Travis Morin named the 2013-14 AHL MVP

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Travis Morin of the Texas Stars has officially won the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s Most Valuable Player for the 2013-14 season. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The final award from this season has been announced and, no real surprise, the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s Most Valuable Player for the 2013-14 season has been bestowed to Travis Morin of the Texas Stars.

Morin has been at the heart of the high-powered Stars this entire season and should easily take home the league’s scoring title: 87 points (32 goals, 55 assists). The next closest players in scoring, Zach Boychuk and T.J. Brennan, are a solid 15 points behind with both players having played more games in the AHL than Morin this season.

AHL’s Press Release:

Since notching four points on opening night, Morin has been the American Hockey League’s leading scorer wire-to-wire in 2013-14 and has 32 goals and 55 assists for 87 points with a plus-16 rating in 65 games with Texas heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Leading the offense for the regular-season champion Stars, Morin has nearly doubled his 44-point output from a year ago while setting franchise records for assists and points in a season. The CCM/AHL Player of the Month in both October and January, Morin began the season on a 10-game scoring streak and has gone without a point in consecutive games on just four occasions all year. He took part in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic in February and was named a 2013-14 First Team AHL All-Star last week.

A seventh-year pro from Brooklyn Park, Minn., Morin has also appeared in four games with the Dallas Stars this season, picking up an assist for his first career NHL point. In 349 career AHL games with Texas and Hershey, Morin has totaled 99 goals and 196 assists for 295 points, and he is the Stars franchise’s all-time leader in goals (99), assists (195), points (294) in 344 contests with the club.

The AHL’s most valuable player award honors the late Les Cunningham, a member of the AHL Hall of Fame who was a five-time league All-Star and three-time Calder Cup champion with the Cleveland Barons. Previous winners of the award include Carl Liscombe (1948, ’49), Johnny Bower (1956, ’57, ’58), Fred Glover (1960, ’62, ’64), Mike Nykoluk (1967), Gilles Villemure (1969, ’70), Doug Gibson (1975, ’77), Pelle Lindbergh (1981), Ross Yates (1983), Paul Gardner (1985, ’86), Tim Tookey (1987), Jody Gage (1988), John Anderson (1992), Don Biggs (1993), Derek Armstrong (2001), Jason LaBarbera (2004), Jason Spezza (2005), Darren Haydar (2007), Keith Aucoin (2010), Corey Locke (2011), Cory Conacher (2012) and Tyler Johnson (2013).

Out of curiosity, who would you pen as the Milwaukee Admirals MVP from the 2013-14 season? I think there are a few names that could easily be thrown into that discussion. Who would you pick?

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Checkers: Scouting the Enemy

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It has been awhile since we’ve seen these Charlotte Checkers. The last time we saw them? Late December. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Charlotte Checkers enter tonight’s game with a record of 37-34-1-2 (77 points). They are fourth in the high powered West Division and are ninth in the Western Conference standings.

The Checkers currently trail the final playoff seed, the Oklahoma City Barons, by 2 points. Including tonight’s game they have only have two games remaining. Both of those games are on the road. The Barons have two games left as well – but have the advantage of home ice for each of those contests to finish their regular season.

Depending on how the results shape out – the Admirals could well wrap up the playoff contenders from the Western Conference tonight with a win over the Checkers and a win by the Barons over the Iowa Wild (who they will see in both games).

The Ads and Checkers have played each other three-times this season. It’s been a long time since those games – so let’s look back.

Nov. 30 @ Charlotte: L, 4-1
Dec. 1 @ Charlotte: W, 2-1
Dec. 27 vs. Charlotte: L, 3-2

It’s a small package of games but the Checkers have the advantage from them. Mind you, it has been such a long time since those three games and both teams have really changed.

If you’re wondering about fighting majors, incidents, or long memory type situations that could find themselves turning up out of the blue out of the match up: Game 1, Mike Liambas charging and then fighting with Matt Marquardt with an addition of Nicolas Blanchard taking a third-man-in penalty… Game 2, Liambas and Blanchard settled the score from the first game with a bout… Game 3, nope nope nope.

