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.

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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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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?

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

 

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Yakov Trenin Signs Entry Level Contract

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“The Nashville Predators and Russian hockey players go together like Chinese food and chocolate pudding let’s face it.” ~Cal Naughton, Jr.

Vladislav Kamenev won’t be the only Russian second round draft pick taken by the Nashville Predators that gets his entry level contract stamped out today. Nope. The Predators have also come to terms with their second rounder and first selection taken in the 2015 NHL Draft, Yakov Trenin.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 10, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Friday that the team has signed forward 2015 draft pick Yakov Trenin to a three-year entry-level contract.

“He’s a big center, who plays a solid two-way game,” Predators North American Amateur Scout J-P Glaude said upon selecting him last month. “Despite coming from Russia as a 17-year-old who didn’t speak a word of English, he averaged more than a point per game and was fantastic defensively, especially in the playoffs when he was used on the power play, killing penalties, five-on-three and three-on-five. I see him as a complete, top-two center that can put points on the board and the coaches will love to have because he can play in any situation.”

Trenin, 18 (1/13/97), ranked third among QMJHL rookies in assists (49), fifth in points (67) and seventh in goals (18) with Gatineau in 2014-15, his first season in North America. The 6-1, 194-pound center then ranked second among rookies and led the Olympiques in the 2015 QMJHL Playoffs in points (3g-8a-18pts) despite playing in only two rounds (11gp).

Nashville’s first choice, 55th overall (second round), in the 2015 Entry Draft and a native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Trenin is currently attending 2015 Nashville Predators Development Camp presented by Holiday Inn Express and Suites of Antioch, which concludes Saturday with a scrimmage, open house, and used equipment sale at Ford Ice Center.

While Kamanev should be part of the Milwaukee Admirals for the 2015-16 season I’m pretty certain the same can’t be said here. Trenin is 18-years of age and should probably end up back with Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. In fact, per the agreement between the NHL and CHL regarding junior playing time against the likes of the AHL/ECHL, I’m pretty sure that Trenin wouldn’t be eligible to play for Milwaukee until the final year of his entry level contract.

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Vladislav Kamenev Signs Entry Level Contract

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen)

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen)

The Nashville Predators have announced the signing of their second round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft Vladislav Kamenev to a three-year entry level contract. He is expected to make his North American professional debut this coming season and should be another piece to the puzzle for the 2015-16 Milwaukee Admirals.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 10, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Friday that the team has signed forward Vladislav Kamenev (vla-dih-SLAHV KA-men-ehv) to a three-year entry-level contract. Nashville’s second choice, 42nd overall (second round), in the 2014 Entry Draft is expected to play his first season in North America in 2015-16.

Kamenev, 18 (8/12/96), ranked third among Kontinental Hockey League junior players in goals (6) and tied for fourth in points (10) with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2014-15. The Orsk, Russia native also helped his homeland earn a silver medal at the 2015 World Junior Championship, tying for second on the team in assists (3) in the process.

In his draft year, the 6-3, 182-pound left wing helped Magnitogorsk win the 2014 Gagarin Cup Championship and captained Russia at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship, tying for sixth in tournament assists, and for seventh in points (2g-5a-7pts). Kamenev also ranked third in assists (6), and tied for fourth in points (7) at the 2013 World Junior A Challenge, helping Russia to a silver medal, and suited up for all four of Russia’s games at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Tournament.

He is currently attending 2015 Nashville Predators Development Camp presented by Holiday Inn Express and Suites of Antioch, which concludes Saturday with a scrimmage, open house, and used equipment sale at Ford Ice Center.

Even at the age of 18-years old Kamenev already has 57 games games of experience with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL where he has scored 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists). Elite Prospects lists him as both a center and a left winger. With him potentially part of the Admirals it’ll be interesting to see if he begins his career off on the wing or down the middle because of the amount of centers already on the roster. It provides the coaching staff yet another option to play around with but, even more importantly, another dash of skill to an already exciting team.

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

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New Logo and Uniforms Are Coming

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BEHOLD! These probably won’t be the new Admirals uniforms… or will they? Join the “All Aboard” event next Wednesday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center to find out!

