Nashville Signs Jack Dougherty to Entry Level Contract

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Jack Dougherty of the Nashville Predators poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JUNE 28: Jack Dougherty of the Nashville Predators poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky // Getty Images)

The prospect pool keeps getting deeper as the Nashville Predators have announced yet another entry level contract signing in the form of defenseman Jack Dougherty. The 19-year old was selected in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft and played for the University of Wisconsin last season.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 24, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Friday that the club has signed 2014 second-round selection Jack Dougherty to a three-year entry-level contract. The 6-1, 186-pound defenseman is expected to play his first season with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks in 2015-16.

Dougherty, 19 (5/25/96), spent the 2014-15 season at the University of Wisconsin, tying for fourth among Big Ten freshmen defensemen in points (2g-7a-9pts) and ranking fifth in power-play points (1g-3a-4pts) among first-year blueliners. Prior to his lone collegiate season, the St. Paul, Minn., native played the 2013-14 season with the U.S. National Team Development Program, ranking second among team blueliners in goals (6), and fourth in points (22). He helped the United States win its fifth gold medal in a six-year span at the Under-18 World Championship in 2014, and led Team USA to a silver medal at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Tournament.

Nashville’s third choice, 51st overall (second round), in the 2014 Entry Draft, Dougherty played two seasons of Minnesota High School hockey with St. Thomas Academy in 2012-13 and 2013-14 and helped the Cadets captured their third consecutive Class A state title in 2013. The sixth current or former Portland Winterhawk in the Predators organization, Dougherty is on Twitter @jackdougherty2.

As stated at the end of the opening paragraph of the Predators press release – he is expected to play for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL this coming season. For those that don’t follow junior hockey too closely just know that -that- team in Portland has a great reputation with prospects and, recently, defensemen: Matt DumbaDerrick Pouliot, Seth Jones, and Joe Morrow.

I would anticipate Dougherty to kick up around Milwaukee at the end of his junior playing seasons these next two seasons. Per junior eligibility I don’t believe he would capable of playing a full AHL season until the last year of this three-year entry level contract. If I’m wrong on that the clarification would be splendid. No matter, I stand by what I pointed to up above. He’s in good hands right now with Portland.

Update:

Sounds good enough to me. It’s not exactly the wackiest thing to see someone get their entry level contract now and not kick straight to the AHL or ECHL system either. Max Görtz signed his entry level contract last season but stuck around Sweden. And, even more recently, Yakov Trenin signed an entry level contract not too long after being drafted.

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 25

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Happy Monday, Roundtable. Last week brought lots of excitement to the world of the Milwaukee Admirals: Anthony Bitetto and Taylor Aronson were both re-signed by the Nashville Predators, the Predators extended their affiliation agreement with the Cincinnati Cyclones to keep them as the ECHL club for the 2015-16 season, and the Admirals unveiled a brand spankin’ new identity. I can only suspect this to keep escalating on and on until the season actually begins! That or there will be slow news week after slow news week until the schedule gets unveiled and pre-season starts up. Either/or. I’m good.

~Website Maintenance~

First matter of business I would like to let you all be aware that in the next few weeks I will be playing around with Admirals Roundtable’s overall look and layout. If you come to the site and it looks different or crazy… it isn’t you.. it’s me. I’m hoping to make things look as clean as possible. Any and all comments, suggestions, or ideas for updating the website I’d really appreciate to hear your feedback. If I can make this website all the more fan and user friendly it would be great. You providing your ideas can make it that much better.

Again, the website will be undergoing some changes here and there. When things are completed and I’m satisfied with the overall package I will let you all know. Until then, I’ll be playing around with various items in WordPress to see if I can’t not spruce up the place to go along with the Admirals new look. Which brings me perfectly to the first bullet point story.

~The Last Poll~

Now that the weekend is complete I can go back to our poll to tally up your grades on the new look of the Milwaukee Admirals. I think it was a great reflection of what I heard from fans in-person when the “All Aboard” event launched the new logos and uniforms. It is thumbs up. Thumbs way way up.

A: 72.25% (151 votes)
B: 19.14% (40 votes)
C: 7.18% (15 votes)
D: 0.96% (2 votes)
F: 0.47% (1 vote)

(209 total votes)

Entertaining that the grades even fell out perfectly in order of A, B, C, D, and F. As for that one fan who gave them an F? …joke is on you buddy (I kid, I kid, thanks for voting your honest opinion).

