Admirals Roundtable 101

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SOON. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Ladies and Gents. The 2014-15 Milwaukee Admirals season is almost here. Fantastic isn’t it? To get you all prepped for this year on Roundtable I would like to give you all the run down of the what and where.

First let’s get the who out of the way. My name is Daniel Lavender and I am the editor-in-chief of Admirals Roundtable. This will be my second season at the helm. If you liked what you got out of our end last year, great news! I fully expect to attend all home games, provide game recaps throughout the entirety of this season, audio from all my practice session or post-game interviews conducted with coaches and players, feature stories, and updates from around the sport of hockey as they occur.

Also contributing to the Roundtable will be Jason Karnosky from time to time. Expect him to provide his news and insight – as well as NHL Trade Deadline Day coverage.

As always, a roundtable isn’t much of a roundtable without joining in on the discussion. That’s why there are a variety of ways to get into the banter: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and right below each and every story on our website in the comments section.

Additionally, you will often find me in the media section at all home games. I also walk the ice after a game and like to chat with you fans by the Admirals player tunnel prior to the start of the head coach’s post-game presser. I’m always happy to hear from you folks in person. Never be shy. Stop on by, say hello, and let’s talk hockey! …it’s kind of my thing.

Our website will really start to get revved up as the Nashville Predators pre-season starts up tomorrow night. As those games rattle off I expect players will start shuffling over to Milwaukee ahead of our own pre-season. The fun is right around the corner. Let’s drop the puck already.

Posted in Feature, News | 3 Comments

Kevin Henderson to Rejoin the Texas Stars

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Kevin Henderson joined the Milwaukee Admirals in the 2011-12 season. He now looks set to leave the team for the Texas Stars for a second consecutive year. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

According to Sean Shapiro of Wrong Side of the Redline 27-year old winger Kevin Henderson is set to rejoin the Texas Stars for the 2014-15 season. He joined the Stars in March of last season on a loan deal that also saw Francis Wathier exchanged on a similar basis here in Milwaukee.

Shapiro cites an email conversation held with the manager of communications for the Nashville Predators Kevin Wilson:

“The intention is to again assign Kevin Henderson to Texas in time for their training camp,” Wilson wrote in a e-mail after an inquiry about the forward’s status. The move is dependent on Henderson clearing waivers.

To say the least, Henderson’s effort and contribution last season in Milwaukee was inconsistent. He produced 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) in 50 games and had a plus/minus rating of -3. Compare that to the year prior, the 2012-13 season, which stands as his best professional season to date: 29 points (17 goals, 12 assists) in 67 games with a +13 rating. He also earned his first career NHL call up and scored a goal in the process.

What went wrong for Henderson after that great outing of 2012-13? If you look into that offseason you’ll have seen the Predators organization sign players such as Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks, and Viktor Stalberg.

All such players featured that similar style of play that Henderson is known for: gritty, strong on the wall, defensive, and an ability to jump out of defense to offer some extra skill in attack. That glass ceiling that Henderson managed to breakthrough the year previous to those signings being made was thickened. Rather than blitz through the ceiling against all odds, as he did the year prior, he appeared to retreat into a shell. He took 7 games to record his first point as an Admiral in 2013-14 and another 4 games before his first goal.

Once he left the Admirals locker room and joined the top team of the AHL last season, the Texas Stars, he amassed 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in 15 games with a +2 rating. His playoff performance in Texas also saw more consistent results as he picked up 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists) from 21 games en route to the Stars Calder Cup triumph.

It was only ever going to be awkward if Henderson rejoined the Admirals this season considering the circumstances in which he left the team last year. He fell out of favor in making the starting lineup. And he wasn’t producing when given the chance. When he joined the Stars it seemed to steer him back towards form but it still wasn’t close to what he was in the 2012-13 season.

Was it worth bringing Kevin Henderson back into the fold with the amount of youngsters set to join Milwaukee this season? Where did this story all go wrong after he made his first-career NHL appearances in Nashville?

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Pekka Rinne’s 2014-15 Mask Unveiled

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Pekka Rinne’s 2013-14 Nashville Predators mask made its debut here in Milwaukee last season. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The genius of David Gunnarsson of DaveART is at it yet again for Pekka Rinne. The ace air-brush painter, and man behind many of the goaltending masks you see in the NHL and around the world, unveiled Rinne’s brand new mask that will be used during the 2014-15 season.

