Filip Forsberg (Getty Images)
The difference between this year's powerhouse Nashville Predators and the Preds that missed the playoffs last year? Okay, sure, Pekka Rinne's health is the biggest thing. But the emergence of rookie Filip Forsberg – who scored the game-winner against Edmonton Thursday – as a big-game player isn't all that far behind.
Since the Nashville Predators' first season in 1998-99, they've lacked the type of elite young player capable of coming up big at key moments on a regular basis. But with every game rookie left winger Filip Forsberg plays – including the one the 20-year-old Swede played Thursday night against Edmonton – those days appear to be at an end.
Acquired in a trade with Washington for veteran Martin Erat that grows more infamous by the hour, Forsberg did what he had to do in a low-scoring game against the visiting Oilers, scoring the only goal in overtime to give Nashville its third straight win and an impressive 15-5-2 record:
Although Preds goalie Pekka Rinne was the bigger star of the night, making 37 saves for his 15th win and second shutout of the season, Forsberg has been the biggest difference (other than a healthy Rinne) between this year's team and the offensively-challenged squad that cost longtime coach Barry Trotz his job last season. He now has three game-winners on the year – and with 10 goals and 23 points in 22 games thus far, Forsberg must be considered a frontrunner for the NHL's Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie. In fact, considering Forsberg leads the next-best rookie (Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau) by eight points and with one fewer game played, you'd have to say he's the young man to beat for the award.