Well, I suppose that rebranding speculation can stop. The Milwaukee Admirals confirmed today that the team will be unveiling new logos uniforms next Wednesday evening at their “All Aboard” event at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Press Release via Milwaukee Admirals:

Milwaukee, WI—The Admirals are excited to usher in a new chapter in team history when they unveil a new logo and jerseys on Wednesday, July 15th at 6 pm at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The “All Aboard” event is free to attend and open to the general public. It will feature appearances by current Admirals Felix Girard and Jonathan Diaby, assistant coach Stan Drulia and past Admiral stars including Danny Lecours, Phil Wittliff, Carl Valimont, and Fred Berry.

There will be a fashion show to reveal the new jerseys and other merchandise, all of which will be available at the event. In addition, there will be complimentary food and non-alcoholic drinks, as well has fun activities for kids and meet-and-greet opportunities with the current and former players.

The event is scheduled to run from 6-8 pm, with the program to introduce the new logo beginning at 6:30. Fans should enter the building through the Potawatomi Gate, which is located at the northeast corner of the building.

Based on the actual typeface and “A” in the “All Aboard” slogan I’d say that is as much of a teaser as fans are going to get before the full unveiling on Wednesday. Is that shade of blue echoing the Calder Cup winning era of the team? Are those actually the logos and typeface we can expect to be part of the uniform or are they a swerve job to show off something else entirely? …how very M. Night Shyamalan-y of them would that be. Nashville Predators rip-off jerseys to mirror the parent club like so many other AHL teams do? Nope, the president of the Admirals squashed that rumor and Mario Tirabassi‘s dreams.

In the poll I conducted last Friday to gauge whether or not fans would be in favor of an Admirals rebranding the results came back: 51.02% (Yes – Overhaul), 24.49% (No), 16.33 % (Yes – Slight Tweak), 8.16% (Indifferent).

Funnily enough that poll was a hard “Yes” or “No” at the top the entire vote. Some will be happy. Some won’t. Truthfully, we can’t exactly be judgmental until actually seeing the new look can we? I’ll be at the event and will have a full story up on the new uniforms and logos the morning after. Do feel free to stop me at the event to let me know what you think and feel of the new look for the Admirals because I am really interested in the opinions of this rebranding from all of you.

What are you expecting? Is there something that you want this rebranding to look like? Should this new look for the Admirals be something simplistic or bold and daring?

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

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Rob Madore Signs With Toronto Marlies

(Photo Credit: Cincinnati Cyclones)

(Photo Credit: Cincinnati Cyclones)

Rich Clune and Brendan Leipsic should have company during pre-season camp. Rob Madore just signed an AHL deal with the Toronto Marlies.

Press Release via Orlando Solar Bears:

Orlando, FL – The Orlando Solar Bears, proud affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and AHL’s Toronto Marlies, announced that goaltender Rob Madore has agreed to a two-way AHL/ECHL contract with the Toronto Marlies. Madore was named the ECHL Playoff MVP in 2014 after guiding the Cincinnati Cyclones to the Rob MadoreKelly Cup Finals before falling to the Alaska Aces in six games.

Madore (5-11, 188 lbs.) has appeared in 117 regular season games in his ECHL career with Cincinnati, Florida, Evansville, and Chicago, posting a 52-46-15 record with a 2.79 GAA, a .907 save percentage, and six shutouts. He has played 17 games in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers and San Antonio Rampage, going 6-7-1 with a 2.32 GAA, .933 save percentage, and two shutouts. During the 2014 Kelly Cup Playoffs, Madore went 14-10 with a .930 save percentage and 2.29 GAA, including helping the Cyclones defeat the Solar Bears in the first round.

A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Madore played four seasons (2008-12) for the University of Vermont (NCAA). He ended his collegiate career second in school history (behind Tim Thomas) with 3,352 and third in games played (behind Thomas and Joe Fallon) with 127.

“Rob Madore is the exact type of player we want in the this organization,” said Head Coach Anthony Noreen. “He is an elite goaltender that competes every day and will provide leadership for our group on and off the ice.”

The Orlando Solar Bears, the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and AHL’s Toronto Marlies, play all of their home games at the 2012 Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal Sports Facility of the Year, the Amway Center.

Follow the Solar Bears at http://www.OrlandoSolarBearsHockey.com, Facebook, andTwitter (@OrlandoHockey) for all the latest news and updates. Stay in touch with Shades on Instagram by following ShadestheSolarBear.

