The Chatterbox, Vol. 62

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

At least this guy’s bobblehead was awesome last night. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals franchise record nine-game winning streak came to a crashing halt last night at the hands of the Grand Rapids Griffins. It was a 3-0 shutout and a performance that lacked the level of quality that the Admirals were producing during their run. Was it all bad? No, not really. Still there were too many moments from the game that could have been avoided.

On the first goal that the Griffins scored Teemu Pulkkinen was in the penalty box waiting to be unleashed. He was. And the Admirals were far to passive with their puck control at the end of the power-play. Rather than keep the offensive cycle going the puck got jarred loose, sent up ice, and sent the Griffins off on a two-on-one. Pulkkinen threaded his pass by Taylor Aronson to Mitch Callahan, goal.

While the second tally might be off a rebound. It’s still something that could have been avoided. Colton Sissons, Viktor Stålberg, and Aronson were both playing to the puck along the left wing wall too tight and exposed Landon Ferraro between the hashmarks. Nathan Paetsch‘s point shot may have kicked out to Ferraro but, with no one to close him down, he had no pressure on him to whack in the rebound chance that he had. He was all alone.

The third goal was an all-around mess highlighted by a good individual effort by Tomas Nosek. Joe Piskula‘s pass out of the defensive zone was batted down by Mark Zengerle and trickled to Nosek who made a hard skate in off the right wing across the mouth of goal before pushing a shot on net to the blocker side of Magnus Hellberg. The puck found a way underneath him and was screaming to be put out of its misery – to which Zengerle obliged. A breakout play. A clearing attempt. Whatever you could call it. Piskula wasn’t able to direct the puck up ice in a way that took pressure off. Instead, he invited it right back in.

That was all the bad. I feel lost in the result there were some good things done it’s just that they didn’t impact the scoreboard. Brendan Leipsic, Viktor Arvidsson, Sissons, and even Hellberg in net all had really good performances. There were lots of scoring chances that were wired together but they never had the quality finish to beat a white hot Jared Coreau in net.

Consider it a bit of a lull on the Admirals part if you want to contributed by the All Star break. If even half the chances created by the Ads get converted in last night’s game it probably turns things into a dead heat to the finish. Hopefully the quick change over helps the team get right back in the win column with a result in Grand Rapids later tonight. It would be slightly fitting considering the last Admirals loss prior to last night was at the start of this month in Grand Rapids, after all.

After the game I spoke with Dean Evason as well as Sissons, Leipsic, Hellberg, and Mr. BobbleFists himself Mike Liambas. Here is what they all had to say following the Admirals shutout loss to the Griffins.

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The Winning Streak Is Over; Admirals shutout 3-0

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Jared Coreau has back-to-back shutouts for the Grand Rapids Griffins. That was the backdrop for a rough 3-0 loss for the Admirals to end their franchise best nine-game winning streak.(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Admirals were shutout 3-0 by the Grand Rapids Griffins Friday night. It ends the Ads franchise record nine-game winning streak in rather painful fashion. This was pretty much a game that the Griffins had in cruise control from start to finish.

“Very disappointing regardless of what has happened of in the past,” said Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. “Tonight’s game was disappointing. We played a good hockey game but we turned the puck over first goal, we make a mistake on the second, we turn the puck over on the third goal. I honestly think we out-chanced that hockey team tonight. Their goalie was great. I thought we had our chances to score. We just made some, for the lack of a better term, bonehead plays to hurt our hockey team.”

The game’s first power-play sent Temmu Pulkkinen to the penalty box for a trip to Brendan Leipsic. The problem with that is, if the power-play goes bust, the AHL’s top scorer is ready to break out of the box the other way. The Griffins worked their kill and exit to tee up Pulkkinen out of their PK and get a two-on-one. Pulkkinen passed over to Mitch Callahan who scored five hole on a first timed shot for his sixteenth goal of the season.

After the Admirals had a goal disallowed at one end the Griffins bashed in their second of the first period down at the other. Nathan Paetsh’s shot from the left point took a deflection through the net front traffic and hit off of Magnus Hellberg’s left pad. The puck fell kindly for Landon Ferraro who put in the rebound for his nineteenth goal of the season.

In the second period the Griffins extended their lead to 3-0. Tomas Nosek made a spectacular cut across the mouth of goal, right to left, and pushed a puck underneath Hellberg. The puck squirted loosed behind the big Swede who had no clue where the shot by Nosek had gone. It had fallen free behind him in the crease and was easy pickings for Mark Zengerle to score his sixth goal of the season. He probably won’t score an easier goal than that in his career.

The scoring would end right there on the night. That means back-to-back shutouts for Griffins netminder Jared Coreau on consecutive nights. He stopped all thirty-eight shots he faced against the Iowa Wild last night and all twenty-eight the Admirals threw at him tonight.