What’s great to see how many have taken to them straight away. I feel once the Admirals take to the ice and these uniforms and logos have some in-game use it will be interesting to go back to doing another poll to see if there is a change. Frankly, I was expecting mid-tier to “B” grades with most fans warming up to the new look once the season got going. I’m not everybody but I expect seeing these logos and uniforms in a game will make me love them even more than I do now. That word “evolution” on the new look from the old one sums it up for me. It’s not too different but different enough. I really like that and, evidently, so do you fans.

~Veteran Needed~

The hard hitting piece to today’s edition of Ramblings is all about the Admirals defense for next season. This is a topic that started up with a season ticket holder at the event last Wednesday and it is one I’m hoping gets addressed before the season starts.

The Admirals defense was rather sloppy last season and did so with someone like Joe Piskula playing great on one of the three defensive pairings. He’s gone now. And the next oldest veteran defensemen that take that mantle are Conor Allen and Anthony Bitetto – both of whom are six-years younger than Piskula. The defensive group might be deep as it stands right now -but- the youth in this team is going to be equally as punishing as it was last season unless a real anchor is brought back into the mix.

Were Piskula still around? I feel pretty good about how the Admirals stack up defensively to help out Marek Mazanec and Juuse Saros. Without him? I feel like it forces players like Taylor Aronson, Johan Alm, and Jonathan Diaby to really step up to the plate with far greater seasons than last year. That presents a solid question. Can they?

Aronson only just completed a full AHL season last year, was good offensively, but hit and miss on defense. He will not only need to prove that the 2014-15 season wasn’t a flash in the pan for him but that he is ready to take another step and be an NHL caliber player – something Bitetto pushed for last season. Aronson garnered enough respect last season to be re-signed by the Predators for another season. Should he fail to meet anything less than doing more than last season he would be letting the Predators, Admirals, and himself down.

Alm seemed to be a really great find by the Predators when he signed as a free agent last summer. Now it feels like he needs to prove that to be true. He’s not only one of the older of the ‘young’ defense but he’s perhaps the most seasoned by having played 135 games of pro hockey in Sweden prior to making the North American trek last season. His debut as an Admiral was problematic and some of which wasn’t all his fault. He suffered an injury that sidelined him for much of the first half of the Admirals season and didn’t seem to start finding a groove until later in the season. And that’s not saying much because his groove late in the season was an eleven-game stretch in March where he tallied 5 assists with an even plus/minus (+1, -2, E, E, E, +1, -3, E, E, E, +3). Much like Aronson I think Alm is in a do or die sort of season. Does he flourish and perform up to the same standards that saw Nashville sign him or does he head back to Europe like Joonas Järvinen?

Diaby is a player I have some real high hopes for thanks in-part to his experience last season. There specifically was a stretch in February when injuries hit Nashville and Milwaukee and it forced Mike Liambas to substitute in as a defenseman from his left wing role with the team. In that time Diaby was thrust into the top defensive line and looked great while there. He’s not the scoring type. He’s the big and physical d-man that can make putting pucks past and pucks to the net difficult. It’s honing in on those skills for him that could make him a great second or third line defenseman this season. If he can be really consistent it takes a massive weight off of Bitetto or Allen to be “the man” defensively.

All that said, and there are still the likes of: Jimmy Oligny, Garrett Noonan, Jaynen Rissling, Mikko Vainonen, and Kristian Näkyvä. All equally have question marks. Can Oligny be solid enough all season to not be scratched? Will Noonan be polished enough to stick in the AHL all season? Can Rissling continue off of a good Rookie Camp and push his way out of the ECHL? Will Vainonen stick around or be shipped back home like last season? Can Näkyvä adapt and be a hit in North America?

My simple message here is look at the amount of question marks as red flags. Are those red flags worth taking a risk on seeing answered on the fly? Let the prospects be prospects, make mistakes, win as a team, lose as a team, etc. It’s essentially where the Admirals stand at this present and if a veteran defenseman were added it would just be a more comfortable environment that could take some of the weight off of those questions.

Do the Admirals need more veteran players added to the team? Would you be in favor of letting the prospects play to let them make mistakes and learn from them? Surprised at all by the poll results regarding the Admirals rebranding?

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Posted in Ramblings | 10 Comments

Poll: Grade The Admirals New Look

2015-Logo-1

SKELETOR SAYS DROP THE PUCK ALREADY

A full day has passed since the Milwaukee Admirals unveiled their brand new identity. For some that is still not enough time for the logos, colors, or uniforms to sink in. To be honest, I might even still be in the boat waiting to see how the team will look like when they take the ice in the new uniforms. I think everything looks pretty sharp. I just need that kicker to make it feel like that’s well and truly the Admirals.

