The Nashville Predators have only been around since the 1998-99 season, but Pekka Rinne is definitely the best goaltender to have played with them thus far.
The 6’5", 217-pound goalie was drafted 258th overall in the eighth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators. He began his NHL career with two games played during the 2005-06 season, followed by one game in 2007-08. He started playing full time in 2008-09 and is still currently playing for Predators.
So far with Nashville, he has played 506 regular season games and recorded 269 wins (including 43 shutouts), 154 losses and 61 overtime/shootout losses, along with a 2.38 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. He also appeared in 48 playoff games and tallied 22 wins including one shutout.
The Predators have certainly struggled since making their franchise debut. Since the 1998-99 season, they have made the playoffs nine times, but never got past the second round. They have made the playoffs the last two consecutive seasons. They’re currently ranked eighth in the Western Conference and have clinched a playoff spot for the third year in a row.
Despite being a great goaltender, Pekka Rinne also needs help in front his net. He needs guys who can specifically block shots, play hard in the corners, deliver hits, and who can also produce some points. This list will detail the eight best and seven worst defensemen who Rinne had to play behind based on their quality of play beginning with the netminder’s first full NHL season in 2008-09.
15 Best: Kevin Klein
Kevin Klein spent the first nine years of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators beginning with the 2005-06 season until 2013-14.
During his time with the Predators (beginning with 2008-09 -- Pekka Rinne’s first full NHL season), the 6’1"-206 pound defenseman played a total of 385 regular season games and recorded 79 points (15 goals, 64 assists), along with 104 penalty minutes. He also appeared in 28 playoff games and earned nine points.
He delivered a total of 511 hits, which ranks him third on the team (second among the defensemen) since 2008-09. He also blocked a total of 701 shots which ranks him third on the team. In fact, he led the team for three consecutive seasons in blocked shots (2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12).
Despite having a large amount of blocked shots, he did have the worst overall plus/minus rating among all Nashville defensemen since 2008-09 with a -26 rating. However, regardless of his bad plus/minus rating, his quality of play with blocked shots, delivered hits, and low penalty minutes ranks him as being an asset to have in front of his goaltender.
Klein is currently a member of the New York Rangers.
14 Worst: Seth Jones
Seth Jones spent the majority of his first three NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators from 2013 to 2016.
During that time, the 6’4"-220 pound defenseman played 199 regular season and earned 63 points (15 goals, 48 assists), along with just 54 penalty minutes. He also appeared in six playoff games and recorded four assists.
He was decent on the power play, having been on the ice for a good portion of that time and earned 24 of his points while they were a man up. He also saw a decent amount of time while they were a man down.
He didn’t rack up too many penalty minutes with just 54 PIM, which averaged out to 16 seconds in the box per game. However, for his large size, he didn’t play much of a physical game with only 160 hits which averaged out to not even one hit per game. And for being such a large presence in front of the net, he only stopped 231 blocked shots, averaging just 1.2 per game. Not to mention the fact that he had the second highest amount of giveaways among his team’s defensemen during the three years he spent with them.
For being a fourth overall draft pick in 2013, he should have put up a lot better numbers than what he did. Jones was traded in January 2016 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Ryan Johansen.
13 Best: Cody Franson
Cody Franson had two separate stints with the Nashville Predators. The first time he played two seasons with them from 2009 to 2011, and the second time he played a portion of the 2014-15 season with them.
The 6’5"-224 pound defenseman played a total of 164 regular season games with them and tallied 54 points (15 goals, 39 assists). He also appeared in 21 playoff games with them and earned nine points.
Considering his large size, he didn’t throw his body around too much with just 160 hits which averaged out to one hit per game. And he blocked 128 shots which averaged out to less than one per game. On the other hand, he barely saw any time in the penalty box with just 48 PIM which averaged out to 17 seconds per game. And with his +25 plus/minus rating, he was a decent defenseman to have playing in front of Pekka Rinne.
Franson is currently playing for the Buffalo Sabres.
12 Worst: Anthony Bitetto
Anthony Bitetto has spent his entire three-year NHL career with the Nashville Predators beginning with the 2014-15 season and continuing to this very day.
So far with the Predators, the 6’1"-210 pound defenseman has played 62 regular season games and tallied 11 points (1 goal, 10 assists), along with 51 penalty minutes and a -3 plus/minus rating. He has also appeared in 14 playoff games but failed to earn any points.
He’s pretty decent at delivering hits with 111 of them (averages almost two per game), but his blocked shots are less than impressive with just 66 of them (an average of 1.1 per game).
For being just 26 years of age, he’s very much injury prone and is struggling to stay healthy. But even when he is healthy, he’s still not the most talented guy to have playing in front of Pekka Rinne.