“Some guys got to look individually at some mistakes that we made,” said Evason. “After that we’ve got to bounce back. We play a hockey game tomorrow. We play a hockey team tomorrow that hasn’t given up a goal in two games and scored nine. We’re going into a real tough situation but going to enjoy the challenge.”

Ramblings: Prior to tonight’s game the Admirals recalled Zach Budish from the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. It was the second such move this week as Rob Madore was also brought up in a corresponding move to Marek Mazanec’s call to the Nashville Predators. Tonight’s scratches for the Admirals were Miikka Salomaki (upper-body), Zach Budish (healthy) and Johan Alm (upper-body). Rich Clune took an awkward hit into the end boards in the first period and did not return to the game following the incident.

Thoughts on tonight’s game? What went wrong? Can you push this aside as just a controlled game for Grand Rapids with a hot goaltender in net?

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The Undefeated Human Being Has Been Summoned

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Zach Budish doesn’t know the meaning of the word defeat. Well, he’s smart so he does but let’s just assume he doesn’t to better understand his mysterious undefeated run in the AHL this season. (Photo Credit: Rockford IceHogs // flickr)

Prior to tonight’s game there is a roster move to announce. The Milwaukee Admirals have recalled Zach Budish from the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. In addition, Frédérick Gaudreau has been activated from reserve for the Cyclones.

Budish has played in only 13 games for the Admirals this season while scoring 7 points (4 goals, 3 assists). Interestingly, or entertainingly enough, the Admirals have yet to lose a single game that Budish has played in this season. Flukey stat, yes, but credit to him because this has been a good season for him. With the Cyclones he has 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 30 games at the ECHL level.

This is the second move for the Admirals before finishing off the All Star break with tonight’s game against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Marek Mazanec was recalled to Nashville earlier in the week and placed Rob Madore back up to Milwaukee. He should be serving on the bench with Magnus Hellberg starting tonight.

Thoughts on the addition of Budish? Should he be getting playing time at the AHL level over other lower-line wingers? Will Madore get an AHL start tomorrow night?

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Griffins: Scouting the Holy Slapper

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

This is Teemu Pulkkinen aka The Holy Slapper. He’s pretty good at scoring goals. Lots of goals. (Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

Welcome back, hockey! The AHL’s All Star break is officially over for the Milwaukee Admirals. Tonight at home, tomorrow on the road, it’ll be a match-up against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Good news. The Griffins are doing a three-in-three and played last night. Bad news. Last night they shutout the Iowa Wild 6-0.

~The Enemy~

The Griffins will be entering tonight’s game with a record of 22-16-3-1 (48 points) which has them third in the Midwest Division and seventh in the Western Conference standings. They currently trail the Admirals by 5 points and have also played an extra game to this point. Simply said, these two games this weekend are going to be hugely important for the Griffins as they look to claw back in the standings.

Grand Rapids are currently on a three-game winning streak. In those three games alone they have outscored opponents 15-4, gone 6/15 on the power-play, and 8/9 on the penalty kill.

~The Holy Slapper~

Teemu Pulkkinen has been a driving force for the Griffins this season. In 37 games he has produced 47 points (24 goals, 23 assists). He leads the AHL in goal scoring as well as overall scoring. He has had goal scoring streaks of four-games and eight-games. The latter streak set a franchise record. In last night’s blowout win he recorded his first hat trick of the season. All goals that he scored were from the power-play.

Question then would be a simple one. Why is this guy not up in the NHL doing this sort of damage? Well, the Detroit Red Wings are relatively loaded up top and in 9 career games in the NHL Pulkkinen has only managed to score a goal. His development seems to be following that of Gustav Nyquist‘s not to long ago. It took the Nyquist 137 AHL games, and 143 points (53 goals, 90 assists), before securing his role with the Red Wings. Pulkkinen is currently on 110 AHL games and 106 points (55 goals, 51 assists) and trending onwards and upwards.

So what is it about Pulkkinen that makes him so deadly? His shooting ability. More specifically his cannon of a slap shot:

How has he been rifling in so many goals? That shot. He can deliver it all over the ice. Give the Griffins a power-play to work with? Ker-Blammo. The Griffins power-play has scored on 32/168 chances for a 19.0% conversion rate. Pulkkinen has scored 9/32 of those power-play goals and assisted on 8 of those goals.

In his last 12 AHL games Pulkkinen has scored 21 points (13 goals, 8 assists) and averaged 4.83 shots per contest. Andy MieleMitch Callahan, and Landon Ferraro are all having solid seasons. No doubt about that. But it’s clear that the real trigger man that makes the Griffins click is the Finn wearing numeral #6.

Pulkkinen has only failed to score in 9/37 games that he has played in for the Griffins this season. Grand Rapids is 2-7-0-0 and have been outscored 27-17 as well as shutout twice – once by the Admirals. Slow down Pulkkinen. Slow down the Griffins.