Their top scorer this season is Zach Boychuk with 72 points (36 goals, 36 assists), a plus/minus rating of -8, and 55 penalty minutes. Boychuk has a crazy insane 18 goals scored on the power-play this season. That is the most in the AHL this season. The next closest to him in PPGs is Luke Adam of the Rochester Americans with 16.

A player who has always done rather well against the Milwaukee Admirals is left winger Chris Terry. This season he has 68 points (28 goals, 40 assists), 14 goals scored from the power-play, a plus/minus rating of -11, and 60 penalty minutes.

Nine. The Charlotte Checkers have played nine goalies during the 2013-14 season. Makes you feel pretty good about how the Admirals and Predators handled injury struggles this season right?

Out of the crop of goalies the Checkers have used – John Muse has been their top man between the pipes: 45 games played, 27 wins, 2.58 goals against average, 0.920 save percentage, and 5 shutouts this season.

Also, Rick DiPietro played 5 games for them this season. … That was the punchline.

The Milwaukee Admirals have a record of 38-23-6-7 (89 points). They are third in the Midwest Division and, after their 3-0 shutout victory in Iowa on Sunday, are fifth in the Western Conference standings.

Milwaukee has two remaining regular season games: the regular season home finale tonight – and the regular season finale on the road against the Chicago Wolves tomorrow night.

The team is completely loaded with talent right now. Colton Sissons returned to the Admirals. Simon Moser returned from injury. Calle Jarnkrok returned from Nashville. And, as I’ve witnessed during practice this week, everyone is healthy and skating.

The lone exception could be Liambas, who hasn’t played since setting the Admirals record for penalty minutes in a season on 4/8/14, but he is skating on his own (no contact). Mark Van Guilder is also back after a lower-body injury that has sidelined him since 4/1/14 – and he has participated in full practice sessions. The team is simply at its strongest form at the perfect time of the season.

Another thing that has been getting sharper and sharper as the season comes to a close is the Admirals goaltending. In the month of April – Marek Mazanec and Scott Darling have combined to stop 185 of 191 shots on goal from 7 games: 0.969 save percentage. A part of me likes the idea of having a “number one” for the playoffs. I’m starting to agree with head coach Dean Evason who told me not too long ago, “if both are playing extremely well – what’s the difference?”

What shall we expect from tonight’s game against the Charlotte Checkers? Do the Admirals start rolling out their big guns to get them rolling into the playoffs or should they still look to rest guys?

Posted in Scouting | 2 Comments

AHL Announces Two More Awards

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Chicago Wolves netminder Jake Allen’s great season has just been recognized by the AHL as he claims this season’s Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the league’s most outstanding goalie. (Photo Credit: Ross Bonander)

This afternoon the AHL announced the winners of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award (AHL’s most outstanding goaltender) and the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award (2013-14 IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year).

Jake Allen took home this season’s honors for the league’s best goaltender this season. Here in Milwaukee we have seen first hand in the Amtrak Rivalry this season just how lethal he can be to go head-to-head against: 8 games played, 6 wins, 2 shootout losses, 1.69 goals against average, 0.933 save percentage, and 1 shutout.

AHL’s Press Release:

Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Allen has a record of 32-16-3 in 51 appearances for the Wolves, helping them to a berth in the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs. Allen ranks first in the AHL in victories, goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.927) as he bids to become just the second goaltender since 1984-85 to lead the league in all three categories. Allen is also pacing all goalies in minutes played (3,078) and is tied for first with six shutouts on the season, while ranking second in both shots faced (1,447) and saves (1,341).

A 23-year-old native of Fredericton, N.B., Allen represented the Wolves at the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic in St. John’s in February, and was named a First Team AHL All-Star last week. Selected by St. Louis in the second round (34th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Allen was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team last season after a successful 15-game stint with the Blues. Allen has played 171 career AHL games with Chicago and Peoria over his four pro seasons, compiling a record of 83-74-10 with a 2.55 GAA, a .917 save percentage and 15 shutouts.

The Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award, which was first presented in 1984, honors former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Baz Bastien, who played four seasons in goal with the AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets (1945-49) before suffering a career-ending eye injury. Bastien would go on to serve as head coach and general manager of the Hornets, leading them to the 1967 Calder Cup championship. Previous winners of the award include Jon Casey (1985), Sam St. Laurent (1986), Mark Laforest (1987, 1991), Felix Potvin (1992), Corey Hirsch (1993), Manny Legace (1996), Martin Biron (1999), Dwayne Roloson (2001), Jason LaBarbera (2004, 2007), Ryan Miller (2005), Dany Sabourin (2006), Michael Leighton (2008), Cory Schneider (2009), Jonathan Bernier (2010), Brad Thiessen (2011), Yann Danis (2012) and Niklas Svedberg (2013).

The other award announced today was the one I had high hopes in which we could see Mark Van Guilder‘s name mentioned: the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award aka 2013-14 IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. This distinction instead went to Eric Neilson of the Syracuse Crunch.

AHL’s Press Release:

This award has been presented annually since 1998 to an AHL player for his outstanding contributions to his local community and charitable organizations. The Yanick Dupré Memorial Award winner is selected by the AHL and representatives from IOA and American Specialty from among 30 individual team Man of the Year honorees.

A six-time recipient of his team’s Yanick Dupré Award nomination (in five different AHL cities), Neilson has continued an impressive tradition of community service that has been a hallmark of his career. Since joining the Crunch organization in 2012, Neilson has gone above and beyond in his efforts to give back to the Syracuse community.

Neilson’s efforts this year were highlighted by his creation of the “Breakfast with a Champion” program, designing, developing and executing his initiative designed to teach elementary school students the importance of nutrition and healthy eating. Neilson was involved in every step of the program’s planning process, from pitching it to local schools to shopping for groceries to supplying students with tickets to Crunch games as rewards for their participation.

Neilson’s commitment to children was also seen in his work with as the primary speaker in the Crunch’s anti-bullying program, and as the team’s main spokesman for Upstate University Hospital including their “safe kids” public service initiative about concussion prevention. He dedicated time to issues such as men’s and women’s health causes also, generating awareness for breast cancer and heading up the team’s winning “Mustache Movember” team for prostate cancer research.

The AHL’s annual Man of the Year award is named after the late Yanick Dupré, who passed away in 1997 at the age of 24 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. A second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991, Dupré played four seasons in the AHL with the Hershey Bears and was an AHL All-Star in 1995.

The final AHL award will be announced tomorrow. That award of course will be the Les Cunningham Award for AHL’s 2013-14 MVP.

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The Chatterbox, Vol. 31

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Calle Jarnkrok and Mark Van Guilder are on the same team now. And that’s great! (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Today’s practice was held at Wilson Park. I wasn’t on hand for that like I was yesterday’s practice -but- I did speak with a few players back at the locker room: Taylor Beck, Calle Jarnkrok, and Mark Van Guilder.

The majority of my talk today with Beck and Van was for a feature story on Mr. Beck that will be up on Roundtable Monday. Still, we were talking about the current state of the team as it enters the playoffs. Here is what everyone had to say this afternoon.

Taylor Beck on this year’s Admirals team:


Calle Jarnkrok discusses his time in Nashville:


Jarnkrok on if he expected to play this many games in the NHL this season:


Jarnkrok talks about he and Sissons scoring their first career NHL goals in the same game:


Jarnkrok’s thoughts on joining the Admirals playoff run:


Mark Van Guilder on the team being at its strongest at the right time of the year:


Van’s thoughts about watching the playoff standings:


Comments from the comments? Do you feel this is the strongest the Milwaukee Admirals have been all season long?

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Checking in on the Cincinnati Cyclones

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Magnus Hellberg isn’t the lone member of the Milwaukee Admirals competing in this season’s ECHL playoffs for the Cincinnati Cyclones – but he could be a reason why they win it all. (Photo Credit: Tony Bailey)

While we’re in our own little playoff mode in Milwaukee – our friends in Cincinnati, the Cyclones, are preparing for game one of the first round of the ECHL playoffs tonight.

The Cyclones finished the regular season with a record of 41-23-4-4 (90 points). That put them in second place of the North Division and the fifth seed in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference. They will be playing against the fourth seed Orlando Solar Bears in the first round match-up.