11 Best: P.K. Subban
When the talented Shea Weber got traded to Montreal in June 2016, the Nashville Predators received another star defenseman by the name of P.K. Subban.
The 6 foot tall, 210 pound Subban is only in his first season with the Predators, but so far he’s doing a pretty decent job. So far this season he has played 63 regular season games and produced 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists), along with 44 penalty minutes and a -6 plus/minus rating. There’s no doubt that he’s an asset on the power play with almost half of his points (16) recorded while they were on the man advantage. He’s ranked second among their defensemen with 137 shots on goal and has two game-winning goals.
He’s also not afraid to throw his body around with 76 hits so far this year, ranking him second among his team’s defenseman. He also has 101 blocked shots. He’s a good player to have defending his goaltender’s territory.
10 Worst: Barret Jackman
Barret Jackman only spent one season with the Nashville Predators in 2015-16, but it was definitely not his best.
The 6-foot-tall, 203-pound defenseman played 73 regular season games with them and tallied 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists), along with a +1 plus/minus rating. He also appeared in 14 playoff games but failed to earn any points.
He was definitely no stranger to the penalty box, having the highest amount of penalty minutes on the team with 76 PIM including six majors. He also barely saw any ice time during their power plays with less than two minutes during the entire season.
Surprisingly, he only delivered 100 hits which averaged out to 1.4 per game, ranking him 5th among his fellow defensemen. He was also equally unimpressive in blocked shots with only 86 of them, averaging out to 1.2 per game, ranking him seventh among their defensemen.
It’s no shock that Jackman never played another NHL game after his time with Nashville. In fact, he retired in October 2016 after signing a one-day contract with the St. Louis Blues with whom he spent all but one season of his career with.
9 Best: Greg Zanon
Greg Zanon spent the first four seasons of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators from 2005-06 to 2008-09.
Since Pekka Rinne’s first full NHL season was in 2008-09, let’s take a look at Greg Zanon’s numbers during that one season. He played in all 82 games that year and recorded 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists), along with 38 penalty minutes and a +8 plus/minus rating. He actually had the best plus/minus rating on the entire team that season.
Although he’s not a huge player at 5’11" and 201 pounds, he still knew how to throw his body around with 153 hits which averaged out to almost two hits per game. He also had the highest amount of blocked shots on the team with 237 which averaged out to almost three per game.
With barely any penalty minutes, along with the fact that he could deliver hits, he was great at blocking shots, and had the best plus/minus rating on the team, he was certainly a great defenseman to have playing in front his goaltender.
8 Worst: Yannick Weber
Yannick Weber is currently playing in his ninth NHL season, but this is his first season with the Nashville Predators.
So far this season, the 5’11"-200 pound defenseman has played 73 regular season games and recorded 8 points (one goal, seven assists), along with 25 penalty minutes and a +1 plus/minus rating.
He has delivered 72 hits which averages out to one per game. But his blocked shots are less than impressive with only 53, which averages out to 0.7 per game – the lowest average among his fellow defensemen who have played more than two games this season.
And he’s obviously not the primary choice to put on the power play or the penalty kill units, as he has seen very little time on the ice in both of those situations. He’s not one of the greatest defensemen to have defending his goaltender’s territory.
7 Best: Roman Josi
Roman Josi has spent his entire six-year NHL career with the Nashville Predators from 2011 to the current day.
So far in his career, the 6’1"-201 pound defenseman has played 404 regular season games and tallied 238 points (63 goals, 175 assists), along with127 penalty minutes and a +9 plus/minus rating. He also appeared in 30 playoff games and recorded 10 points.
He is definitely an asset on the power play with a total of 80 points which ranks him second among all of his teammates. And he has 11 game-winning goals which also ranks him second among his team’s defensemen. He’s not a big hitter with just 262 hits (averaging 0.6 hits per game). But he definitely knows how to block shots with a total of 830 of them which averages out to 2.1 blocked shots per game. And he doesn’t see much time in the penalty box with just 127 PIM (an average of 18 seconds per game).
Josi can earn points, is an asset on the power play, doesn’t rack up many penalty minutes, and can definitely block shots. He’s certainly a great defenseman to have in front of Pekka Rinne.
6 Worst: Michael Del Zotto
Michael Del Zotto only spent less than one season with Nashville in 2013-14, but it certainly wasn’t a great one. In January 2014, Del Zotto was sent over to the Nashville Predators by the New York Rangers in exchange for Kevin Klein.
During Del Zotto’s short time with Nashville, the 6-foot-tall, 195-pound defenseman played 25 regular season games with the Predators and recorded five points (one goal, four assists), eight penalty minutes, and a -4 plus/minus rating.