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(Photo Credit: David Gunnarsson)

The theme here is rather self explanatory for those who have watched the film Gladiator. It is named Maximus after all. It also stays true to previous incarnations of Rinne’s masks in which a faux-mask is used to cover a beastly looking figure behind the lid.

I’m not certain if Magnus Hellberg or Marek Mazanec will be going back to the well this season in the mask department. Both have DaveART masks for the Admirals and Predators already as it is: Hellberg Ads, Preds // Mazanec Ads, Preds.

Thoughts on Pekka Rinne’s new mask? Would you like to see new lids for Hellberg and Mazanec? If you were to customize a goaltending mask what designs would you have on it?

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 17

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Don’t worry, Mark. We’re getting there! It is almost time to drop the puck. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Firstly, this out to be the final “Summer Ramblings” of the offseason. When the weather is dipping below 50 degrees like it did here in Wisconsin over the weekend – it is just hard to use a term like summer. Besides, great news! The hockey season is on its way.

The rookie tournament that is currently taking place in Nashville has a day of practices today. The games resume tomorrow with the Predators getting a look at the Boston Bruins prospects squad. Preds won their first game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime and lost in regulation to the Florida Panthers. The Bruins lost 2-0 against the Panthers and followed that up with a 3-2 defeat to the Lightning in OT.

Once the rookie tournament caps off the pre-season for Nashville begins one week from this Tuesday:

Tuesday, Sep 23 @ Tampa Bay: 6:30pm CST
Thursday, Sep 25 vs. Tampa Bay: 7:00pm CST
Saturday, Sep 27 vs. Florida: 3:00pm CST
Saturday, Sep 27 vs. Florida: 7:00pm CST
Monday, Sep 29 vs. Columbus: 7:00pm CST
Saturday, Oct. 4 @ Columbus: 6:00pm CST

The next question you probably have is: when will the first Milwaukee Admirals practice take place? From what I’ve heard it should be taking place on October 2nd – just prior to the pre-season finale for the Predators but a week and a day before the AHL season opener.

Hockey’s Future Top 20 Predators Prospects

It’s been awhile for me to digest this one. And the more I look at the list the more I argue who should go where. According to Hockey’s Future the Top 20 list for the Preds prospects comes out as such:

1. Filip Forsberg (LW)
2. Kevin Fiala (LW)
3. Vladislav Kamenev (LW)
4. Calle Jarnkrok (C)
5. Juuse Saros (G)
6. Colton Sissons (C)
7. Pontus Aberg (LW)
8. Jack Dougherty (D)
9. Brendan Leipsic (LW)
10. Jimmy Vesey (LW)
11. Magnus Hellberg (G)
12. Viktor Arvidsson (LW)
13. Justin Kirkland (LW)
14. Jonathan-Ismael Diaby (D)
15. Austin Watson (C)
16. Miikka Salomaki (LW)
17. Taylor Beck (LW)
18. Patrick Cehlin (RW)
19. Marek Mazanec (G)
20. Johan Alm (D)

Quite the list right? About fourteen of that twenty could be in Milwaukee this season. The positive comment out of the way. I don’t agree with Hockey’s Future here. (1) I’d have Fiala at the top. (2) Jarnkrok has a brighter future than Forsberg or Kamenev in my book. (3) On what planet is Salomaki projected less, at this point, than Watson? (4) It’s fascinating to me how the goaltenders have been placed. Both Hellberg and Mazanec had whirlwind seasons last year while Saros had one of his own in Europe. Should Saros really rated that high, though? (5) Five of the twenty named are 2014 NHL Draft selections by Nashville. So that went really well.

Bickering, etc etc. It’s a list. Speaking of which, Forsberg comes in as their eighteenth prospect per the 2013-14 post-season rankings. I have to assume a new one is on the way.

Do you agree with the rankings given from Hockey’s Future? Who is in your top five prospects in the system? Me: (1) Fiala, (2) Forsberg, (3) Jarnkrok, (4) Sissons, (5) Salomaki.