Expectations for tonight’s game? Can the Admirals winning streak hit ten games? With the Griffins playing last night – will they have an advantage over the Admirals coming out of their All Star break?

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AHL Unveils Pacific Division for 2015-16

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The AHL is officially moving out Californee-way.

The American Hockey League has officially announced the formation of a Pacific Division that will start for the 2015-16 playing season. The Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks will all moving their current AHL affiliates to California.

Press Release via AHL:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced today that the league’s Board of Governors has formally and unanimously approved the steps necessary to create a Pacific Division within the AHL beginning with the 2015-16 season.

The Board has approved the following:

• The Anaheim Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals AHL franchise and will relocate it from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego, Calif.

• The AHL franchise owned by the Calgary Flames will relocate from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Stockton, Calif.

• The AHL franchise owned by the Edmonton Oilers will relocate from Oklahoma City, Okla., to Bakersfield, Calif.

• The AHL franchise owned by the Los Angeles Kings will relocate from Manchester, N.H., to Ontario, Calif.

• The AHL franchise owned by the San Jose Sharks will relocate from Worcester, Mass., to San Jose, Calif.

Full division alignments and schedule formats for the 2015-16 season will be determined by the Board of Governors at a later date.

“Relocating five teams is a complex process, and we are very excited to have brought this initiative to a successful outcome,” said Andrews. “The Western-based NHL clubs have been in dialogue with our league for almost three years, and today’s announcement launches a new era for the American Hockey League and for professional hockey in California.”

“This is a wonderful growth opportunity for the game of hockey in the Western region and it will have a tremendous impact for years to come,” said Luc Robitaille, President of Business Operations for the Los Angeles Kings. “I want to commend each of the participating clubs, along with Dave Andrews, Bill Daly and Gary Bettman, for their commitment, patience and willingness to work through a very challenging but worthwhile process in order to get to this day.”

“The immense growth of the game of hockey in the state of California shows that hockey fans here love the game and they support it,” said San Jose Sharks Chief Operating Officer John Tortora. “Having our top prospects playing on the same coast as our National Hockey League team will greatly enhance our ability to monitor and enhance their development. The creation of this Pacific Division of the American Hockey League has been a long time in the making and is the result of an immense amount of hard work by the AHL, the NHL and the five Pacific Division teams. We are extremely excited to have this division become a reality and we can’t wait for October 2015.”

Formed in 1936, the American Hockey League serves as the top development league for players in all 30 National Hockey League organizations, as well as coaches, officials, executives, trainers and broadcasters throughout the NHL. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are graduates of the American Hockey League, and through the years the AHL has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

As mentioned in the release, full AHL divisional alignments for the 2015-16 season will be decided at a later date. One would assume a massive shuffle is in the cards with such a big change occurring.

While being a big day for the AHL it is also rather sad. You can give a wave goodbye to AHL hockey next season for Norfolk, Adirondack, Oklahoma City, Manchester, and Worcester. There is already chatter that ECHL hockey might step in to those markets but, fact today, their NHL affiliations are moving on without them.

Thoughts on today’s major AHL announcement? What will the Pacific Division mean in terms of the Western Conference and the Milwaukee Admirals? Does an announcement such as this make you appreciate the longevity of the Admirals that much more?

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The AHL’s New California Division?

The American Hockey League is likely announcing five teams moving west for 2015-2016 today. AHL logo via Chris Creamer's SPORTSLOGOS.NET

This afternoon the American Hockey League is likely announcing five teams moving West for the 2015-2016 season. (AHL logo via Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos)

The westward relocation plans for five teams have been one of the worst kept secrets in the American Hockey League for a long time.

It seems that cat might finally be let out of the bag this afternoon as the league has scheduled a press conference in San Jose for 12:30 P.M. Pacific Time to discuss a major announcement. Attendees to the conference include AHL President and CEO David Andrews, Deputy Commissioner of the NHL Bill Daly, and members of the brass from the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.

The location of the event is actually relevant. It is the intention of the San Jose Sharks to have their AHL franchise become another tenant at the SAP Center (aka the Shark Tank), becoming the only team in the league to have said arrangement (The Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies play at Ricoh Coliseum, nearby to Air Canada Centre).

The four teams joining the Worcester Sharks on their journey across the Oregon Trail are in no particular order, Manchester (L.A.), Norfolk (Anaheim), Adirondack (Calgary), and of course, Oklahoma City (Edmonton), which announced it was ceasing the operations of the Barons in Oklahoma back in December.

Cities rumored in the past to be taking their place, via Joshua Cooper of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, are all located in California: Stockton, Bakersfield, Ontario, Long Beach and San Diego, to go along with confirmed San Jose. Fresno was also rumored in connection to the Sharks move west.