Among the players we’ve seen in Milwaukee at some point are: Josh Shalla, Paul Crowder, Zach BudishBarry Almeida, Taylor Aronson, and Magnus Hellberg.

Aronson has played the most games of that group this season for Cincinnati (65) and has totaled 38 points (6 goals, 32 assists), a plus/minus rating of +28, and 57 penalty minutes. The top scorer of that group is Crowder with 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists). A player who we saw in pre-season camp, Almeida, has played in 47 games, scored 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists), has a plus/minus rating of +6, and 23 penalty minutes.

For those who we have seen with the Admirals this season: Shalla has played in 29 games, scored 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists), has a plus/minus of +20, and 11 penalty minutes. Budish has played in 16 games, scored 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists), has a plus/minus of -4, and 6 penalty minutes.

Then we have our ol’ bobblehead day buddy Hellberg who, since returning from his January lower-body injury, has been with the Cyclones in the ECHL. He has played in 7 games since then, won 5 games, lost one game in regulation, and lost one game in overtime. He has a 2.89 goals against average with a 0.901 save percentage.

The Cyclones finished the season as the top scoring team in the ECHL with 247 goals scored. The next closest teams were the Alaska Aces (243) and the Florida Everblades (240). The Cyclones are also the best disciplined team in the ECHL with a league low 839 penalty minutes taken. They enter tonight’s first playoff game on a run of 6-2-2-0 (14 points) in their last 10 games played.

How do you feel our ECHL club will fair in the playoffs? What do you make of the Admirals that have played with them this season? Any surprises – positive or negative? Could Hellberg be a key for them in a deep playoff run?

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The Roundtable’s Question of the Day

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Hockey being played in the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Is this now a sight with a ticking clock attached to it? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

In case you missed some major Milwaukee news yesterday – the Milwaukee Bucks longtime owner Herb Kohl announced that he reached an agreement to sell the team to hedge-fund billionaires Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. Kohl purchased the team in 1985 for $18 million and, if this agreement clears the NBA and its board of governors, will see a return of $550 million. So, that’s a profit.

What makes this news so huge is (A) the sale was made with the condition that the team needed to remain in Milwaukee and (B) that there is an expected plan to build a new stadium to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

While details and known “knowns” are still yet to be fully realized from this new ownership – the idea of a new stadium presents the Milwaukee Admirals with a potential challenge that they haven’t dealt with since the construction of the Bradley Center started. Where is home and what does the future have in store?

There are actually numerous questions that come to mind with this news to me. Do the Admirals, like the Bucks, leave the Bradley Center all together for this new facility? Where will this new stadium be erected? What becomes of the Bradley Center? What does an additional new venue mean for the ol’ MECCA aka the aging US Cellular Arena?

In fact, I’m sure you all probably have even more questions than just that. I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions, questions, and answers. I think this is a news story that only grows in the coming months. How it impacts the Milwaukee Admirals will be something I’m definitely going to keep my eye on as news of this ownership change continues to pour out.

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Brief Recap From Practice

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I finally had the chance to take the perfect photo of Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason… then he turned away from me.

This morning I had a few Roundtable readers with me at practice at the MSOE Kern Center. I didn’t really want to break from the crowd to sneak in some interviews, therefore, this is a little bit more of a recap of what I saw.

When I walked through the doors I saw a very pleasant sight on the ice: Mike Liambas. He was in a red “no contact” jersey just putting in the paces. My guess: I caught him cooling down. He skated by himself almost forty-five minutes before the rest of the team held practice.

Good news continued because there were so many healthy bodies at today’s practice an addition set of forward jerseys were used. Generally, to make the lines distinct, the forwards wear white, baby blue, royal blue, and yellow practice jerseys. Because of the numbers we saw green practice jerseys in use. Here were the forward line combinations from practice:

Forsberg-Jarnkrok-Cehlin
Moser-Sissons-Beck
Watson-Van Guilder-Wathier
Salomaki-Tousignant-Saponari
Pendenza-Pimm-Rask

That’s right. Mark Van Guilder was back and skating. He was in full-contact practice and, for a lower-body injury being the label, showed no ill signs. Of the listed lines – it is that last one that I suspect would be the scratch line when all is said and done for the playoffs. The other four lines? They excite me. They excite me a lot. There is incredible depth throughout those four lines. Much to be giddy about, I think.

