Nashville’s own Kid Line
While many people in the hockey world know of the kid line in Edmonton featuring Jordna Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, there may be another one on the rise in Nashville.
Hornqvist, Smith and Wilson have combined to become Nashville’s top line since David Legwand was injured two games ago and has performed quite well together in those games. While not as young as the Oilers line, the oldest of the trio is Hornqvist at 24, while both Smith and Wilson are 22.
While they aren’t exactly straight out of the draft, none have a ton of NHL experience, the most being Hornqvist who has played 202 regular season game and being in only his 3rd complete season with the team. Wilson has one less full year than Hornqvist and has only played 133 regular season games in the NHL and Smith is in his first year as a pro skipping the AHL and only has 16 games to his credit.
In the first game they were put together none had less than 2 points and created most of the Predators chances against the Ducks. In the game against the Canadians the chances were there, it was just a matter of finishing them which didn’t happen. The line will have its ups and downs but for now seems as though it may be Nashville’s best chance at an actual top line, something the Preds need desperately.
Let’s take a look at what each player brings to the line:
Craig Smith (Center):
The rookie Smith who left college early for a chance to play in the NHL has proven that he can play with the big boys. Currently leading all rookies in scoring with 14 points in 16 games, he has been a true force on the forward lines. While his points are something impressive, what truly makes Smith stand out from all the other Predator forwards is his speed and willingness to shoot the puck.
Nashville has had the reputation for always making one too many passes and looking for that perfect play, but that is not the case with Smith. He currently leads the Preds in shots and takes every opportunity to shoot the puck. He has a quick wrister that can pick corners and isn’t afraid to bang. Smith’s speed is also something to marvel at, he can change gears on a fly, and fly by the other teams defence whenever he chooses. Trotz has said that the way Smith uses his speed reminds him of Selanne, which is one of the highest compliments you can give a player. Finally Smith so far seems like a player that makes others around him better, which is something the Preds needed as most of their forwards are complimentary forwards and not true offensive dynamos.
Colin Wilson (Winger):
Wilson in his second full year with the Preds had his ups and downs last year. After playing all 82 regular season games, Trotz sat him for the first and most of the second round of the playoffs. This hit Wilson hard; as it was said he took it poorly in the beginning but then slowly learnt his lesson. Coming into this season some wondered if he would be motivated or dejected and how he would respond. While his numbers aren’t amazing with 9 points in 16 games, his play has really turned a corner and he is slowly becoming the player the Preds hoped for.
Being a big body, Wilson was expected to be a power forward coming into the league; while he has yet to truly establish himself as one he has shown glimpses of it. Wilson is the puck handler and playmaker of the three, he likes to dangle and control the flow of play by holding onto the puck, but has a tendency to try to deke through an entire team now and then (he has done it on a couple of occasions). He isn’t knocked over easy and has great vision on the ice which really complements both Hornqvist as Smith.
Patric Hornqvist (Winger):
Hornqvist is the oldest of the three and is a little more proven and a goal scorer. Coming off a 30 and 21 goal season, he has shown in the past that he can score goals in the NHL. Hornqvist was injured at the beginning of this year missing one game but playing the first 7 or 8 on the bottom lines with minimal ice time.
He had hurt his foot and was trying to do what he can, but he just didn’t look the same. Then, the game after declaring himself healthy, he scored his first goal and then followed it up by scoring 7 goals in the next 5 games tying a franchise record for goals scored in the most consecutive games with 6. Since he has been healthy, Hornqvist has seemed like his old self, pestering the other team’s goalie and then scoring goals to make things worse. If the line continues to produce the way it has been, he may be able to hit and even surpass the 30 mark this year.
While this line may not be as well know as the other kid line, they may just be as talented and if they stick together will be known very soon around the NHL.