Kevin Oklobzija of the Democrat & Chronicle stated that AHL Board of Governors voted during the 2015 All-Star Classic on the approval of the Kings moving the Monarchs to Ontario, California; the Oilers moving the Barons to Bakersfield, California; San Jose moving the AHL Sharks to San Jose, California; Anaheim purchasing the Norfolk Admirals and moving them to San Diego, California; and Calgary moving Adirondack to Stockton, California.

The Hockey News’ Jared Clinton confirmed that Stockton will be the eventual stopping off point for Calgary, which last offseason moved its AHL affiliate nearly 3,000 miles east from then-isolated Abbotsford, British Columbia to Glen Falls, New York for what proved to be an ill-fated one year stint. Relocating to Stockton represents another nearly 3,000 mile trek in the other direction. Adirondack’s previous team, the Phantoms, had left for Lehigh Valley during the summer.

The result of all of the franchise moving is that five NHL Western Conference teams will have their AHL prospects much closer to home in California. Will they be as close as the famed Jack Skille trek from Chicago to Rockford? In the case of San Jose (same building), Anaheim (San Diego) and Los Angeles (Ontario), yes. Edmonton to Bakersfield? Not so much.

As for the rest of the AHL, in the near future Arizona and Colorado are looking into moving their affiliates, Portland and Lake Erie respectively, west according to Clinton. Back in December, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune suggested the same fates for Arizona and Colorado, and speculated that Vancouver could move Utica, which just successfully hosted the AHL All-Star Classic, back west to now vacant Abbotsford. However, that is not in the immediate horizon.

The ECHL will likely be losing a big chunk of its Pacific Division, including the Bakersfield Condors, Stockton Thunder and Ontario Reign.

What does this all mean for the Milwaukee Admirals? For now mostly nothing, as the team is secure through 2016-17 with its extended affiliation agreement with Nashville. None of Milwaukee’s Midwest Division rivals, Chicago, Rockford, Lake Erie and Grand Rapids are expected to move west, east, north or south at this point either. The close geographically Iowa Stars also seem secure in near proximity to their NHL affiliate in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As far as league realignment and the schedule for 2015-16, obviously there are huge ramifications to be determined at a later date, via Clinton:

“One of the odder developments about the new division, however, is that they may play primarily against each other. Oklobzija stated the relocated franchises might have a reduced schedule, in the range of 60 to 66 games, while other teams in the league play upwards of 70. This would effectively allow for proper travel time while not lengthening the season, but the costs may hinder travel between the long-standing east coast divisions and the new, yet to be named division.”

Beyond ’16-’17, if, and this is purely an if, the Nashville Predators or another NHL team was looking to move their AHL affiliate, Norfolk would likely be an attractive option for a new AHL home base, as well as the currently NHL/AHL-devoid Atlanta area. Norfolk averages 4,553 fans per home date, ranking 16th, while Milwaukee averages 4,401, good for 18th out of 30 teams. Distance-wise Norfolk is actually further away from Nashville than Milwaukee. The Gwinnett Gladiators (near Atlanta), average 4,543 fans per home date in the ECHL.

So Roundtable . . . What do think of the AHL’s Westward Expansion? Can it last and be successful? Are more teams on the move in the near future, and if so, which teams will be packing their bags for greener pastures?

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The Mystery of the New Arena in Milwaukee

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Could the days of the BMO Harris Bradley Center be numbered? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Ever since the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise from Herb Kohl to Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry last April the looming news of a new arena has been rather quiet and mysterious. The sale of the Bucks was dependent on the new owners being able to meet the NBA’s deadline of establishing a new playing facility for the Bucks by November 2017. The NBA sees the 27-year old BMO Harris Bradley Center as obsolete. Questions such as “where and when” have to take a backseat to the question of “how” first. It would appear that the “how” is being settled. And we’re now closing in on the fun part.

This week there were some new developments as it pertains to the development of a brand new arena in Milwaukee. The economic impact of this new arena seems to have been put into perspective. On Tuesday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker unveiled a “jock tax” allocation plan that would mean no new public taxes would be created. Essentially, to borrow Walker’s label, the Bucks will be paying their own way.

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So, if the financial side of this conundrum has been puzzled together, then this all comes down to where and when. Where does this new arena get built? And, once settled upon a location, when does the process start and finish? With the news of Tuesday’s “jock tax” also came some renderings of what this potential new arena might look like.

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For a rendering of what it might look like. It looks sharp. Much more modern than the current concrete dungeon look of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. I would hope that this new arena, in terms of design, minimizes the number of seats within the facility in favor of space to make the experience more comfortable and intimate. And that’s what the court level view kind of looks like to me with the added flair of glass panels inside the arena itself.