He ranked pretty low among his team’s defensemen with just 28 blocked shots and 28 hits, each averaging 1.1 per game. He also saw very little ice time while his team was on a power play and during the penalty kill. He wasn’t the most effective player to have playing in front of his goaltender.
Del Zotto is currently playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.
5 Best: Ryan Suter
Ryan Suter spent the first seven years of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators from 2005 to 2012.
During his time with the Predators (beginning with 2008-09 -- Pekka Rinne’s first full NHL season) -- the 6’2"-206 pound defenseman played 313 regular season games and tallied 167 points (22 goals, 145 assists), along with 205 penalty minutes and a +23 plus/minus rating. He also appeared in 28 playoff games and earned 10 points.
He also delivered 252 hits and blocked 405 shots. In fact, in his seven seasons with Nashville, he ranked second on the team one time and third on the team twice in blocked shots. He was also quite an asset on the power play with almost half of his points (77 points) recorded while they were a man up.
He was a good defenseman to have playing in front of Pekka Rinne. Ryan Suter now plays for the Minnesota Wild.
4 Worst: Scott Hannan
Scott Hannan played less than one season with the Nashville Predators in 2012-13, but what an unpleasant experience that was.
The 6’1"-215 pound defenseman played 29 regular season games with them that year and recorded just one assist, along with 20 penalty minutes. His -11 plus/minus rating was the worst on the entire team. He had 29 hits in 29 games which averaged to exactly one per game. He was a little better with blocked shots, having blocked 47 of them which averaged out to 1.6 per game.
He obviously didn’t impress the Nashville Predators, because after playing just 29 games with them, they traded him in April 2013 to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.
3 Best: Ryan Ellis
Ryan Ellis has spent his entire six-year NHL career with the Nashville Predators from 2011 to the present day.
The 5’10"-180 pound defenseman has played in 350 regular season games and recorded 140 points (45 goals, 95 assists), along with 134 penalty minutes and a +49 plus/minus rating. As a matter of fact, he has the best overall plus/minus rating on the entire team since the 2008-09 season. And he is currently leading the team this season with a +16 rating.
He has also delivered 275 hits and blocked 471 shots. He is currently leading his team this season with 134 blocked shots.
As for the playoffs, he has appeared in 23 games and tallied nine assists.
He’s certainly a great defenseman to have in front of Pekka Rinne. Ellis can block shots, has a great plus/minus rating, and doesn’t rack up a lot of penalty minutes.
2 Worst: Greg de Vries
Greg de Vries played two separate times with the Nashville Predators. The first time was just six games during the 1998-99 season, and the second time was a two-season run from 2007-08 to 2008-09.
Since Pekka Rinne’s first full NHL season was in 2008-09, let’s take a look at Greg de Vries’ numbers during that one season. The 6’2"-205 pound defenseman played 71 regular season games that year and recorded five points and 65 penalty minutes (including five majors). He had the second worst overall plus/minus rating on the team that year with a -15. And he wasn’t relied upon to play too much during the man advantage with just over seven minutes during the entire season and had no power play points.
He didn’t throw his body around too much, having delivered just 58 hits, averaging less than one per game. And he wasn’t much better with his blocked shots, having blocked just 73 of them which averaged to one per game. He definitely wasn’t one of the greatest guys to have playing in front of Pekka Rinne.
Greg de Vries retired after playing his last season with Nashville.
1 Best: Shea Weber
Shea Weber spent the first eleven seasons of NHL career with the Nashville Predators from 2005 to 2016. The 6’4"-232 pound defenseman also served six seasons as their team captain from 2010 to 2016.
During his time with the Predators (beginning with 2008-09 -- Pekka Rinne’s first full NHL season), Shea Weber totalled 373 points (141 goals, 232 assists) and a +33 rating in 602 regular season games. He was a tremendous help on the power play with 157 of his points recorded while they were a man up. And on the opposite end of the stick when they were a man down, he produced five shorthanded goals. He also had a whopping 1,702 shots on goal which is far more than any player on his team during that time. And he was tied for second place among all of his teammates with 19 game-winning goals.
He also led the team with 1,361 hits and 1,024 blocked shots. And he really didn’t have an overwhelming amount of penalty minutes with 417 PIM which included 11 majors. It only averaged out to 41 seconds of penalties per game.
As for the playoffs, he earned 19 points in 44 games.
In 2016, he was awarded the Mark Messier Leadership Award which is given to the player who shows great leadership qualities on and off the ice.
Weber can produce points, he’s an asset on the power play and on the penalty kill. He can deliver hits and block shots. Not to mention that he has the hardest slap shot in the league. He’s an all around fantastic defenseman to have playing in front of any goaltender.
In June 2016, he was involved in a trade that shocked the hockey world when the Nashville Predators sent Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for another star defenseman P.K. Subban.