Nashville Predators: Luke Kunin In Line For Breakout Season After Offseason Trade

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jim Mone

The Nashville Predators went into the offseason knowing they needed to retool somewhat.

They bought out underperforming Kyle Turris. They retooled their bottom-six, signing Brad Richardson and Nick Cousins to man their third and fourth line center roles.

To free up one of those center positions, General Manager David Polie traded Nick Bonino to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for restricted free agent Luke Kunin.

Kunin, a former first round pick in 2016, spent two years at the University of Wisconsin before turning pro. Scoring isn’t new to him, as he has done it at each level he has been at.

Level

Games Played 

Goals

College

69

41

AHL

76

27

NHL

131

23

Kunin had a rough start to his NHL career, but a career high 15 goals last season put him on a map as he started to understand his potential and why he was drafted in the first round.

With the trade, the Predators are adding one of the better goal scorers at 5v5 from the past season, and while they were a top 10 team in that category last year, the versatility that Kunin brings is what Nashville seems most excited about.

“He’s going to play on the power play, he’s going to kill penalties and he can play up and down you lineup at center ice or on the wing.” Polie said in an article on the Nashville Post.

Kunin does have experience on both special team units, as he has logged nearly a minute (0:48) of power play time per game last season, as well as 1:23 of time while short handed.

But in the end, wherever he lines up, the Predators are adding a player 10 years younger than the one he is replacing, who was one of the most efficient scoring threats last season.

Category

Number

Percentile Rank

Goals per 60

0.92

76.9%

Primary Assists per 60

0.46

34.2%

Points per 60

1.84

63.1%

Shots per 60

8.07

73.1%

Shooting percentage

11.43%

66.1%

Expected Goals per 60

0.76

78.4%

All numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, based on play at 5v5.

Maybe the biggest statistic to take away from this was Kunin’s expected scoring rate which, percentile wise, is right up there with his actual actual output.

The Predators, despite scoring 152 goals at 5v5 this season, seventh most in the league, finished middle of the pack when it came to expected goals.

With 2.33 xGF/60, the Predators finished 15th in the league. Kunin’s 0.76 ixG/60 would have been good for third on Nashville, and placed him among the best in the league in the category. 

Category

Number

Percentile Rank

Corsi-For%

45.37%

8.7%

Goals For per 60

2.49

48.6%

Goals Against per 60

2.76

30.6%

Goals For%

47.44%

34.5%

Expected Goals For per 60

2.05

19.2%

Expected Goals Against per 60

2.06

79.3%

Expects Goals For%

49.86%

46.5%

On Ice Shooting%

8.63%

61%

On Ice Save%

91.35%

35.7%

Kunin doesn’t create much for others, as shown in his assist rate, as well as his on-ice metrics for driving play. 

He does have one of the better shots in the league, and with playmakers up and down the lineup like Rocco Grimaldi (0.89 A1/60), Filip Forsberg (0.88) and Matt Duchene (0.76), that’s all the Predators are going to want him to do.

Are The Predators Going To Miss Bonino?

Nashville got younger with the trade, which going into the offseason is something they wanted to do. They did, however, trade their most efficient player at 5v5 in order to do so.

Bonino lead all Predators’ forwards in G/60 and Points/60, as well as finished sixth in Primary Assists/60 out of everyone with at least 200 minutes at 5v5 on the roster.

While he was great, and was enduring his second best two-season stretch in the NHL, Bonino is still 32 years old, so the idea that he continues on this pace isn’t likely. 

Bonino may have found his scoring touch the last two years, he isn’t likely trending in the same direction as Kunin - a former first round pick - is at this point.

What did you think of the Kunin for Bonino trade? Where do you think Kunin will play in Nashville’s lineup? Center or the wing? Let us know in the comments below and follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy.





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