The word I heard so often from the higher ups in the Admirals front office was that it is an evolution of the previous look. They’re absolutely right. It’s honestly not that different from what the Admirals had before but different enough that it pops and feels very vibrant.

When considering how each step in the Admirals logo history has been very drastic this one somehow manages to meet that without hitting you over the back of the head. I really feel from a design perspective that’s like threading a needle.

So what then of a grade? For me, the pro’s far outweigh the con’s across the entire board of what the team has hauled out. My initial reaction was mixed. Some time has passed and it has already grown on me. My grade for right now is a B and I think it’ll go up once the team takes to the ice.

What is your grade? What are your likes and dislikes about the Milwaukee Admirals rebranding? Are there anythings you would like to see changed, tweaked, or removed?

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

Posted in Numbers, Ramblings | 9 Comments

Predators Extend Affiliation Agreement with Cincinnati

(Photo Credit: Cincinnati Cyclones)

(Photo Credit: Cincinnati Cyclones)

Great news to all of our ECHL readers. The Nashville Predators have extended their affiliation agreement with the Cincinnati Cyclones to be their ECHL outfit for another season. The Cyclones have partnered up with the Predators since the start of the 2007-08 season.

Press Release via Cincinnati Cyclones:

For Immediate Release: July 16, 2015

CYCLONES EXTEND PARTNERSHIP WITH NASHVILLE

Teams to Continue Affiliation for Ninth Season

CINCINNATI, OH- The Cincinnati Cyclones, in conjunction with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, have announced that the two organizations have extended their affiliation agreement, making the Cyclones the official ECHL affiliate of the NHL club.

“We look forward to continuing to work with such a class organization that creates a winning environment for our players to develop,” Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton said. “Led by President Ray Harris, the Cyclones have been a model of consistency the past eight seasons and have been critical to the success of the Milwaukee Admirals and the Nashville Predators.”

The Cyclones have served as the ECHL affiliate of Nashville since 2007-2008. In that time, the ‘Clones have reached the ECHL postseason seven times, claiming Kelly Cup championships in 2008 and 2010, and reaching a third Kelly Cup Final in 2014. The Predators have participated in the NHL’s second season five times during that span, finishing second in the Central Division in four of those five playoff seasons.

“We are excited to extend our relationship with the Nashville Predators,” said Cyclones General Manager Kristin Ropp. “They are a staunch supporter of our program and a solid support system for our coaches.”

Seven Nashville prospects suited up for the Cyclones last season alone, while six players with Cyclones experience have seen time with the Predators since the affiliation agreement began.

The countdown to the 2015-16 First Face-Off is underway! The Cyclones will return to U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday, October 17 when they host the Toledo Walleye at 7:30pm. Between now and then, be on the lookout for several offseason events like Meijer Concrete Clones! 2015-16 Season Ticket Packages are available NOW! Call 513.421.PUCK to reserve your seats. Fans can also get the latest team updates throughout the offseason on Facebook, Twitter (@CincyCyclones), and Instagram!

It nearly goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyways. It’s remarkable how long Nashville has kept its AHL and ECHL affiliates for so long whilst so many other organizations get crazy with changes on a nearly year to year basis. From Fall 2007, the pipeline has been Nashville – Milwaukee – Cincinnati. It’s like a constant in the world we can all rely on.

There have been many members of the Admirals who’ve clawed their way up the ladder from the Cyclones: Ryan Maki, Mark Santorelli, Mark Van Guilder, Jeremy Smith, Mike Liambas, Taylor Aronson, Kevin Henderson, Ben Ryan, Charles-Olivier Roussel, Scott Darling, Zach Budish, Vinny Saponari, and this list goes on and on into the future.

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

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Taylor Aronson Re-Signs With Nashville

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

The Milwaukee Admirals defensive nucleus just got a little bit stronger. Taylor Aronson has agreed to a new one-year two-way contract with the Nashville Predators.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 16, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that defenseman Taylor Aronson has accepted his qualifying offer and signed a one-year, two-way contract with the club worth $605,000 at the NHL level and $65,000 at the AHL level.

Aronson, 23 (12/30/91), tied for 12th among AHL defensemen, and ranked second on the Milwaukee Admirals, in assists (29) during his first full season at the level in 2014-15. The 6-1, 196-pound native of Placentia, Calif., also led Milwaukee blueliners in points (32), and tied for third among league blueliners in power-play assists (16) a season ago; he earned his first career NHL recall on Feb. 12, 2015. In 2013-14, he helped the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL) reach the Kelly Cup Final, tying for third among ECHL defensemen in assists (32) and ranked seventh among league blueliners in points (38) during the 2013-14 season.