The Predliner

Tonight I’ll be taking part in a webcast with the Predlines crew. This should be taking place just about every week from this point forth. I’ll be sure to get the Milwaukee Admirals chatter going on that and throw the finished YouTube product up on our assorted social media: Facebook and Twitter. With the rookie tournament being fresh in most minds in the first edition of that. It should be a good watch and listen.

Posted in Ramblings | 3 Comments

The Rookie Report: Fiala Garnering Attention

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The Nashville Predators top pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Kevin Fiala, has been looking right at home in Predators yellow this weekend. Can the 18-year old actually make the opening day NHL roster? (Photo Credit: Jim Diamond/Rinkside Report)

This weekend in Nashville, the Predators played hosts to the start of a rookie showcase that will see the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning all breaking in the new Ford Ice Center. It gave us all a glimpse into some quality prospects and, best of all, the start of the hockey season.

The first two games played for the Predators this weekend were against the Lightning and Panthers. That meant getting a good look at some real solid prospects from around the league: Jonathan Drouin and Aaron Ekblad.

Game 1. Predators 2, Lightning 1 (OT). Kevin Fiala scored the opening goal for the Preds on the power-play. Meanwhile, Magnus Hellberg stopped all twelve shots he faced before the mid-game goalie swap with Rob Madore. It wasn’t the greatest of greetings for last year’s Kelly Cup MVP. Madore instantly had to face a full 5-3 power-play chance for the Lightning, killed it, and allowed a goal on a follow up power-play for the Lightning – Brayden Point with the goal. In overtime, Filip Forsberg brushed off six penalty minutes and came through with the game-winning wrister.

Game 2. Predators 1, Panthers 3. From following this game via the Nashville media folks on Twitter – it sounded as if there wasn’t a whole lot of even strength five-on-five from this game. There were plenty of penalties called both ways. The Panthers got on the board first after a shot pass by this year’s first overall draft pick Ekblad found his teammate Logan Shaw for a redirect. The man who was wearing the ‘C’ for the Preds rookies, Colton Sissons, tallied a rebounder to level things up through two periods. Yet it was the Panthers who had the last good push in this one. Vincent Trocheck ripped a shot through Hellberg in the third period to give Florida the 2-1 lead – and Steven Hodges added an empty netter to seal it.

The man who really seems to be taking the spotlight so far in these first two games has been Fiala. The 18-year old seems to be playing with incredible pace to his game. He had a goal in the first game and was all over the place (in the best of ways) in the follow up. The more you see out of him the more you like. It starts making me ask the following question. Can he make the Nashville Predators 2014-15 roster?

I can’t help but see another one of the prospects mentioned up above, Drouin, the more I watch the tape on Fiala. Drouin is a year older than Fiala but both are close in size, have similar playing abilities, and have the craftiest of hands. Drouin was selected third overall the 2013 Draft versus Fiala in 2014 as the eleventh overall selection. Drouin did spend last season at the age of 18-years old back with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. He should be getting unleashed into the NHL this season. The question for Nashville will be whether or not Fiala needs that extra year outside of the NHL to get that little bit more polished. Either way, I think the Predators may have picked up a gem in this year’s draft.

You can see more photographs from this game via Jim Diamond of the Rinkside Report. Take a look at the backdrop of the Ford Ice Center as well. It’s a really beautiful looking facility that they’ve put together down there.

Can Kevin Fiala play at the NHL level this season? How are these prospect games making you feel in regards to the Milwaukee Admirals 2014-15 season considering how many players on the roster will be in the AHL this season? Does it make you more confident in what the Admirals could do with a young roster?

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NHL Makes Some More Rule Changes

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Here at Admirals Roundtable we have one good photo of an official. We don’t know who this official is. But we hope he appreciates the exposure. (Photo Credit: Steven Christy)

Don’t you hate it when you are watching a shootout and every single player in it does a spin-o-rama? Well great news! Because the NHL has officially been permitted from both the penalty shot and shootout.

There are a few other changes that do actually make better sense than that one. Let’s take a look at what they’ve added or altered to the NHL Rule Book.

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Rule 1.8 – Rink – Goalkeeper’s Restricted Area

The trapezoid will be expanded by two feet from the goal post on both sides of the net.

Rule 23 – Game Misconduct Penalties

A new Game Misconduct category will be created. Clipping, charging, elbowing, interference, kneeing, head-butting and butt-ending move from the general category into the same category as boarding and checking from behind (“Physical Fouls”), whereby a player who incurs two such game misconducts in this category would now be automatically suspended for one game.