There has yet to be a location chosen for the new arena site but there have been a few spots chucked out over the course of time. The lot across from the BMO Harris Bradley Center, taking down Grand Avenue Mall and replacing it with a new arena while establishing a new mall where the BC was, or possibly even locating it near the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. Again, the next question to really be addressed next is then where and when.

So what does this all mean for the Milwaukee Admirals? Good news you would think. A new arena means new tenants are needed. Any building such as that needs dates scheduled and operations to bring in business. If the NBA considers the BMO Harris Bradley Center obsolete than so to must the Admirals and Marquette University as a new arena would effectively mean the death of the Bradley Center.

As for that headache inducing question of, “would a new arena attract an NHL franchise to Milwaukee, wink wink Sports Illustrated. I simply do not see it happening. At least not straight away. A great example to me of how this could pan out in the long run is the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. It was constructed in 2003 and opened in 2004. The Manitoba Moose moved in the year it opened and would play there as an AHL franchise up until 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to town and revived the Jets in Winnipeg.

Could a new arena in Milwaukee attract an NHL franchise? Historically this has proven to not be the case. The Bradley Center was built with the NHL in mind and never accomplished that feat. Yet, with so many swirling rumors of expansion in the NHL, of course a new arena in Milwaukee will get the name into the discussion. I feel like Milwaukee as it stands from a geographical standpoint would be far better suited for success than a Las Vegas franchise. But, with other locations such as Quebec City, Seattle, and even another team in Toronto as possibilities. I just don’t see it happening simply because a new arena is on the way.

What are your reactions to the recent news on the Milwaukee Bucks arena plans? Is the “Jock Tax” a good thing? (Please not turn the comments into a full scale political attack platform, plz thx) Also, could the new arena mean NHL hockey in Milwaukee? Could Milwaukee sustain an NHL franchise?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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2014-15 Admirals Mid-Season Report Card

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The 2015 AHL All Star Classic acts as a bookmark in the season. We’re now rolling downhill and heading towards the playoff grind of the season. This would seem an appropriate time then to reflect and review all that has happened up until this point in the Milwaukee Admirals 2014-15 season.

~The Road So Far~

As of today the Admirals have a record of 24-12-2-3 (53 points). They sit second in the Midwest Division and trail the Rockford IceHogs by three points but have three games in hand to climb up into first place. The Western Conference standings sees the Admirals in a comfortable position of fourth place with a three point cushion over the San Antonio Rampage in fifth place.

The Admirals began 2014-15 with a franchise record with a six-game winning streak to start the season. Things remained relatively stable until December. The team suffered losing streaks of seven and four games to transition in and out of the month and went 3-6-2-1 in December. Since snapping the four-game losing streak that started in December and ended in January? They haven’t lost. The Admirals set a franchise record last time out by winning their ninth straight game.

There certainly have been growing pains as the season has gone along. The Admirals were the youngest team in the AHL entering the season but their age by no means has limited them. The talent of the youthful group might be the most exciting batch that Milwaukee has seen in quite awhile. And there is plenty of promise that this current winning-streak is the style and form that the team could capture as they roll into the playoffs later in the season.

~Report Card~

Let me preface by saying that these grades are purely my own judgement. I also feel it fair to grade an “incomplete” to any player that hasn’t played in half the games that the Admirals have played this season. We’re 41 games into this season. To make it fair, let’s say any player to have played 20+ games will receive a letter grade. Also, I’ll be ordering these grade by jersey number for the sake of convenience. Let’s dive in!

2, Anthony Bitetto: It’s been yet another positive step forward for Bitetto this season. Halfway in, he leads all Admiral defensemen in scoring with 22 points (2 goals, 20 assists). His work led to his first career NHL call-up and game in January. The goal scoring might not be where he would like it to be, down 7 goals from where it was this time last season, but defense is the name of the game and his +11 puts him second among Admiral defenseman. (Grade: B+)

3, Jonathan Diaby: At first, I was disappointed in what I was seeing out of Diaby. He looked uncoordinated and confused at times on the ice. He still has zero points of offense this season. Even our goaltenders have totaled a combined 5 assists. Yet, recent play has started to look more and more promising. His defense has been very strong and his pairing with team captain Piskula has been really consistent in their own zone. Plus, he is the team’s third on-ice enforcer next to Clune and Liambas. 20-years old. First full year of pro hockey. He’s doing alright for himself. (Grade: C)

7, Joe Piskula: What can you say other than reliable? The veteran leads the entire team with a plus/minus rating of +18 and has 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists) this season. He has been consistent on his defense and has been doing the better part of his work while coaching up the new guy Diaby. Captain Piskula has been the veteran leader the team has needed. He has also been the veteran leader the team has expected. (Grade: B+)

10, Patrick Cehlin: His season was rough before it even began. First he had off-season hip surgery. Then he had a blood clot that developed in his leg. He only played in four games with the Admirals before getting sent to the ECHL. He didn’t score a point with the Ads. And was recently shipped home to Sweden to finished off the rest of his entry-level contract with Leksands IF. (Grade: Incomplete)