Nashville’s second choice, 78th overall (third round), in the 2010 Entry Draft, Aronson played two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL) from 2009-11, recording 67 points (10g-57a) in 142 games. One of five Portland Alumni in the Predators organization, Aronson is on Twitter @TAronson37.

Aronson is coming off the best pro playing season of his career. He spent all of the 2014-15 season with the Admirals at the AHL level and ended the season as the team’s highest scoring defenseman: 32 points (3 goals, 29 assists) in 73 games. Prior to last season he was up and down (mainly down) between the AHL and ECHL. As it stands right now, much like this time last season, he is the only right handed shooting defenseman in the mix for the Admirals.

Happy to have Aronson back for this season? Do you feel like last year was a breakthrough effort for him or a flash in the pan? What will his signing mean for the likes of other defensemen currently at the AHL/ECHL setup and who is looking to be the odd men out of Milwaukee?

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

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The Chatterbox, Vol. 81

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

This is Jonathan Diaby. He is really good a being a tall person. This jersey must be massive. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Happy Thursday, Roundtable. What’s new? Oh.. everything? True. In fact I feel like the line “Welcome to the New Age” can be used ad nauseum right now. If it wasn’t enough that the Milwaukee Admirals were going to be sporting a very exciting, young, and talented team for the upcoming 2015-16 season they went ahead and nuked the old look in favor of something new.

I have to say, whether it was seeing the Roundtable Twitter feed blow up or the in-person responses I heard, this seems like a massively popular new look for the Milwaukee Admirals. Purely a guess: 98% positive response based on all the feedback I’ve read on Twitter, Facebook, and from people at “All Aboard” yesterday. When I look back to the poll I conducted not too long ago it was mainly split between those wanting a new look or not wanting one at all. The latter of that group sounded pretty into it when the new logos flashed in the jumbotron unveil. So, I think everyone is a winner in this little rebranding. Especially the Admirals merchandise sales – which you can help skyrocket right here.

At the event I was lucky enough to chat with a pair of Jonathans. One is tall dark and handsome. The other is the team president. Here is what both had to say in regards to the new look for the Admirals and more.

Continue reading

Posted in Chatterbox | 12 Comments

Milwaukee Admirals Unveil New Logos and Uniforms

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Welcome to a brand new era of Milwaukee Admirals hockey. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It was a historic night for the Milwaukee Admirals as they introduced a brand new era in the franchise’s history. The team’s image has gone through a complete overhaul ahead of the 2015-16 season and, like each rebranding that has taken place in team history, the new look of the Admirals is a drastic change to the one before it. The great news is that this look and identity is entirely their own in a league filled with teams that mirror their parent NHL affiliates. This is not the Milwaukee Nashville Predators. This is the Milwaukee Admirals.

2015-Logo-1

2015-Logo-3

2015-Logo-2

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

2015-Uniforms-1

2015-Uniforms-2

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Press Release via Milwaukee Admirals:

Milwaukee, WI—The Milwaukee Admirals are excited to usher in a new chapter in team history with the unveiling of a bold new logo and jerseys.

The new logo is an evolution of the Admirals last logo and features a more fierce and determined sailor. The sailor is accented by the upper portion of a naval uniform and a hat that was inspired by the one worn by the Admirals “Captain Crunch” logo from the late 70s and early 80s. The hat is adorned with an “A” composed by three bones.

The Admirals secondary mark, dubbed the M&A, is the letters “M” and “A” interwoven in bone script and connected with a hockey stick for the horizontal bar of the “A”.

The primary color of the new look now shifts to navy blue (Pantone 282) with the same Lake Michigan blue (Pantone 292) accents used with the previous logo and a gray outline.

The Admirals new jerseys will both feature the head of the sailor on the front of the with the M&A mark on both of the shoulders. The home sweater will be primarily white with navy blue sleeves, accented by Lake Michigan blue piping and a touch of gray separating the two blues. The road jerseys will be navy blue with Lake Michigan blue sleeves and white accents.

The Ads will continue use of their third jersey from previous seasons that featured the popular full body logo. The only difference is the black in the full body logo is replaced with navy.

The new look was conceived in coordination with Studio Simon, a sports brand identity development company out of Louisville, KY. Studio Simon is one of the leaders in sports brand identity development and has teamed up with over 100 professional, collegiate, and amateur teams, leagues, and businesses including the NFL, the Minnesota Twins, and the Kentucky Derby.