Rule 24 – Penalty Shot

The ‘Spin-O-Rama’ move, as described in Section 24.2 of the 2013-14 NHL Rule Book, will no longer be permitted either in Penalty Shot situations or in the Shootout.

Rule 38 – Video Goal Judge

Video review will be expanded in the following areas:

* Rule 38.4 (viii) has been modified to allow broader discretion to Hockey Operations to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g., to ensure they are “good hockey goals”). The revised Rule will allow Hockey Operations to correct a broader array of situations where video review clearly establishes that a “goal” or “no goal” call on the ice has been made in error. The new expanded rule will also allow Hockey Operations to provide guidance to referees on goal and potential goal plays where the referee has blown his whistle (or intended to blow his whistle) after having lost sight of the puck.

* In reviewing “Kicked in Goals,” Hockey Operations will require more demonstrable video evidence of a “distinct kicking motion” in order to overrule a “goal” call on the ice, or to uphold a “no goal” call on the ice.

Rule 57 – Tripping

The rule relating to “Tripping” will be revised to specifically provide that a two minute minor penalty will be assessed when a defending player “dives” and trips an attacking player with his body/arm/shoulder, regardless of whether the defending player is able to make initial contact with the puck.

But, in situations where a penalty shot might otherwise be appropriate, if the defending player “dives” and touches the puck first (before the trip), no penalty shot will be awarded. (In such cases, the resulting penalty will be limited to a two-minute minor penalty for tripping.)

Rule 64 – Diving / Embellishment

The supplementary discipline penalties associated with Rule 64.3 (Diving/Embellishment) will be revised to bring attention to and more seriously penalize players (and teams) who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Fines will be assessed to players and head coaches on a graduated scale outlined below.

Incident # Player Fine(s) Head Coach Fine(s)
1. Warning N/A
2. $2,000 N/A
3. $3,000 N/A
4. $4,000 $2,000
5. $5,000 $3,000
6. $5,000 $4,000
7. $5,000 $5,000
8. $5,000 $5,000

Rule 76 – Face-offs

To curb delay tactics on face-offs after icing infractions, in situations where the defending team is guilty of a face-off violation, following an icing, the defending player who is initially lined up for the face-off will be given a warning, but will be required to remain in the circle to take the face-off. A second face-off violation by the defending team in such situation will result in a two minute minor bench penalty.

Rule 84 – Overtime

* Teams will switch ends prior to the start of overtime in the regular season.

* The entire ice surface will undergo a “dry scrape” prior to the start of overtime in the regular season.

* The procedure requiring the head coach to submit a list of the first three shooters in the shoot-out has been eliminated.

Rule 85 – Puck Out of Bounds

There have been further rule changes made relating to face-off location to avoid penalizing teams for plays intended to create bona fide scoring opportunities. Specifically, the following are “categories of plays” where face-offs will remain in the attacking zone despite the fact that the attacking team was technically responsible for the stoppage in play: Shots at the net by a player on the attacking team where: (i) the shot breaks the glass; (ii) the shot goes off the side of the net and deflects out of play; (iii) the shot goes off the dasher boards or glass and deflects out of play; (iv) the shot is tipped or deflected out of play by a teammate; and (v) the shot becomes wedged in or on the exterior of the goal net.

In addition, the following rule change will be enacted for the 2014 preseason and may be continued for the 2014/15 regular season if approved by the League and the NHLPA.

Rule 1.9 – Rink – Face-off Spots and Circles – Ice Markings/Hash Marks

The hash marks at the end zone circles will be moved from three feet apart to five feet, seven inches apart (international markings).

* * *

The thing that comes to mind first, outside of that spin-o-ban-a-rama, is the trapezoid increasing. I actually hope that the NHL gets back to the point where there isn’t a trapezoid. It means the goalie has a risk/reward of getting far out of his net and can change the complexion of what style of goaltender you want in net: mobile/active, stay-at-home/stationary, or somewhere smack down the middle — which is kind of what this expanded trapezoid will lend to.

What are your takes on the new rule changes? Make sense? Doesn’t make sense? Which one will have the greatest impact on the game this season? 

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NHL 15: First Impressions

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NHL 15 was released to the masses yesterday. How does it hold up?

