Monday, October 7, 2013

One To Watch: Nashville Predators

It could be quite a while before they are celebrating a Stanley Cup championship in the Music City but that's not to suggest that Nashville is without promising prospects. Beyond rookies Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg, there are a number of players who peak my interest and should have meaningful NHL careers. 

2012 Choice: Brendan Leipsic - What a year for the undersized forward from Winnipeg. His 120-point campaign was equaled only by his linemate as the pair led the entire Canadian Hockey League in scoring. Leipsic is a star at the junior level but the jury is out on whether he'll have the same level of success as a pro. I'm more interested to know what he does this season for an encore; can he lead the CHL in scoring again? Will he force his way onto the Canadian roster for the 2014 WJC in Sweden? Neither will be easy but he's already set the bar high for himself.

My pick as One To Watch for Nashville this year comes up after the jump.

Chase Balisy (F)
Western Michigan Broncos
5'11, 180 lbs
Drafted 170th overall in 2011

Photo: WMU
Probably not who you were expecting to see in this write up but this series isn't about picking an organization's top prospect, just singling out a guy headed into an interesting season. Chase Balisy is definitely in that boat. 

Now a senior with the Broncos, Balisy will be expected to carry the offensive load for WMU but that's nothing new; he's been the program's top scorer the last two seasons and was runner up in 2010-11 as a freshman.

What will be a bit different this year is living up to expectations because the Broncos, despite moving from the CCHA to the new NCHC conference, are a team expected to succeed. Head coach Andy Murray has replaced former captain Danny DeKeyser with Balisy this year, a sign that the Californian has the confidence of the veteran coach. But there's probably some added pressure that goes along with wearing the 'C' so it will be interesting to see how Balisy responds. 

Photo: GS Photo
Statistically, 2012-13 was a down year for Balisy as his production dipped a bit from his first two years at WMU. Does he have a bounce back season ahead of him?

Perhaps most intriguing for Balisy is whether he gets signed to a pro contract by Nashville at the end of the year or not. As a senior, Balisy can become a free agent in August but that's a double edged sword; you can hold off on signing with the team that drafted you and wait it out but there's no guarantee that another team will step up with a better offer either. 

I would be surprised if the Predators didn't intend to sign him once the Broncos are done for the year but you never know what can happen over the course of a season. If Balisy has another down year, perhaps Nashville doesn't sign him. If Balisy has a strong year, perhaps he tests the free agent market.

A lot of possible outcomes but that will sort itself out in 2014 at the conclusion of the Broncos' year. How Balisy performs on the ice will go a long way to determining what his future will be and that's what makes this year a pivotal one. It's also what makes Chase Balisy my pick for One To Watch in 2013-14 for Nashville. 

Up Next: Edmonton Oilers       

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