The Nashville Predators signed 24-year-old right-handed defenseman Jake Livingstone to a one-year, entry-level contract for the remainder of the 2022-23 season. During his time with the Preds, he appeared in five games, showing flashes of NHL potential. The Creston, British Columbia native joined a team in the heat of a playoff push, making his on-ice expectations and the pressure facing him much higher in comparison to other top college free agents, such as Akito Hirose, Livingstone’s teammate on the Minnesota State Mavericks, who signed with the Vancouver Canucks. A defensive-core void of familiar faces allowed him to shine in isolated moments while, unfortunately, making his weaknesses appear glaringly obvious due to the inability to shelter him as the Predators fought for their playoff lives.
Livingstone On The Minnesota State Mavericks
Before Livingstone signed with the Predators, he played three seasons for the Mavericks of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). The team played in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for his first season before leaving. Their success with him on the ice was stellar. The Mavericks won two consecutive Mason Cups, the most prestigious trophy in the CCHA, and most importantly, they achieved a berth in the 2022 Frozen Four in Boston, Massachusetts.
Livingstone’s ability to mesh with his team is important. Wearing an ‘A’ on the Mavericks displays the trust head coach Mike Hastings and the Mavericks’ coaching staff had in him. As a defenseman, in 111 games over his three-year career with Minnesota State, he recorded 21 goals and 59 assists for 80 points. A 0.72 points-per-game (P/G) production rate is fantastic for a defenseman, proving his offensive capabilities as a player known for his defensive play.
His final season with the Mavericks proved to be his best, totalling 35 points in 39 games, good for a 0.89 P/G rate. These stats earned him many accolades, including the CCHA’s Defenseman of the Year Award for the second time in as many years. A pair of All-CCHA First Team nods also accompanies his luxurious resume. He matured on and off the ice, which led to the Predators competing and winning the bidding war for his talents.
Livingstone’s Five Games With The Predators
Livingstone began his NHL career thrust into a heated playoff race on a depleted Predators blue line. The defence lacked the talents of Roman Josi, Alexandre Carrier, Mattias Ekholm, and Mark Boroweicki. If the roster was fully healthy, the Preds might not have given him a look at the end of the 2022-23 season; however, injuries forced the organization’s hand. His debut came on April 6 against the Carolina Hurricanes, but his best performance fell on the 10th of that month. He recorded an assist against the Calgary Flames, earning his first NHL point as the Predators eliminated the Flames from playoff contention while keeping theirs alive.
Through his five games, Livingstone had a promising ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone, making calm, smart passes during high-intensity moments, and looking like a veteran in many instances. His statistics throughout his first five games consisted of one assist, two penalty minutes, six hits, and 11 blocked shots. The number of blocked shots number is notable. He led all Predators players in shots blocked per 60 minutes with a staggering 8.54, placing him 13th overall in the entire league. The sample size is small, although perhaps an encouraging sign, showing he has the potential to become one of the premier shot blockers in the NHL.
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These good traits do not come without the bad. Livingstone’s flashes of excellence also come with an atrocious array of advanced stats. He finished last on the team in Corsi For at 34%, bottom-five in Fenwick at 35%, and a shocking minus-3.5% relative expected goals while averaging a mere 15:24 of time on ice. Additionally, he also had a negative goal above expected at minus-0.2. These numbers are bad. The Predators threw him to the wolves, asking him to play tough minutes in do-or-die games against tough opponents. Perhaps a role in the top-six is asking too much of him this upcoming season, with a rotation, the seven/eight slot would be better for his development.
The defenseman did shine in moments while also looking like a rookie in others. Nathan MacKinnon showed what can happen when a superstar pounces on an inexperienced player. Livingstone could only watch in awe as MacKinnon danced through the wandering sticks of him and his defence partner, slipping through the two Predators jerseys guarding the upper slot, leading to a highlight reel goal on should-be Vezina finalist Juuse Saros, all in just his fifth NHL game. Welcome to the show, kid. His five-game stint is a positive sign for things to come while struggling to work through every rookie’s growing pains. Training camp in the fall will test whether he has learnt from his short tenure in the NHL, assuming the Preds re-sign him. His excellence at every level before this means one can expect a jump in performance, and the team’s worst Corsi numbers should drastically improve.
Livingstone’s Role On The Predators Next Year
Livingstone’s future with the Predators remains a lingering question. His one-year entry-level contract expires this year, making him a restricted free agent (RFA). While the Preds can retain his rights, a relatively poor five-game stint must make the uncertainty of his contractual status a cause for potential worry. Fortunately for him, the Predators only have five defensemen under contract entering the 2023-24 season and an additional three becoming RFAs. Livingstone is one of them. The other two consist of Alexandre Carrier and Jérémy Lauzon. Additionally, Dante Fabbro is a constant name in trade rumours. His odds of making the Predators’ NHL roster become much higher if the rumours become a reality.
The upcoming months will clarify the place of Livingstone organizationally under new general manager Barry Trotz. Free agents, the NHL Entry Draft, and miscellaneous trades will shape a Predators defensive corps in flux following a flurry of moves at the trade deadline in March. Regardless, Livingstone showed promising play-driving abilities and flashed veteran confidence in a rookie headspace. Despite the numbers detracting from his play, his stature as one of the top college free agents of the 2023 class will make him a tantalizing prospect for the Predators organization and potentially one that can make the opening night roster of this re-tooling team looking to find a new identity.
Advanced stats were taken from Money Puck