With the Milwaukee Admirals at a wee bit of a break, and a four-game road trip in the cards, I think it is time for a great little discussion piece for us to engage on. With so many young and talented commodities in Milwaukee, such as Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok, should the Nashville Predators be testing them in the NHL right now?
It’s a hot-button issue that comes up plenty when I hear discussions about some of the top prospects that we have in Admirals camp right now. The names mentioned above come up quite frequently – and with great reason when you consider what was exchanged for their services. What I feel many miss in those recent trades over the past two seasons is the age difference in those trades.
One better than the age difference is the sheer experience drop off in terms of North American professional playing experience.
At the time of this season’s trade, Jarnkrok was in the run of his first-full season of North American hockey with the Grand Rapids Griffins. He had a late season cameo with the Griffins, playing in nine-games, but didn’t really sink his teeth into it until this current campaign.
When Forsberg was acquired at last season’s trade deadline – he was still a member of Leksands of the Swedish Elite League. He did get to cross the pond and play five-games in Nashville by season’s end, scoring his first career NHL point from an assist, but he was still an 18-year old experiencing a whirlwind of fast and new.
With that in mind – let’s then cut to the chase of the “play them in the NHL now” debate.
Currently, Forsberg is tenth on the Admirals in scoring with 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists). He’s made a splash on the power-play by scoring five of his nine goals on power-play. As his season has gone on his maturity level has become more and more evident on the ice.
No longer does Forsberg sit back on defense and await the Admirals defense to get the puck back to him and so he can start up the offense. Now, he engages and pressures puck carriers and maintains puck pursuit to the point he’s made the team’s penalty kill. The more he contributes in the killing role the more he continues to look the part as he sharpens up his defensive skills to go along with that well known flair on offense.
Jarnkrok has an overall total of 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) in his time with the Admirals and the Griffins this season. Since his acquisition his points production has been outstanding: 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists) in five-games with the Ads.
It has been a a small sample size of Jarnkrok in an Admiral uniform but a good one at that. It seems no matter what game situation gets thrown his way he’s up to the task. Even in his first game as an Admiral, with plenty of bodies out of the game, head coach Dean Evason saw fit to play him as a defenseman in the game’s final seconds.
Here is the important part to all of that AHL information in regards to the “play them in the NHL now” debate. In what possible way do either of those two players even remotely play to the same standard as they do in the AHL, with a multitude of ice time and game situations, as they would with the Nashville Predators as they currently stand?
A very good example of this exact same situation comes with 20-year old stand out for the Admirals this season, Colton Sissons. He has 41 points (24 goals, 17 assists) in fifty-six games in the AHL this season. In eight games with the Nashville Predators he has 2 assists from 9:17 minutes of average ice time as a member of the fourth line.
Is his experience in those minutes of game action, practicing with NHL talent, traveling with the team, and learning day-to-day life at the NHL level beneficial? Of course. But, is his development stunted by not experiencing the amount of different game situations that he would see with the Admirals?
In my opinion, it’s a case of quantity (AHL) versus quality (NHL) – and there isn’t much of a point for the quality when the quantity of playing time isn’t there to be fully experienced.
That is precisely the exact same way I feel about players such as Forsberg and Jarnkrok. There are high ceilings on both of their futures. And that is just precisely the thing that I feel everyone needs to take grasp of here in the present. With them, Sissons, and more in Admirals camp right now – it is all about the future.
At the present, the Nashville Predators are third from the bottom in the NHL’s Western Conference with a record of 29-29-10 (68 points). They trail the Dallas Stars for the final Wild Card spot by seven-points.
Long story short, they probably will not make the playoffs this season. This again stirs up that “play them in the NHL now” debate in the sense of, if the season is a loss anyways, why not play them now to see what they’ve got?
While a quick look up top for a guys like Jarnkrok or Miikka Salomaki, who have yet to taste the NHL, could be beneficial. It again under-utilizes their development time and could, given the status of the team, set them off on the wrong foot.
I’m not trying to knock the Predators team down a peg in saying that. But, of the two teams playing right now, the Admirals stand a better chance at a deep playoff run than the Predators do. If you’re Nashville, do you think time spent kicking about at the tail-end of a season is better use for an 18-year old like Forsberg – or – is playoff hockey, and the circumstances that come with it, more of an attractive option than just displaying future talent to the fans?
The key word for Predators fans when it comes to these players right now is patience. It’s a word that you often hear thrown around in the AHL because it is a development league. Right now I feel the Predators are in the middle of a development mode as an organization. The defensemen and goaltending are all squared up in the system. It’s those flashy forwards who all are eager to see. Problem is, they are still incredibly young and the usage of time playing on the third or fourth line in a much different capacity than they should be used – just doesn’t cut it right now.
Patience, Nashville Predators fans and readership. The future looks pretty good from where I see things and the right moves are being made from general manager David Poile. If the forward group, as young as it is, plays together and comes up together – it might lead to something rather unique. Not to mention, if they come up together at the right time to join Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, Seth Jones, and friends… we could be looking at something special in the seasons ahead.
How would you play GM in this situation? Should the young forwards see the NHL or remain at the AHL level?