All defensemen were on hand except for Kirill Gotovets. As the AHL recent transaction wire states: he was released from his ATO. He played real well in his professional debut. I expect him to find a place quickly – unless he is still under contract with the Blackhawks – even he didn’t sound like he really knew when I spoke with him about how he joined the Admirals.

The last thing to note: Marek Mazanec has brand spankin’ new CCM goalie gear in complete Admirals colors. Nice!

What do you think of these line combinations? Is this as balanced and as talented as the Admirals have looked all season? 

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T.J. Brennan Wins Eddie Shore Award

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T.J. Brennan has consistently led AHL defensemen in scoring this season. The next closest, Adam Clendening of the Rockford IceHogs, has ten fewer points. (Photo Credit: David Cooper / Toronto Star)

The AHL announced today that Toronto Marlies T.J. Brennan was voted the winner of the Eddie Shore Award as the league’s most outstanding defenseman during the 2013-14 season.

Brennan has been a dynamic offensive force from the blueline all season for the Buds, racking up a team-leading 24 goals and 69 points in 73 games (good for fifth in the AHL). Those numbers stand as the most points by an AHL defenseman since 2005-06, and the most goals since 1999-2000. Brennan has a league-leading 42 power play points, and leads the league with 12 man advantage goals. The full season proved to be a carry over of the 25-year-old’s fast start, as Brennan picked up two hat tricks in his first three games.

Previous NHLers who won the award include Johnny Boychuk, Justin Shultz, Sheldon Brookbank (with the Admirals), Niklas Kronwall, Eric Weinrich, Brian Engblom, Darren Rumble and Brad Shaw just to name a few.

Considering the Admirals current playoff position (fifth), one point ahead of Abbotsford which has a game in hand, and Toronto’s (third), Brennan could be a Milwaukee foe in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

So Roundtable . . . Who is your vote as the Admirals best defenseman this season? Lots of good choices to pick from: Anthony Bitetto (10 goals, 35 points & 85 PIMs), Bryan Rodney (33 points), Joe Piskula (23 points, team-best not including Jarnkrok +20 rating), captain Scott Ford (+6 & 81 PIMs) are all great choices, or perhaps Charles-Olivier Roussel, Joonas Jarvinen or Scott Valentine?

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The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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The Stanley Cup playoffs start tonight. How great is that to say? While our Nashville Predators may have missed out on playoff hockey for the second consecutive season – I always find the playoffs to be a fun watch when you are a neutral. That said, boy are there some fun match-ups right in the first round.

The two high power opening round meetings that I am most looking forward to are the St. Louis Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks and then the Boston Bruins against the Detroit Red Wings. Each of those series should be gripping to watch and each will see a serious contender not reaching the second round. Were I to pick my winners from those series: Blackhawks in six games… Red Wings in seven games.

As for a personal Stanley Cup prediction – I think we could see the Anaheim Ducks against the Pittsburgh Penguins – with the Ducks winning in six games. If that were to happen, think of the perfect send off for Teemu Selanne to end his career on.

What are your predictions? Which match-ups excite you the most in the first round?

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Nashville Predators sign Felix Girard

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This is Felix Girard. And he is here to compete with Calle Jarnkrok for sickest flow in the organization. (Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett)

Yesterday, the Nashville Predators officially came to terms with Felix Girard on a three-year entry level contract. The Quebec native was drafted by the Preds in the 2013 NHL Draft in the fourth round (ninty-fifth overall).

The 19-year old center just finished his playing time in the QMJHL with Baie-Comeau Drakkar. In four seasons he played in 240 games, scored 142 points (45 goals, 97 assists), amassed 288 penalty minutes, and has a plus/minus rating of +31. In his last two junior seasons he won the Guy Carbonneau Trophy as the QMJHL’s top defensive forward.

In the press release there is no mention of him reporting to Milwaukee. Should I see otherwise, when attending practices today and tomorrow, I will provide an update.

Is this another element to next season’s Admirals group? What do you expect from Felix Girard in the Predators system?

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