Yesterday was a big day for the video gaming demographic of our hockey reading audience. EA Sports next installment in the NHL franchise of games was launched on all platforms and your’s truly picked up a copy (PS3 for those curious – still out of the next generation console loop). This isn’t going to be so much of a review as it is a first impression of various things I see from NHL 15 and my thoughts of the good, the bad, and the oh-so ugly.

Let’s start with what many were put off by with the build up to the game’s release. Content. More to the point the lack of content. I heard anywhere from EASHL, Connected GM, Online Shootout, and Winter Classic modes – even the Custom Music option – all being axed from the game. I don’t know if the same applied to the top tier consoles, please fill in down in the comments if you can confirm it, but my PS3 copy of the game has each and every one of those features in the game. Quite frankly, if not for the number 15 and Patrice Bergeron creeping on the left side, everything from the main menu page of the game looks like NHL 14. I don’t really see anything drastically different or missing.

When I typically get a sports game such as this the first things that come to mind are (1) what are the new player ratings (2) are there new or updates faces for the players in-game (3) what new gear or equipment is in the game (4) are there new teams or uniforms that were added (5) are the players where they need to be.

In summing up those items I can say this…

Milwaukee Admirals Player Ratings: Johan Alm (67), Taylor Aronson (63), Viktor Arvidsson (68), Taylor Beck (77), Anthony Bitetto (71), Zach Budish (68), Patrick Cehlin (71), Jonathan-Ismael Diaby (65), Filip Forsberg (77), Felix Girard (63), Triston Grant (72), Magnus Hellberg (77), Brendan Leipsic (73), Mike Liambas (65), Marek Mazanec (73), Jimmy Oligny (62), Joe Piskula (69), Jaynen Rissling (66), Miikka Salomaki (77), Josh Shalla (64), Colton Sissons (76), Scott Valentine (70), Mark Van Guilder (70), and Austin Watson (77).

Things worth noting from that. That roster came from the first update. And came after I made substantial changes because players such as Scott Ford, Mathieu Tousignant, Charles-Olivier Roussel, Francis Wathier, Joonas Rask, and even the recently signed by the Hartford Wolf Pack Vinny Saponari… were all still on the Admirals roster.

Players such as Alm and Arvidsson had to be brought over from their Swedish team. Multiple players were still on their junior team. And players such as Pontus Aberg don’t even exist despite their team being in the game. It’s all rather bizarre and just plain lazy from EA Sports to not know who is on what roster. There was an updated roster dated to 9/3/14 on launch day. It gave me this laughable amount of incorrect player movement. It’s a headache purely from the basis of how lazy something like that really is. Bryan Rodney is still an Admiral per NHL 15’s 9/3/14 roster. It’s baffling.

New faces in the game? It depends on how you take that. On one hand, players such as Liambas and Mazanec have their headshots in the game. There are actually a boat load of new player headshots to spot in NHL 15. Even ye ole Juuso Puustinen has an updated headshot for HIFK. That’s great to see from an appearance perspective. They should have players new headshots and images in the game. But then comes the problem I run into year after year from a game like EA’s NHL series. There aren’t enough players in the game that look like who they are.

Shea Weber, Seth Jones, Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, Roman Josi, James Neal, Viktor Stalberg, and even Pekka Rinne behind the mask – they have their accurate faces and visual identities captured. Outside of that in the organization there isn’t another player that looks like them. Not one. Look elsewhere around the league and even quality players have generic faces: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tuukka Rask, Derek Stepan, Chris Kunitz… how about young players such as Tyson Barrie, Mikael Granlund, Calle Jarnkrok, Olli Maatta, Tomas Hertl, Ondrej Palat, or Mark Scheifele. They are all generic.

Would it be all well and good if everyone looked just as ghoulish and plain? Shouldn’t someone such as EA Sports churn out the visual identities to the same standard their FIFA line does yearly? If you want to see what the EA NHL series could be under an EA FIFA mind set could look like – look no further than Eddie Lack in NHL 15.

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He has everything save for his custom DaveART mask. He has his custom Brian’s goaltending gear. His face and visual representation are spot on. It is so far beyond what most characters look like in this game you can’t help but get more and more annoyed the more you stare at it. Every player under an NHL contract should look that good. Why they don’t could probably just be as simple to explain as to why the rosters aren’t accurate. Laziness.