12, Kevin Fiala: From one Swedish loan to another, Fiala’s loan period with HV71 of the SHL came to an end when the Nashville Predators assigned him to the Admirals two weekends ago. He made his debut last week and has logged two games. The ceiling with this 18-year old his incredibly high. Watching his development for the rest of the season should be a blast for all of us in Milwaukee. (Grade: Incomplete)

15, Ian White: The Admirals signed this veteran d-man to a PTO and he has 16 games with the Admirals. You know what that means? He has nine more games left before the Admirals need to make a decision on him. Were I to make a decision on the matter I would re-sign him to another PTO when the current one expires. He has scored 8 assists and is a +3 since joining the Ads. He has been a nice right-handed shooting defenseman that offers plenty of experience to the group. (Grade: C+)

16, Félix Girard: I’ve been impressed with what I have watched out of Girard. He works really hard and rarely does he have a bad shift. His skating ability is top notch and he makes smart plays on both ends of the ice while operating on the lower two lines for the Admirals. He is also one of five players to have dressed for all games this season. (Grade: B-)

17, Mike Liambas: No one has more penalty minutes (107) on the Admirals this season than Mr. Bobble-Fists. He has a team high of 11 fighting majors this season. Away from that, gasp shock awe, he has scored 5 points (4 goals, 1 assist). It’s his highest scoring hockey season since he was a defenseman with the Erie Otters of the OHL in 2006-07. It also must be said that his penalty killing has also been a plus. (Grade: C+)

18, Colton Sissons: No getting around this. It hasn’t been the follow-up season that Sissons would have wanted. He missed out on staying the the Predators out of pre-season camp due to the added veterans but also due to him lacking the offensive explosiveness that they would like him to provide. He has 17 points (12 goals, 5 assists) in 41 games this season. This time last season, through 41 games, he had 28 points (16 goals, 12 assists). Can’t quite put a finger on what has caused the offensive regression. (Grade: B-)

20, Miikka Salomäki: From one story of regression to another. You could say that the Finn’s numbers have also dropped. He has 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists) in 36 games this season. Through the same number of games last season he had scored 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists). The difference has been that “Bull in a China Shop” mentality has been refined and his all-around game has been brilliant. He was a -4 this time last season. Now he is a +15 which is the best among Admiral forwards. His consistent play earned himself an NHL call-up and debut that saw him score a goal in Nashville. It’s been a reliable season to date. (Grade: B+)

21, Triston Grant: When the season started I was over the moon at the idea of having Grant back in Milwaukee. When Clune was brought down and the team was tasked with having three similar minded players, Liambas included, I was puzzled at who the lesser of the three is. Truth be told, Grant is 30-years old and in his tenth full season of professional hockey. His wheels aren’t great. But he still offers plenty to a group as young as the Admirals. He has contributed in a multitude of ways. And I think the best asset he provides is coming up when the playoff crunch starts to knuckle down on the team. (Grade: C+)

22, Joe Pendenza: Another great find for the Admirals. Pendenza was picked up last season after his time UMass-Lowell came to an end and earned an AHL contract this past off-season. He has been one of the rotation figures on the Admirals fourth line and that puts him in the spot he is on now, Cincinnati. Yet, when he has played, he has performed very well. He has 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists in 27 games and has the second best plus/minus among Admirals forwards with a +11. It’s a shame the numbers game for forwards pushed him down the ladder. (Grade: B)

23, Taylor Aronson: I was skeptical at first with Aronson. This has been his first real season of non-stop AHL hockey. You know what? He has been great. He was the lone right-handed from the blue line at the start of the season. His overall performance has far out-weighed that he is up for the right shot alone. He has 21 points (3 goals, 18 assists) in 38 games, is a +4, and only has 12 penalty minutes – second fewest among Admiral defensemen. (Grade: B-)

24, Zach Budish: He has only played in 13 games. The Admirals have won each and every game he has played in. Budish is having the best season of his pro career. In total, between the AHL and ECHL, he has 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) and is a +17 in 39 games. Like a few on this list, it is just a shame that the numbers game has him limited to his AHL opportunities. (Grade: Incomplete)

25, Viktor Stålberg: Sad. So Sad. It’s a sad, sad situation… -but- at least he’s making the most of his time with the Admirals. In eight appearances the Swede has produced 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists). He has the right attitude with the team, as well. If there is any sort of bitterness about his current situation. It just doesn’t find its way on the ice. That’s a win for the Admirals in the time we’ll have with him on-board. (Grade: Incomplete)

