Filip Forsberg on Predators, (not) meeting Messi, NHL All-Star draft, hot chicken, his famous mustache

NHL

Filip Forsberg has been a huge reason why the Nashville Predators are knocking on the door for a playoff spot this season under first-year coach Andrew Brunette.

The 29-year-old center has 28 points in 24 games, including a team-leading 13 goals. New general manager Barry Trotz indicated that the Predators were going to be an offensive-oriented team when he hired Brunette. That style has Forsberg on pace for one of the best scoring campaigns of his 12-season NHL career.

Forsberg appeared on ESPN’s “The Drop” this week to chat with Arda Ocal and Greg Wyshynski about a variety of topics, ranging from the NHL to “best on best” tournaments to his ownership of an MLS team to his famous mustache.

New episodes of “The Drop” are available Tuesday and Thursday on all podcasting platforms and video streaming on YouTube. Search for the “NHL on ESPN” channel for the latest edition.


ESPN: When a new coach like Andrew Brunette comes in, how much conversation is there during the offseason between him and the players?

Forsberg: It’s obviously happened before for us, when [Peter] Laviolette took over from Barry Trotz, a handful of years ago. But this one was a little different, obviously, with it happening kind of later in the summer. Like we didn’t really know what was going to happen: if John [Hynes] was going to come back or not. It ended up being a fairly late into the summer decision.

I was here in town when Coach Bruno was announced with the press conference. That was the first time I met him. Then there were just a few conversations over the phone throughout the summer. Just trying to get a little bit of a feel for who he was as a person, but also as a coach. It’s been a good transition.

ESPN: Did you almost have a heart attack when you heard Barry Trotz of all people say that you guys are going to be in an offensive team under Brunette?

Forsberg: I mean, it’s a little change obviously from [Trotz], right? You didn’t know what to expect when he was coming back. But I think the mix of experience that Barry has a coach, but also just in hockey in general, and then bringing in Bruno, who has a ton of experience as a player and has been an assistant coach and briefly a head coach there for the Panthers, I think the mix of the two of them and our style of play in general has been a good combination so far.

ESPN: Another offseason addition was center Ryan O’Reilly. It’s always interesting when you bring in a player that you’re so used to competing against as an opponent, and one with a heck of a reputation after that Stanley Cup win in St. Louis. What are the things you’ve learned about him as a teammate?

Forsberg: Well, I think it’s the small things that you don’t see all the time. Like you said, he was with St. Louis and Colorado for long enough and I felt like we played them 1,000 times a year. He was tough to play against.

But then you see all the work that he puts in every day, working on on those small details before practice. In my opinion, he’s very underrated. Like, I didn’t realize how good he actually is. You knew he was good on faceoffs and he was almost impossible to play against. But then he comes here and you see the offensive upside through all the small things that he does. It’s been really cool. I try to learn as much as a I can from him.

ESPN: There are some big changes to the NHL All-Star Game this season that have been announced, including bringing back the player draft. We’re curious about the player’s perspective on that.

Forsberg: I was actually there the last time they did this. It was my rookie year, so they picked a few rookies to be in the game. Then a couple of guys bailed out last minute, so we got to a part of the actual game part of the All-Star Game, which was great. That was actually the last time they did the draft. Me and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were able to get those cars. I’m obviously very happy about that. But at the same time, I definitely would have liked to be picked a little bit earlier than [last]. If that happens, I’ll be a pick or two higher at least.

I think it’s cool. It obviously adds a little bit of fun. Lot of goofing around. I mean, [Alex] Ovechkin, we’re sitting there and trying to get that car so hard that time. It was a fun thing to be a part of, for sure.

ESPN: Another big NHL move is the creation of a midseason international tournament that’s scheduled for 2025. It won’t be a World Cup, but it’s expected to feature the U.S. vs. Canada and Sweden vs. Finland. What were your thoughts when you heard about that?

Forsberg: I’m all for it. We need to get some kind of international hockey back with NHL players participating. And I understand the concerns for World Cups, Olympics, all that type of stuff. I know it’s not the easiest thing just to put together. But I do think that we’re currently — us as players, but also the fans out there — are not getting to watch these games.

I remember watching the Olympics and best-on-best hockey growing up. You can’t beat it. Representing your country in those situations is special. I’ve been fortunate. I was in the World Cup, obviously, which was a little different with the Europe team and Team North America, but and then I also played in a couple of world championships. But those are different, too, with no playoff players in there.

I’m all for it. And playing Finland makes it a little bit extra special too.

ESPN: It’s no secret the media loves coming to Nashville to cover games. What’s it like playing in Nashville?

Forsberg: I mean, I see why you people would like it, because there’s a lot of benefits with the building being where it is. You could have a good time within minutes of where the puck is dropped. When the game is ended, you can have a real good time after it.

But for me, it’s the people, ever since I first came here. There’s a saying about Southern hospitality, and that’s something that’s really through the city as a whole. I came here when I was 19, over 10 years ago, and the city really helped me out. At the time, I didn’t really know anything about anything, and lot of people that were really helpful to me early on still keep in touch with me.

ESPN: Look, just because the Professional Hockey Writers Association holds its meetings at Tootsie’s on Broadway doesn’t mean we’re imbibing. Speaking of Nashville food and drink: Are you a hot chicken guy?

Forsberg: I mean, I’m not. I don’t love spicy food, so I can’t say I do [like it]. I don’t know if you guys have seen the new Hattie B’s location, but it’s right across from Bridgestone Arena. It’s a pretty prime location. So next time you guys come, you can fuel up before you get going at Tootsie’s over there.

ESPN: Did you try it? And you’re like, I can’t do this again?

Forsberg: Yeah, I did. And I even did like a 2-out-of-7 on the heat scale. I wasn’t even halfway there. I’ve got some work to do there, for sure.

ESPN: You’re a minority owner of Nashville SC, the city’s Major League Soccer team. What’s that been like?

Forsberg: It’s been crazy, not going to lie. We jumped in about a year ago. This first year has been pretty wild to say the least, obviously with Lionel Messi being the highlight for the whole league. We had Nashville’s league cup run, playing Messi in the finals; it’s just been really cool seeing the whole city embrace soccer.

I love soccer. I’ve done it since I was a kid, obviously being from Europe and soccer is such a big part of everything over there. It’s really cool to see that coming here. Bringing the best player ever is obviously a great marketing decision by David Beckham. Don’t get me wrong. Hopefully we can do something similar here in Nashville at some point, too. But it’s awesome. It’s been a great journey, and I’m really excited about future with it.

ESPN: Did you get to meet Messi?

Forsberg: No, I didn’t. It’s actually funny. We played him in the finals, and I had about 10 guys from the Predators that went. And Yakov Trenin asks me, “Hey, do you think we can get to meet Messi after the game?” He was like dead serious. And I was like, “Nah, I don’t think we have that type of pull here.” And he was like, “OK, no problem.”

I’m hoping I can meet him. The first year, we were learning, kind of getting to know some of the people. But now, the second year, we’re going to take over a little bit more and make some changes. And hopefully we can get in that room with him. That’d be cool.

ESPN: Finally, you’re obviously very well known for the mustache. It’s part of the persona. The Filip Forsberg presentation. How often do people bring it up in Nashville?

Forsberg: I’d say about at least once a day. It’s obviously hard not to. It’s mostly like some random people who will stop you and say like, “Oh, nice mustache.” I think it’s definitely a conversation starter. It’s a topic, a lot of people like it. And yeah, it’s hard to miss, too, I guess. So it’s a little bit of my own fault.

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