Most uniforms are all there. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the NHL series finally updated the Admirals neck lace color to match what it has been in recent years: black on the white home jersey and white on the black road jersey. There will of course be added third jerseys from NHL teams once they get unveiled. Sidenote: I’ve never quite understood the NHL’s policy of doing things like that – unveiling alternates on ice during the middle of a season instead of before the season starts.

Additions to the uniform gallery include plenty of alternates from around the junior hockey ranks. They also added the chrome happy Stadium Series uniforms from last season. For those St. Louis Blues fans breathing a sigh of relief that your team finally has a classy look again… I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news… they’re not in the game (EA Games pun)… at least not yet.

The gameplay, as you would hope for, is just as brilliant as it was last year. If anything it is simply better because of the addition of the NBC hockey crew doing the play-by-play commentary. I do wish that Doc Emrick shouted more. He sounds somewhat asleep at times. If they had him shout, “OFF THE POST WITH THE SHOT,” literally every time you hit a post – it wouldn’t get old.

There are still some hitches in the game’s giddy up. Replays look like they used the shaky cam technique from Cloverfield. Players without sticks seem to not care that they don’t have a stick and remain on the ice until a complete line change is hailed. The sorts of minor things that should all get hammered out when the game launches that initial patch. Nothing to worrying really. At its core it is the exact same fun EA NHL gameplay that you know and love.

That’s my first impressions. For those who are still on the fence about making the purchase hopefully this gives you a better sense of what’s what. It’s a lot like NHL 14 with some tweaks and crisper visuals. Enough to have made me pull the trigger. I’d imagine those of you on Xbox One or PS4 would only be enjoying it that little bit more than myself… that is if the content is there.

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 16

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Colton Sissons appears to be on the outside looking in as far as NHL roster spots in Nashville go. What should we expect for his 2014-15 season? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Happy Monday, Roundtable. We are now just thirty-two days away from the season opener. Even sooner than that will be the Nashville Predators pre-season training camp. It’s all starting to get jolly exciting! Let’s dive into a few topics to kick off the week.

Pre-Season Training Camp

This past Friday the Predators announced the roster for the team’s pre-season training camp. There are loads of names on my prospect radar that I can’t wait to see how they handle themselves during the camp. While 2014 NHL Draft selections such as Kevin Fiala and Viktor Arvidsson will look to make a solid impression in camp – I have to say that it is some of those familiar names that peak my interests far more.

Colton Sissons: Battling for an NHL Role

When the Predators added Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, and Derek Roy it seemed like the room for a man the likes of Colton Sissons was pushed out of the early season plans. Calle Jarnkrok is clearly favored over Sissons. And it would appear the puck is really on Sissons stick tape to make the Predators think otherwise.

My thought on Sissons, from last season, is that he isn’t exactly someone who does any one particular thing flashy or exciting – he just does the smart and simple things he needed to do. At the AHL level his offensive numbers were great: 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) in 62 games. Yet, playing predominantly on the Predators fourth line when given the chance, his NHL numbers were a lesser 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) from 17 games. When you consider his counterpart Jarnkrok tallied 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) from 12 games – you might understand why Sissons needs to do that little bit extra to impress.

Mind you, I still have my reservations as to the Predators veteran additions from the offseason. Jokinen, Ribeiro, and Roy all signed for one-year deals at affordable prices. That always seemed low risk and high reward to me. Best case scenario: things work, the team keeps everyone, and they make the playoffs. Worst case scenario: things don’t come off as well as planned, they all get wheeled and dealed at the trade deadline to contending teams, and the Predators do not make the playoffs.

What would that last option mean in the scope of a guy such as Sissons? It would allow him to be the Admirals top-line center, work in a multitude of game situations he might not get to play in at the NHL level, and then get called up following the trade deadline to play a third or fourth line role. End game isn’t so bad there. Though I have to imagine most, especially Sissons, would rather push the bar of what he accomplished last season as soon as possible.

Watson Watch

The simple questions I’d have at this point regarding Austin Watson would be… (1) Is he going to play at center again or remain where he finished last season on the wing? (2) Does any of that even matter at this point? With players like Jarnkrok and Sissons leap frogging him last season and more young forwards being brought into the professional ranks this season, Brendan Leipsic and Pontus Aberg to name two quickies, you question if there is really a place in Nashville for Watson anymore?

