking his best regular-season points total in an entire season, scoring 28 in 49 games. In his first 25 games, he tallied 15 points overall, but nine of them were goals, which placed him second on the team at that time. He was only behind Filip Forsberg in six games less. He was shooting the lights and creating so many opportunities for himself with strong forward failure and defense that he ended up being a dark horse for the Selke Trophy. Jarnkrok wouldn’t allow very dangerous chances mainly because of his tenacity and forcing players to stumble with the puck in both defensive and neutral zones. As some like to say, the best defense is the best offense.
As for the playoffs, he has disappeared. He’s collected one assist in five games and hasn’t had as much of an impact. There were times when fans and commentators could see him fail before like he always does, but he wasn’t there in terms of the scoresheet impact or analytically. He had an expected goal percentage of 40.17 (xGF%) for the series, per Evolving-Hockey, which is well below average. The eye test also confirmed this.
Jarnkrok has had a solid season and when he got promoted into the squad he showed he has the ability to score. The second line that coach John Hynes consisted of Mikael Granlund and Luke Kunin, which I will introduce to you in a moment, were excellent offensively throughout the home stretch. However, the disappearance of their line in the playoffs was mainly due to the fact that Jarnkrok was not a catalyst and had a high shooting percentage like he was during the regular season.
Overall rating: B
On the day of the 2020 NHL Draft, the Predators made a trade to acquire Kunin from the Minnesota Wild for Nick Bonino and picks. There were mixed reactions, as Bonino was loved by both the Predators team and the fans. However, the team needed some rejuvenation, and Kunin could deliver that while bringing in some solid skills that Minnesota weren’t exactly using. Although there were some disturbing stretches on his part during the regular season, he scored the team’s fifth most goals, tied with Viktor Arvidsson and Rocco Grimaldi. He didn’t rack up many points, but seemed to find his rhythm with Jarnkrok and Granlund towards the end of the season.
However, the playoffs were not kind to him. The only two points he scored, although important during the time, were in Game 4. The biggest goal was his second, as he won the Predators game in double overtime and tied the series at two. matches each. Outside of this game, it was essentially nonexistent. It didn’t create a lot of high-risk opportunities, nor was it the recipient. Until Game 4, many fans claimed that he needed to get him started because there wasn’t much left on the ice.
Kunin, for his first season with a new team, behaved well. I’m sure he would have liked to have performed better in the playoffs, as we all wish, but it was by no means a bad season. There isn’t much to see here, as his totals were pretty paltry. However, with a full and hopefully normal season ahead, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him improve his performance.
Overall rating: B-
Granlund was a hot topic in the middle of the season. With the Predators struggling to win games against the worst teams in the Discover Central Division and his contract set to expire in the next offseason, there were plenty of rumors that the Preds would sell him on the trade deadline. Poile refused to sell him and Craig Smith last season, and we’ve seen Smith walk as a result. Fans didn’t want him to make that mistake again. He ended up not selling Granlund, and it was worth it, as he ended up scoring the team’s fourth most points with 27. He also looked excellent towards the end of the season. , like his teammates. Their chemistry was excellent and they continuously put pressure on their opponents offensively.
As for the playoffs, Granlund appeared to be the only member of the line who hasn’t completely gone. He scored a total of five points, tied for first with Ryan Ellis. Granlund scored two goals, both at important points in big games. He continued to be a pest on the forward failure for the Predators, despite a rather below-average xGF% at 43.99 percent.
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Granlund has had a good season with lots of outside distractions. He was a constant presence on the second line and made it to the playoffs when the team needed him. He’s one of the best assists on the team, and it showed throughout the regular season and the playoffs. It will be interesting to see where the front office is headed and whether or not they decide to re-sign it.
Overall rating: B +
Nick Cousins is a fun gamer. He’s good, plays above average defense, can help with offense and loves to be a nuisance when he’s on the ice. I loved the offseason pickup, and still love it today. He bounced back into the roster but found his life in the third row with Erik Haula and other players being mixed up. He only had 18 points in 52 games, but played the kind of hockey expected of him at the start of the season. He drove everyone crazy and contributed on both sides, just like the Predators demanded. One of the most notable and hilarious events of the entire season was Cousins who pushed Florida Panthers star forward Jonathan Huberdeau to get a penalty after biting him for about three minutes. Even though his xGF% was 49.11% and his other stats weren’t extremely good, it’s clear that he offered a lot more.
As for the playoffs, he managed to score big goals after being scored before Game 3. He had two points and two goals in the four games he played, but he managed to help lead. charge when the Predators controlled the puck. He went in front of the net and had a great deflection goal and a big goal to open the scoring in Game 6. ton of points. However, he didn’t make any play that cost the Predators, and that’s all you can ask for.
Cousins has had a good season full of mixed lines and not-so-stable chemistry. He played average in both ends, excelling in some areas more than others, but Poile took him to be the sandpaper. He did much better than previous players in this role while also scoring more and offering more offense off the scoresheet. He wasn’t great, but not bad enough to warrant anything around a C.
Overall rating: B-
While they didn’t show off strong in the playoffs, these four guys have all contributed in one way or another to the Predators’ great resurgence. They all know how to play an uncompromising style of hockey that fans can enjoy night after night. Whether they’ll be here after the expansion draft remains to be seen, but I’d bet most fans would be happy to see them again.
Jeff is a writer for the Nashville Predator Department here at THW. He lives and attends high school in Nashville. His family has held season tickets for the Preds since their inaugural season. He writes for his own Substack, Last Word on Sports in the hockey department, and the Predators SB Nation site, On The Forecheck.