First things first, the event to unveil the brand new identity of the Admirals was sensational to be part of. It felt as if there was more than an average attendance to a game inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center and hearing the immediate reaction of fans as the logos were unveiled on the jumbo-tron was electric. Didn’t get the chance to attend? Sad, but great news! As the Admirals recorded the event so you can watch it all in its YouTube glory:

I feel that the immediate thing that jumps out is the revamped color palette. The team has dropped a more simplistic “black, white, and baby blue” look and gone for something different. The “Lake Michigan” blue we’ve become used to remains but it is now accompanied by a slightly lightened shade of navy blue along with white and a small touch of gray. It makes me think of the Pittsburgh Penguins colors used during the Winter Classic. I’ve always been a big fan of that look. And I think this will work well in Milwaukee.

What comes next is something of an epidemic taking hold of so many professional sports teams right now which is to make the caricature representing the team’s logo look very -very- angry. The Milwaukee Bucks are guilty of doing this exact same thing not too long ago.  “But, it’s a skeleton. How does one make a skeleton of a pirate playful yet still aggressive?” Well, friend, I’ll tell you how: this. The problem is of course finding the balance between fun and aggressive when dealing with a team name such as the Admirals in the sport of hockey. The team went the fun route. It lasted about 10 years – which by AHL standards is incredible. Now, it’s time that they try doing in a more mean and hard hitting approach. It’s different but a good different.

The new logo seems to not only carry over from some of the previous logo but also play off of the old Captain Crunch logo. It’s as if the team has taken those two worlds and wrapped them up with a mean exterior. The problem is that these angry looking logos right now feel cliche right now. I know using a skeleton in a pirate theme puts you in a corner design wise but I even see this looking like a blue version of the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers logo… or as Ryan Miller brilliantly pointed out at the event, Skeletor.

There is plenty to like though. The main logo graphic with the team name and star looks great. I’m a fan of the “A” in the Admirals hat as a motif to logos of old. I also think that the hidden “M” in the collar of the pirate is a clever hidden detail. Best of all. The head logo looks great on the jersey. Speaking of which.

My first actual glance of the new uniforms came via PDF. I included the images of them up above. My impression was that the color scheme didn’t appear to match the actual colors used in the logos. It reminded me more of those Charlotte Hornets uniforms that the Checkers rolled out last season. In short, I didn’t just want to see them in person tonight to pass judgement I needed to see them in person before thinking anything of them. What’s the result then? Good.

The Admirals are going from simple to a look that feels loud at first – but is eerily similar in qualities to what it is replacing. The black is swapped out by navy basically while the Admirals ditched a ye olde Reebok Edge uniform template in favor of something a touch different. The color on the shoulders running to the sleeves? Still there. The color that runs down the side panels underneath the arms? Still there. Socks that have the previous color blocking design on them? Same, just different colors being used as with the uniform set.

If there were any real downers for me in this unveiling it is the interlocking “M&A” bones logo and the “new” third uniform. Let’s just squash it now. The third uniform is the old third uniform that we know and love all the way down to the old logo (yes, the old logo) still being there. All that has changed is that the black has been replaced by navy on the uniform, the new fonts for name and numbers, and that is it. Weirdly, even the anchor bones logo is still on that third jersey. Which brings me to the “M&A” logo that is replacing it on the shoulders. It was very well received at the event and in social media. But it is a logo that is a major downgrade to me as opposed to the anchor logos used on the sleeves previously. It’s trying to be the Milwaukee Brewers interlocked MB logo from the 90’s but does so in a construction that looks like a tangled mess. Interlocked logos as shoulder patches on hockey jerseys don’t seem to make sense to me. It’s sloppy. Which is strange considering how crisp the “A” looks when standing alone. It looks awesome on the new Admiral caricature’s and Roscoe’s hat. Why muck it up by plopping more bones atop it and threading a hockey stick into it?

Another thing that I didn’t detect until looking at the Scott Paulus photos when I arrived home was the numbers from last season are back. No, not the font style but -if you look very closely at the third uniform’s arm numerals- the way that they applied to the jersey is the same as last season. They aren’t patches. They aren’t stitched. They’re effectively screen printed, cut up into odd shapes, and applied directly to the uniform. It was a weird change that started last season and I’m not sure if it was purely an Admirals only move or if the AHL’s CCM branding change had anything to do with it. In fact, it is such a small detail that I didn’t catch it until a few games into last season. Some fans purchasing the game-used jerseys at the Admirals Garage Sale weren’t as thrilled about how those looked compared to actual stitched names and numerals. Sadly for those in that boat it looks like more of the same.