Regardless of how good of a story it was for Mark Van Guilder getting his first career NHL game last season – I have to question what both Watson and David Poile felt having a move like that happen. With him being an RFA after this season, I’m questioning whether or not he is really in anyone’s long term plans for the Predators. Simple Fact, it is up to only one person to make that be the case. And it’ll be worth seeing out of a pre-season training camp and early goings of the Admirals season if that actually sinks into that one person’s mind.

The Forgotten Finn

Who led the Milwaukee Admirals in points last season? A rookie. Which rookie? Why none other than Miikka Salomaki – yet another young versatile forward that should be knocking on the NHL door this season. 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists) in 75 games for the Admirals last season. Not to mention he played 10 games for Finland at the World Championships where he recorded a goal and an assist. He played the better part of last season as a winger but was plenty comfortable taking faceoffs and working as a center for the Ads. All while being that “bull in a china shop” as his head coach Dean Evason would describe him.

So, all of those great things being said as a reminder, does he have a legitimate chance to play NHL games this season for the Predators? What could he do this season that he didn’t do last season? …aside from not getting a match penalty that one time. If Salomaki repeats what he did last season. The Admirals would benefit hugely by his work rate and the Predators should have him on their short list as a guy they need to give an NHL run-out this season. He was making splashes in that pond for playing time last season. It didn’t happen. His training camp in the pre-season could go that extra bit further than most prospects who’ll be attending due to that fact.

Tendy Swag

In the, not too many people will care department, I do have one more question as far as pre-season camp. And that is whether or not we’ll be seeing new masks or gear for the goaltenders. We already know that Magnus Hellberg made the switch in the offseason from Reebok to Warrior (improvement in my book). With his actual gear for this season decked out in Admiral white, blue, and black – would an upgraded Ads mask be next on deck for Pelle Magnus? He ran with a Preds mask here and there last season. I’m thinking, based on the new pads, that a new Admirals mask is in the works.

As for Marek Mazanec, I would be pretty surprised to see him add to the locker. He picked up new CCM gear just before the start of last season’s playoffs. Prior to that he was wearing Reebok. And, his Admirals mask, is too sharp… can’t improve perfection… or can he? We shall see.

Minor Update

On a personal note, I want to mention that I recently picked up additional writing responsibilities over at Predlines. It was a place I did a story or two for last season and quite enjoyed it. Now I should be popping up a story once a week or more as the season storms along. What does that mean for here? Probably nothing. This is still my “go to” outlet for all things Admirals and Predators. I just like that there will be an additional outlet this season. And, perhaps, we might see a crossover at some point to get some Q&A with the folks working there as well. I think for the time being everyone there would join me in saying, “just drop the puck already.”

What storylines are you following heading into the pre-season training camp? Are there NHL jobs to be had by Admirals of last season? Is Colton Sissons the odd man out? Can they make Magnus Hellberg’s mask but do it in the form of a kitten?

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Nashville Announces Training Camp Roster

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Marek Mazanec is one of many Milwaukee Admirals that are due to take part in the Nashville Predators pre-season training camp. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Breathe it in. Hockey season is starting up and the Nashville Predators are geared for their pre-season training camp. Their first day on the ice will be exactly two weeks from today and will set the table for six pre-season games.

Tuesday, Sept. 23 @ Tampa Bay: 6:30 pm CST
Thursday, Sept. 25 vs. Tampa Bay: 7:00 pm CST
Saturday, Sept. 27 vs. Florida: 3:00 pm CST
Saturday, Sept. 27 vs. Florida: 7:00 pm CST
Monday, Sept. 29 vs. Columbus: 7:00 pm CST
Saturday, Oct. 4 @ Columbus: 6:00 pm CST

In addition, there will also be a team scrimmage on September 21st at the Centennial Sportsplex. Who will all be taking part in the pre-season training camp? Here is a look at the roster released this afternoon via the Nashville Predators:

