After the offseason trade of captain Shea Weber, the face of the franchise, to the Montreal Canadiens and a rocky start to the season, the Nashville Predators have rebounded and will be playoff-bound for the third consecutive year. A primary reason for that recovery is prolific winger Filip Forsberg -- who, after scoring just twice in in his first 27 games, is now tied with linemate Viktor Arvidsson for the team lead, with 29 goals.
The trio of Forsberg, Arvidsson and center Ryan Johansen -- who came to Nashville in a blockbuster deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Seth Jones in January 2016 -- has scored 71 goals, or almost one-third of the Predators' total production. I sat down with Forsberg, 22, when the team made a recent stop in Washington, D.C., to play the Capitals -- the team that drafted Forsberg with the 11th overall pick in 2012.
ESPN.com: Is Nashville different than you thought it would be? I assume it must feel now like home -- or at least your North American home.
Forsberg: I've been there for three years almost, and it's been great since day one. I didn't really know what to expect. But everyone's really friendly -- the whole southern area is friendly -- and they try to help you out. So I've just been trying to give it back on the ice.
ESPN.com: When you start to have the kind of offensive streak you've been on, does anything warn you that it's going to happen?
Forsberg: No. I've been doing the same thing all year, to be honest with you. It's a pretty boring answer. I just keep working hard. I kind of learned the same way last year. I was struggling at little bit at the start of the season, but it finally came [together] last year. It worked out this season as well. I think it's just a matter of staying patient and working hard.
ESPN.com: Is it hard not to get discouraged when you have those periods where it's not going your way?
Forsberg: Yeah. I learned a lot last year. I think it was more frustrating last year, but at the same time our team was a little better at the start than this year. We were struggling, and at the same time I was struggling -- so obviously that wore a little bit on me, not being able to help the team win games.
ESPN.com: When you do get going on a streak like you're on now, what does it feel like? Do people joke with you, or are they superstitious and say, "OK, let's not mess with Filip now?"
Forsberg: It's a little bit of both, I guess. Some guys just keep saying, "Stay hot," and stuff like that. And some guys just lay off.
ESPN.com: Have you gotten to know Ryan Johansen well?
Forsberg: Obviously it was a big, big trade. Seth was a great guy and a great friend to all of us and a great player, but Joey came in and was kind of the same personality. He fit in right away. He's energetic, a guy who likes to talk and laugh. He brought that attitude with him.
ESPN.com: Is there a reason this particular player complements you, in terms of getting the best out of you?
Forsberg: I think we're playing pretty well right now, me and Joey. He's obviously a tremendous passer. He's a big guy who can protect the puck. I guess we're a pretty similar. Maybe I'm a little more of a shooter and maybe he's more of a passer. But we're obviously two big guys who might not be the fastest skaters but we protect the puck well and we've got Arvidsson, who can skate and fly around and create some room as well.
ESPN.com: Does your line spend time together on the road? Is there that kind of connection away from the rink?
Forsberg: It's nothing we force. It's not like because we play together we've got to hang out all the time. A lot of guys hang out together; we go to lunch, we go to dinner, and stuff like that. But me and Arvy, since we're Swedish, I guess that comes a little more natural too. Usually I hang out more with the Swedes, but we're all a pretty tight group.
ESPN.com: Have you taught Ryan any good Swedish lines?
Forsberg: He knew a little bit already, actually, coming here from Columbus. There were a couple of Swedes there too, so I guess we just tried to refresh that.
ESPN.com: Who was your idol growing up?
Forsberg: Well, for hockey it was Peter Forsberg for sure. He was probably the best player in the world when I was starting to figure out hockey. Obviously his name kind of drew my attention right away. I still look up to him, for sure.
ESPN.com: Any relation?
Forsberg: No. It's a pretty common name.
ESPN.com: Do you think the NHL should keep playing in the Olympics?
Forsberg: For sure. I don't see why we wouldn't. Especially when all the players want to play. Obviously it's going to be a little bit of a break in the season, but I feel like we're doing that break already. I would love to play -- and just not for the hockey, but also for the whole experience of everything around it. I don't think it would be very good decision to take that away from all the players.
ESPN.com: Do you remember watching Sweden win Olympic gold in '06?
Forsberg: Yeah. It was unbelievable. I still remember me and my brother and my cousins jumping up and down on the couch when they won the game. I was 11, 12 years old, something like that. I watched the 2002 [Games] too, but I was a little too small. It was in Europe [in 2006] too, so time-wise it was better. Sweden had an unbelievable team and we were able to win, so that was great.
ESPN.com: I don't think people understand how important the rivalry is between Finland and Sweden. The 2006 Olympics were the first Games I covered, and I felt so bad for the Finns. I don't suppose you had much sympathy for them?
Forsberg (laughing): No, I don't. It was great.
ESPN.com: Do you think the Predators' playoff identity is finally emerging?
Forsberg: Yeah, I think so. It's always a little different, coming together with a new group every season -- even though we had a lot of the same pieces. Obviously, we didn't play our best hockey in the start. Midway through the season, I think somehow we found the way we want to play and since then it's been better. Hopefully we can continue that.
ESPN.com: Do you have a sense of how important it would be for Nashville to have a long playoff run?
Forsberg: We got a little taste of it last year, when we got to the second round and had a couple of OT games there. It was crazy, especially the triple-OT one. When we won, there was just an explosion in the whole rink. I think that meant a lot for the fans too, seeing that we could go through the first round and almost the second round as well, getting to Game 7. I would love to have a long run this year -- and I'm sure the fans would love it as well.
ESPN.com: Do you ever stop and think what life might have been like if you hadn't been traded from Washington to Nashville?
Forsberg: A little bit. You kind of have to. I was joking on the bus, saying I had my apartment set up here downtown, and obviously that never happened. It is what it is. It's been a couple of years now and things have been going pretty well for [the Capitals] too.