All things said. I think this new look will take some time to grow on me but it is also quite sharp. It’s actually not that drastic of a departure from what the Admirals are moving away from but is different enough to really pop. At the end of the day I think that’s the whole goal of a rebrand. And the Admirals did a solid job.

What is your reaction to the brand new look of the Milwaukee Admirals? How would you grade them? Which uniform is your favorite?

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

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Nashville Predators Re-Sign Anthony Bitetto

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

JETER IS BACK! (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It hasn’t been the most ‘up’ of times for Milwaukee Admirals fans who have seen the likes of Joe Piskula, Mike Liambas, Magnus Hellberg, and more exit stage left this off-season. Now for a spot of great news. The Nashville Predators have stamped out a new one-year two-way contract for defenseman Anthony Bitetto.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 13, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Monday that defenseman Anthony Bitetto has accepted his qualifying offer and signed a one-year, two-way contract with the club worth $665,500 at the NHL level and $60,000 at the AHL level.

Bitetto, 24 (7/15/90), made his NHL debut during the 2014-15 season, appearing in seven games for the Predators in January and February. The Island Park, N.Y., native spent the majority of his third professional season with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals in 2014-15, ranking second among club blueliners in points (4g-26a-30pts). During his first full AHL season in 2013-14, the 6-1, 200-pounder tied for sixth among AHL defensemen in goals (11), and for ninth in power-play goals (6).

Nashville’s fourth choice, 168th overall (sixth round), in the 2010 Entry Draft did not miss a game during his two-year collegiate career at Northeastern University (Hockey East) from 2010-12, compiling 35 points (7g-28a) in 72 games and being named to the 2011 Hockey East All-Rookie Team. During his draft-eligible season in 2009-10, Bitetto was a 2009-10 All-USHL Second Team selection with the Indiana Ice, ranking fourth among United States Hockey League defensemen in points, third in assists and sixth at the position in goals (11g-29a-40pts).

He is on Twitter @ABitetto7.

Bitetto has taken massive steps forward in his development these last two seasons. In 2013-14 he exploded for 36 points (11 goals, 25 assists) in 73 games. If there was a lone downside to that year it was having a plus/minus of -13. His 2014-15 season he addressed the defensive areas of his game while still providing an offensive touch from the blue line: 30 points (4 goals, 26 assists) in 70 games with a plus/minus of -1. It all built up to his first taste of NHL hockey by contributing 7 games of work for the Predators during last season.

This move is of course great business for Nashville. They can really use that extra option from the AHL that can instantly step up into their NHL ranks if need be. He’ll immediately assume the role as the top defenseman in the Admirals outfit for the 2015-16 season and should seamlessly plug into any and all on-ice situations.

Simply put, this is a win/win to have Bitetto back. He always seems to take the year before him and one-up it. I’m excited to see what 2015-16 will be like for him and I think that the biggest beneficiary of this is of course the Admirals who needed a legitimate anchor in their defense. He will be that. And it will set him up nicely for Nashville.

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

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Summer Ramblings, Vol. 24

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Taylor Beck. May you join your Admirals brethren in the splendiferous lands of Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Firstly, thanks to all for lovely Birthday wishes yesterday. I had a great weekend and it’s going to roll on all the way to the Milwaukee Admirals “All Aboard” event on Wednesday. Hope to see you all there for that. Especially if you watched UFC 189. We can then have a chat about that, too.

~So Long Taylor Beck~

The Nashville Predators wound up making a trade late yesterday afternoon that sent Taylor Beck to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Jamie Devane. Beck was set for arbitration with Nashville but Devane’s contract is a two-way deal that comes to an end with the completion of the upcoming 2015-16 season.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 12, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Sunday that the team has acquired forward Jamie Devane from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Taylor Beck.

Devane, 24 (2/20/91), has spent the majority of his three-season professional career at the American Hockey League level, posting 15 points (6g-9a) and amassing 253 penalty minutes in 118 games with the Toronto Marlies. The Mississauga, Ont., native also appeared in his first two NHL contests with the Maple Leafs during the 2013-14 season.

Toronto’s fourth selection, 68th overall (third round) in the 2009 Entry Draft, the 6-5, 220-pound left wing played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers from 2008-12, recording 114 points (53g-61a) and 411 penalty minutes in 237 games.