Forwards

Pontus Aberg
Viktor Arvidsson
Taylor Beck
Gabriel Bourque
Zach Budish
Patrick Cehlin
Rich Clune
Matt Cullen
Kevin Fiala
Mike Fisher
Filip Forsberg
Frederick Gaudreau
Paul Gaustad
Felix Girard
Triston Grant
Calle Jarnkrok
Olli Jokinen
Justin Kirkland
Brendan Leipsic
Michael Liambas
James Neal
Eric Nystrom
Joe Pendenza
Mike Ribeiro
Derek Roy
Miikka Salomaki
Josh Shalla
Colton Sissons
Craig Smith
Viktor Stalberg
Mark Van Guilder
Tommy Veilleux
Austin Watson
Colin Wilson

Defensemen

Johan Alm
Taylor Aronson
Victor Bartley
Anthony Bitetto
Jonathan-Ismael Diaby
Mattias Ekholm
Ryan Ellis
Aaron Irving
Seth Jones
Roman Josi
Garrett Noonan
Jimmy Oligny
Joe Piskula
Jaynen Rissling
Mikko Vainonen
Anton Volchenkov
Shea Weber

Goaltending

Magnus Hellberg
Carter Hutton
Rob Madore
Marek Mazanec
Pekka Rinne
Devin Williams

Plenty of new names that Ads fans will soon become quite familiar with this season. Not to mention plenty of Admirals who’ve been around the past few seasons. In only two weeks time they’ll all be on the ice looking to impress. Here is hoping all avoid a quick-start injury in camp ahead of the season… knock on wood.

Which prospect do you feel can make the biggest impression on Peter Laviolette and the Nashville Predators? Who are the guys making a push for NHL roles in camp? Which new players are you most excited about joining the Milwaukee Admirals this season?

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 15

VivaLasVegas

Las Vegas? Hockey? Hockey? In Las Vegas? Is it the plot of the next Hangover movie or an actuality that we can expect in 2017 from the NHL?

Let’s discuss a topic that I’ve been busy digesting since it first surfaced one week ago. That topic is of course the recently suggested NHL expansion to not one, not two, not even three, but four locations: Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City, and Toronto.

This story kicked off on my watch with a report that an NHL expansion to Las Vegas was a, “done deal,” according to sources. No word if those sources were these guys or not but, fact of the matter was, that triggered more response on the matter of league expansion with the other proposed cities entering the mix – including a date of 2017 in mind.

The NHL league offices had a response to the Las Vegas “done deal” report. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Sports Illustrated that, “It’s not in our plans, there is absolutely nothing new in that.” He also cooled thoughts on a franchise such as the Florida Panthers packing up and heading West in that same article.

It is all very cloudy days for this idea of a 2017 NHL expansion. My thoughts on the matter consist of a multitude of questions on the proposed expansion. Does the NHL really need an expansion of any type? Is there a better possibility for particular teams to move rather than add more bulk to the league? If this were all set in stone fact, does Toronto really need another team – would a professional franchise survive in Las Vegas – does this mean another divisional realignment? I could rattle on and on and on.

Out of the four proposed expansion cities there are two that I think would work rather well: Seattle and Quebec. Seattle, on location alone, presents a great city and location to create good new rivalries on the West Coast. And for Quebec – some may say it’s long overdue to get hockey back there in the same vein as the Winnipeg Jets franchise might echo.

Toronto? They have the Maple Leafs with a nearby rival in the Ottawa Senators. Is another team in the same city as a long standing original six franchise really going to be all that popular among fans in Toronto? If the NHL had that rationale they may as well plop another franchise in Chicago for a laugh and the money.

Las Vegas is a really fascinating location for any professional sports franchise. It just hasn’t been all that tested. No offense Las Vegas Outlaws. I want to say, of all professional sports in North America, that less stupid activities within that city would occur with hockey players. Yet, there is plenty of potential headaches to deal with. One of them might just be the appeal of even having a professional franchise in such a tourist location. What would the long term draw be for a Las Vegas hockey team? Are we talking about something that hits the ground running and stays or just another desert based calamity of poor fan support? After all, the last season the newly named Arizona Coyotes weren’t in the bottom three of league attendance was in 2006-07 when they finished a strong twenty-fourth out of thirty teams. In short, it’d be fun to see if it could work – it just probably would plummet financially like, I don’t know, the Coyotes have year after year.

What are your impressions of a possible NHL expansion? Will it happen? Should it happen? Which of the four cities would you most like to see gain a hockey franchise?

Posted in Ramblings | 5 Comments