28, Brendan Leipsic: Who would have thought that for a second year in a-row that the Admirals would be lead in scoring at the halfway point by a rookie? Leipsic has all the tools to be good NHL product. His skating and stick skills are great, his vision to set up teammates has him fourth in the AHL with 27 assists, and he should well have more goals than he currently has. He became the first Admiral to score a hat trick in the AHL All Star Classic on Monday. Perhaps the goals are coming to go along with all those assists! (Grade: A)

29, Mark Van Guilder: At the moment MVG’s points per game are lower than they were last season: 2014-15, 0.37 pt/g… 2013-14, 0.42 pt/g… It is the last season of the 31-year old’s contract and he’s been providing that same ol’ steady play expected of him. I would argue that the most important thing that he does is something that the AHL doesn’t statistically cover, faceoffs. His work on the dot is better than anyone on the team and, especially in penalty killing, can make a massive difference in swaying the game to the Ads favor. (Grade: B)

31, Marek Mazanec: Between the Admirals goaltending tandem it has been Maz that has played the majority of games to this point. He has been great. He really has: 13-8-3-1 record, 2.41 goals against average, 0.909 save percentage, and three shutouts. From last season to this season I see such a more calm and composed goaltender in net. He hasn’t looked anywhere near as flustered or ADHD has he did in stretches last season. It’s set him up to be back where he was last season, Nashville. (Grade: A)

33, Viktor Arvidsson: The Swede is second on the team in scoring with 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists). With the run he has had on the nine-game winning streak it feels as if it’s only a matter of time before he leaps Leipsic for the team lead. Arvidsson has had his share of highlight reel goals but it is his complete game that has him rocking and rolling in his first pro season in North America. He makes plays so quickly and his shot, especially that slapper, is lethal. I’m excited to see what his second half of the season has to offer. Will it keep elevating like it has been recently or drop back down a notch? We shall see. (Grade: A)

36, Rich Clune: When I first talked to Dicky here in Milwaukee he seemed bitter that Nashville had sent him to the AHL. I don’t know if that anger finds its way to the ice or not but he has been so much fun to watch from the moment he started with the Admirals. He has dropped the gloves nine times, posted 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 32 games, and has a grand total of 89 penalty minutes. Whether he’s singing Brett Eldredge, face punching, or scoring goals. It’s been plenty of fun seeing him work. (Grade: B)

37, Garrett Noonan: The former captain for Boston University has been the odd man out of the Admirals defense from just about the start of the season. Shame. He’s not done badly or anything but he’s just been odd man out to the likes of Diaby and Oligny. Noonan has the most goals scored by any Admiral defenseman this season with four. Yet, he current finds himself in the ECHL. (Grade: C+)

40, Rob Madore: Alright. He hasn’t “played” a game yet. He has served on the bench, though. I’m still hoping at some point we get to see the 5’10” netminder get a game here in Milwaukee. He might not be putting together the season or playoff run that he did with the Cyclones last season but he’s still a solid minor-pro goalie. (Grade: Incomplete)

45, Magnus Hellberg: Last season was a train wreck for Hellberg. He had injury trouble for the first time in his career and found himself on the bench watching Madore steal the show for the Cincinnati Cyclones ECHL Kelly Cup run. This season? It feels a whole lot like watching the Hellberg we saw carry the Admirals into the playoffs on his back as a rookie. He has a 11-4-2-2 record on the season, 1.84 goals against average, 0.931 save percentage, and two shutouts. (Grade: A)

46, Pontus Åberg: On opening night this Swede blew our minds with a highlight reel goal to introduce himself to the city of Milwaukee. Since, it has been a little hit and miss with the coaching staff very finger point-y at the miss. He has 21 points (14 goals, 7 assists), a plus/minus rating of +5, and 12 penalty minutes in 36 games. His skill set sometimes gets the best of him as he gets caught out too many times doing individualistic plays. That highlight reel goal? Great, but it doesn’t work each and every game. And that is why he has been healthy scratched for a two stints this season. (Grade: B-)

47, Jimmy Oligny: This was yet another nice find for the Admirals. Oligny was an undrafted d-man that was a leader with two different teams in the QMJHL. The 21-year old only has 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in 34 games this season but has paired nicely this season alongside Aronson. Nothing flashy. And nothing that bad to really think about for Oligny – who also happens to have four fights this season. (Grade: C)

51, Austin Watson: I remember having a talk last season with Watson where he said he was having trouble keeping up with the speed of his wingers. When he was put at right wing it seemed to give him a big boost. That translated into this season as well. He leads the Admirals with 16 goals and is third in overall scoring. He has been kicked back to center with the recent additions of Fiala and Stålberg. He’s still looking quicker than he has the last two seasons. Pair that boost with his bread and butter solid penalty killing work and he’s putting together his best AHL season. (Grade: A-)