While it is sad that Beck is yet another member of the Predators/Admirals joining the Maple Leafs organization in recent memory (Brendan Leipsic, Rich Clune, Rob Madore) it was only a matter of time. What I hope many don’t forget is that last season Beck turned up to pre-season camp in Nashville with zero guarantees that he was coming back and set his sights to earn a one-way contract. He did, and it is that mentality and work ethic that I think so many like a player like Beck.

Beck can do so many different things on the ice well. So what’s the real problem? Simply, the talent pool at forward is not only plentiful but too talented to ignore. What’s a Beck when the likes of Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidsson, and Miikka Salomäki are all wingers that could play his role? It’s not a knock against Beck. It’s a credit to the Predators scouting department to get so many talented players that push the bill from the AHL level up. Beck did it beforehand. Now the same opportunity to earn an NHL spot is there for someone new. Internal competition is phenomenal for a team to push itself to be great top to bottom. Nashville is doing just that right now and its great for both the Predators and Admirals as a result.

~Going Going, Back Back, to, Calle Calle~

This topic comes with a tip of the cap to a tweet sent out by Jeremy Gover yesterday. He wasn’t doing anything more than taking a shot in the dark at what Nashville’s forward lines might look like at the start of next season but I happen to agree with him:

What fascinates me here is Calle Järnkrok‘s spot. Whether you’re thinking center or on the wing it is tough to get that spot for him. Do you look to rotate him and Fiala early on? What about flipping him and Gabriel Bourque here and there?

I always believe in circumstances a player the likes of Fiala or Järnkrok should be using their time wisely by being active rather than stationary. Is it great experience training and practicing with the top tier team with elite level talent? Absolutely. I don’t deny the benefits of that. Yet, there is a difference between playing in an actual game versus practice.

Järnkrok and Fiala are both great talents. Järnkrok had some real nice flashes during his first full NHL season up in Nashville that included the opening round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Fiala is incredibly committed to making the Predators opening day roster and being an NHL name ASAP. Järnkrok turns 24-years old in late September. Should it be Fiala gaining a spot on the wing over Järnkrok it wouldn’t hurt the Swede to start his season as a top line and multi-scenario piece to the Admirals in the AHL. It would keep him extremely active and sharp in the need for an emergency or long term call up. The exact same can be said for Fiala who turns 19-years old next week Wednesday. Patience is a good thing. Dropping back down to the AHL for the start of the season isn’t a setback as much as it can be a fully functional launch pad.

What are your favorite Taylor Beck moments either with the Admirals, Predators, or both? Do you feel that the Predators should keep young forwards up with the NHL outfit even if they continuously were to healthy scratch them from the lineup? Is Nashville done adding depth players to make decisions like “Järnkrok to Milwaukee” easier to do? Flipside of that, is Nashville done trading players away to give their younger forward depth a chance to shine for the Predators?

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Posted in Ramblings | 2 Comments

AHL’s Rule Changes for the 2015-16 Season

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New rule changes make on-ice officials cray. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It seems as if there is always something new to the hockey rule book and last season the AHL was a proving ground for a new overtime format. The NHL put a twist on that by mandating three-on-three only for overtime this coming season. Now it looks like the AHL will follow along to mirror things topside. Also, we’ve all finally been given that crucial answer to the Pacific Division mystery. What on Earth will the AHL be doing if Californian clubs play less games than the rest of the league?

Settle back, get something nice to drink, and brace yourself. Because I feel like some of this will feel a touch like a walk down Vogsphere.

Press Release via AHL:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors has concluded its 2015 Annual Meeting, held this week at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Chaired by AHL President and CEO David Andrews, the four days of meetings, which concluded Thursday, saw the approval by the Board of the following items to be implemented beginning in 2015-16:

Playing Schedule/Standings
• The 2015-16 regular season will consist of 1,120 games, played between Oct. 9 and Apr. 17. All teams will play 76 games each with the exception of the clubs which joined the AHL in January as part of the creation of a Pacific Division (Bakersfield, Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, Stockton); those five teams will play 68 games each.

• Teams will receive two points for a win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss. The top four teams in each division ranked by points percentage (points earned divided by points available) will qualify for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs, with one exception in each conference: if the fifth-place team in the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a better points percentage than the fourth-place team in the North or Pacific Division, it would cross over and compete in the other division’s bracket.

• The 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs will feature a divisional playoff format, leading to conference finals and ultimately the Calder Cup Finals.

• The division semifinals are best-of-five series; all subsequent rounds are best-of-seven.

Rule 85 (“Overtime”)
• During the regular season, the sudden-death overtime period will be five minutes (5:00) in length.

