There have been several great posts on Roman Josi and whether he will be able to fill Ryan Suter's roll on the top pairing. Personally, I'm not worried about Roman Josi, I am worried about the young kids on offense. Which sophomore stud will step up and be the offensive threat that Nashville needs. Both Craig Smith and Gabriel Broque are heading into their second year with the big club, the question is, who is going to step up? Which of these young men will add the scoring touch that Nashville so desperately needs?
Craig Smith is a six foot one inch center from Madison, Wisconsin. After playing two years for the home town Badgers, David Poile was able to convince Smith to leave college for the bigs. In seventy-two games with the Predators, Smith scored fourteen goals and twenty-two assists. The twenty-two year old had six power-play points helping the usually dismal special teams. Smith also racked up thirty penalty minutes while registering a minus nine. Smith has one great up side, he takes shots, not something normal for a young Pred. The ex-badger took one hundred and seventy-two shots ranking him 115th in the league. Smith's rookie numbers rank him as the number two overall Predator rookie, losing only to Alex Radulov by one point. (Just think if he hadn't skied that empty netter.)
If Craig Smith can follow in the footsteps of Alex Radulov, Smith will put up about sixty points in the coming season, we can only hope this happens. David Legwand put up twenty-eight points in his rookie year with the Preds. More than likely, Legwand is the path that Smith will follow. Smith and Legwand are similar players, both are known to have game breaking speed, while being solid in the defensive end. Craig Smith looks to be the next "Predator" forward.
I see Craig Smith playing on the second or third line. If Smith can be paired with offensive talent like Colin Wilson, he looks to have a offensively packed year. He should put up somewhere between forty and fifty points, assuming last years slump can be broken. As fans we can only pray that Trotz does not give Smith the Geoffrion treatment.
Gabriel Borque is a five foot ten inch speed demon, straight out of the Canadian wilderness. Bourque only played forty-three games in the NHL this year, but he made it count. In just over half a season, the young forward registered nineteen points, tallying seven goals and twelve assists. It is impossible to say what he could have done with a full season, but if we were to double everything, Bourque would be the new Predator's rookie scoring champion. It is a big if, but had he doubled his totals, Bourque would have tied Craig Smith in goals, while beating him in assists.
We can only speculate how these player will turn out, but it is my hope that we will see Gabriel Bourque turn into something similar to Steve Sullivan. I expect to see Bourque on the third line with Nick Spaling, developing his game. Bourque can change a play with his speed, and he uses that speed to be one of the teams top forecheckers. I'm hoping for thirty-five to forty points out of Bourque, but more importantly I see him becoming more responsible in his own end. Down the road, Bourque may be one of the Preds top offensive threats, just not this year.