55, Johan Alm: This is a sad story. Alm was one of the final roster cuts from Predators pre-season camp alongside Piskula. It seemed like those two were going to form a great shutdown d-pair as well. Then he suffered an upper body injury in early-December and hasn’t appeared in a game since. When I last saw him, he had a cast on his left wrist and there was dialogue from head coach Dean Evason that Alm was back to skating. No time table of when he’ll be back. It’s a shame that his first pro season in North America has been crippled the way it has: 21 games, 5 assists, plus/minus of -3, and 10 penalty minutes. (Grade: C-)

89, Frédérick Gaudreau: Another of the fourth line rotation squad, Gaudreau has had a decent showing in the times he’s been given a chance for the Admirals. He has 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists), a plus/minus rating of +6, and 8 penalty minutes. He had avoided an ECHL send down for the entire season up until last week. (Grade: C+)

How would you rate the Milwaukee Admirals through the halfway point in the season? Who has impressed and who has not impressed?

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Leipsic Scores All Star Hat Trick; West win 14-12

(Photo Credit: Milwaukee Admirals Instagram // Lindsay A. Mogle)

The Admirals All Star duo of Magnus Hellberg and Brendan Leipsic had a blast as the Western Conference won 14-12 tonight in Utica. (Photo Credit: Milwaukee Admirals Instagram // Lindsay A. Mogle)

Tonight was a record setting AHL All Star Classic. The Western Conference took down the Eastern Conference by a final score of 14-12. It is the most goals that have ever been scored in an AHL All Star contest and saw four players score hat tricks: Charles Hudon, Mark McNeillShane Prince, and the Milwaukee Admirals own Brendan Leipsic.

With the hat trick tonight, Leipsic became the first ever Admiral to score a hat trick in an AHL All Star Classic. He scored a goal in each period and was set up by a former teammate of his with the Portland Winterhawks on all three goals that he scored.

Magnus Hellberg entered into the game in the second period. In his last appearance with the Admirals he allowed a goal on the first shot he faced. That didn’t happen in the AHL All Star Classic though. He stopped the first shot he faced and then proceeded to allow four goals in 4:46 of ice time. In total, Hellberg stopped 12/18 shots on goal. Thanks to the ridiculous performance by Richard Bachman in the third period, where he stopped 18/22 shots on goal, Hellberg secured the win in the game as the West maintained their lead from the second period to the end.

Have fun watching the AHL All Star Classic? Better than theNHL’s? How did our boys look? 

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Mazanec to Nashville, Cehlin heading back home to Sweden

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Patrick Cehlin joined the Milwaukee Admirals in 2012-13. He is now being loaned to Leksands IF of the SHL for the rest of his season. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

There are two roster moves to mention ahead of tonight’s 2015 AHL All Star Classic. The first move is one that should have been expected. The Nashville Predators have recalled Marek Mazanec to the NHL. The second one is a little bit more unexpected. Patrick Cehlin will be joining Leksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League on loan for the rest of this season.

Cehlin is currently in the last year of his entry-level contract. This move back to his native Sweden should signal an end to his playing career within the organization. He took to Twitter this afternoon to say the following, “Just wanna take a quick minute to thank everyone from @mkeadmirals for the past 2,5 years. Many good memories and friends that I will keep for the rest off my life!”

During his time with the Admirals Cehlin battle through concussions as well as the scary situation this past off-season where he had a blood clot that developed following hip surgery. It delayed his 2014-15 season and, once he started, only played 4 games and didn’t score a point. He was reassigned to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL where he played 9 games, scored 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist), had a plus/minus rating of -4, and 6 penalty minutes. He would then suffer another injury that would see him return to Milwaukee to rehab it before getting set up with a loan move with Leksands IF of the SHL.

In Cehlin’s career with the Admirals he played in 112 games and scored 56 points (15 goals, 41 assists).

Mazanec’s second call up on the season comes after being shipped back to Milwaukee during the NHL All Star break. There was some speculation then if that meant a Magnus Hellberg call up could happen after his AHL All Star duties were done. Then he was pulled from Wednesday night’s 3-2 shootout win against the Utica Comets faster than you can read this sentence. Mazanec entered in relief and stopped every shot he faced and held serve in the shootout to win that game. He then got the start Friday night and stopped 25/28 shots on goal in the Admirals 4-3 win over the Iowa Wild.

Good news for Predators fans, alongside the Mazanec recall news was the follow up news that Pekka Rinne resumed skating today. He suffered a lower-body injury against the Vancouver Canucks earlier this month. Still not sure what the time table would be on Rinne’s returning ETA but my guess is that he’s a week or so away. That’s my guess. Your’s is probably as good as mine.

Probably just a matter of time before we should see Rob Madore back into the fold here in Milwaukee. I’m sure that news will come soon enough.

Thoughts on today’s news? What have you thought of Cehlin’s time in the organization? Did Nashville call up the right goaltender?

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