• Full playing strength will be 3-on-3 (plus goaltenders) for the entire period.

• Overtime will be preceded by a “dry scrape” of the entire ice surface.

• Teams will change ends at the start of overtime.

• If the game is still tied following overtime, a winner will be determined by a three-player shootout.

Rule 79 (“Video Review”)
• A team may use a “coach’s challenge” to initiate an official video review; only those situations which are subject to review by rule may be challenged.

• A team may only request a coach’s challenge if it has its timeout available, and the coach’s challenge must be effectively initiated prior to the resumption of play.

• If the coach’s challenge does not result in the original call on the ice being overturned, the team exercising such challenge will be charged with a timeout.

Rule 76.4 (“Face-offs”)
• For all face-offs (excluding center ice), the defending player shall place his stick on the ice first; for face-offs at center ice, the visiting player shall place his stick on the ice first.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 14th year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2014-15.

You get all of that? Well let’s start with the simple one which is the new overtime format.

~Overtime~

It’s essentially a simplistic take on last season’s added three-on-three. There will be no extra minutes. No numbers being reduced or anything silly. It begins with three-on-three overtime, five minutes, and -if overtime somehow manages to make it to a shootout- then things go to a best out of three shootout.

If the NHL and AHL were looking for ways to find a winner in open-play rather than a shootout this format should do wonders. The AHL’s overtime format last season had great results and I feel this should only amplify them. There is so much open ice in the three-on-three and the single biggest obstacle is players getting tired from shifts being so long as they race end to end without a true safe zone to make their change on the bench.

Most, if not all teams, typically went with two forwards and one defenseman in the three-on-three situation and I expect that to be the norm in both the NHL and AHL. While I found it ironic early last season that the move towards three-on-three was to avoid deciding games based on a skill show/shootout, because both are pond hockey like anyways, this still ended up being a great thing. Games can be decided from a defensive play or a high quality pass. As comedic as it can look, three-on-three does have enough variables to make ending a game past regulation have a bit more of an honest touch than a blink and you’re done shootout can provide. For our NHL readers that didn’t get a chance to watch the AHL do this last season the word that Milwaukee Admirals players used, specifically both goaltenders, was chaos. It is. And I suggest studying up on panic attack relief now as a preventative measure before the season begins.

~Coach’s Challenge~

This one excites me a bit. Though I feel some interpretations of on ice rulings may still cause this to be hit and miss (goaltender interference comes immediately to mind). Yet, this is still a ruling and addition to the game that has long been overdue in my book. Why wouldn’t you allow teams to challenge a controversial play on the ice?

I also appreciate the new dimension that gets added to the ice because of this added ruling. You have one timeout in the game of hockey. Just one. If you don’t burn it early in the game. You have the right to use your challenge. If you’re team has a crazy long shift and ices the puck – do you burn your timeout to save the players on the ice, and possibly a goal, or save the timeout in case you need to use video replay via the coach’s challenge later in the game? It’s a situation that will come up far more often now than you realize and I think more timeouts are going to get stored when icing calls go down now.

~Faceoffs~

…ok.

~Playing Schedule and Standings~

Confirmed: the Pacific Division’s Californian based teams will play less games and the rest of the league will not. Teams will still receive two points for a win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss. Now buckle up and re-read what the AHL has listed for how the standings and playoff format will work:

The top four teams in each division ranked by points percentage (points earned divided by points available) will qualify for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs, with one exception in each conference: if the fifth-place team in the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a better points percentage than the fourth-place team in the North or Pacific Division, it would cross over and compete in the other division’s bracket.

I think the most basic way to think of the standings now is that it will be based on percentages rather that basic points. Rather than “we win (+2), we sort of win (+1), we sad face (+0)” it is now all about the current points standing divided by the maximum points amount possible at the given games played mark for each individual team. In other words, I wish the Admirals stopped playing games at the end of January this last season and coasted into the playoffs based on points percentage rather than carry on towards the miserable finish they had.

This seems alright enough, but I still find it appalling that the Californian based teams have been given less games on the schedule with an equal chance to make the playoffs against teams that have weathered the elements of a full schedule. It’s laughable and I would love for one or more of the Californian teams to make the playoffs and then win it all just to make a mockery of the situation. I’m going out on a limb now and saying next season’s schedule will probably drop to 68 games league wide.

Thoughts on the new rules from the AHL? Is the new standings and playoff format fair? Is it the best they could have done given the circumstances? How do you feel the full three-on-three overtime format will go? Will coach’s challenge be that big of a deal to the game of hockey?

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Posted in News | 4 Comments