As you can tell by the press release, Madore should be expected to join the Marlies ECHL affiliate the Orlando Solar Bears later this fall. Madore was the Milwaukee Admirals ECHL goaltender last season, was called up to back up a few times, but spent the almost all of last season with the Cincinnati Cyclones. When the Admirals signed Brandon Whitney to fill their ECHL goaltending role it effectively ended Madore’s two-year run in Cincinnati – where he won the 2014 Kelly Cup MVP despite coming on the losing end of that year’s finals to the Alaska Aces.

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

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Triston Grant Returns to Grand Rapids

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Happy Goal Scoring Triston Grant is still the best Grant. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

More plays continue to move elsewhere from the 2014-15 Milwaukee Admirals. I had mentioned in an edition of Ramblings that the Admirals could potentially chose from one of their three bruisers last season: Mike Liambas, Triston Grant, and Rich Clune. The Nashville Predators ended up adding Cody Bass to the mix. As for the previous three? They are all gone now. Grant has just signed a one-year contract to join the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Press Release via Grand Rapids Griffins:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Monday announced that they have re-signed left wing Jeff Hoggan and defenseman Nathan Paetsch and have signed left wing Triston Grant, who returns to the team following a one-year absence. Paetsch inked a two-year deal while Hoggan and Grant each signed one-year contracts.

The trio led the Griffins to their first Calder Cup championship in 2012-13 and will again provide the team’s veteran foundation in 2015-16 under new head coach Todd Nelson.

Grant, 31, reunites with his Calder Cup brethren after spending the 2014-15 season with the Milwaukee Admirals, where he posted career highs in goals (13), assists (13, tied) and points (26), tied for eighth in club scoring and ranked third in penalty minutes with 123 over 73 games.

During his initial two-year stint with the Griffins (2012-14), the Neepawa, Manitoba, native appeared in 126 games, posting 26 points (10-16—26) with a plus-seven rating. His 299 penalty minutes slot him into 17th place in franchise history.

After contributing 10 points (4-6—10) and leading the Griffins with 196 PIM over a career-high 75 games during his first season in Grand Rapids, Grant chipped in four points (2-2—4) and played in all 24 playoff games during the team’s run to the 2013 Calder Cup. While only appearing in 51 games during his second season in 2013-14, he still improved his totals in each scoring category (6-10—16), notched a plus-six rating and finished third on the Griffins with 103 PIM.

Grant, a 10-year pro who was Philadelphia’s 10th choice (286th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, has registered 153 points (73-80—153) and 1,688 PIM in 634 AHL games with Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Oklahoma City, Rochester and Philadelphia. He has also seen action in 11 NHL games with Nashville and Philadelphia, showing one assist and 19 PIM.

Grant is coming off of his most productive scoring season as a pro: 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 73 games with the Admirals in 2014-15. He was a member of the Calder Cup winning Griffins in the 2012-13 season. Grant had the following to say via Twitter:

Now it feels like the final dagger for most Admirals fans would be a Mark Van Guilder signs with “Insert Rival Team Here” news story.

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

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 23

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

I can’t think of a more ‘Merican photo than Anthony Bitetto throwing out the first pitch at a Milwaukee Brewers game. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Happy Monday, everybody. Firstly, I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July weekend. Secondly, I think today would be a nice day to take a look at the Milwaukee Admirals roster so far. There are tons of pieces in place to make the team a real entertaining team to watch already but there’s still a question to be asked. Is more needed? Well let’s take a look.

~Current Roster~

Centers: Colton Sissons, Austin Watson, Max ReinhartFélix Girard, Joe Pendenza, Frédérick Gaudreau

Wingers: Miikka Salomäki, Viktor ArvidssonKevin FialaPontus ÅbergMax Görtz, Cody Bass

Defensemen: Jonathan Diaby, Garrett Noonan, Mikko Vainonen, Johan Alm, Jaynen Rissling, Jimmy OlignyKristian Näkyvä, Connor Allen

Goalies: Marek Mazanec, Juuse Saros, Brandon Whitney

I know there might be some names missing (Taylor Aronson and Anthony Bitetto – RFA process). Plus I also included Fiala’s name even though he could well start the season up with the Nashville Predators. In fact, there are a few names among the forwards that could start in the NHL depending on how the stars align. Oh, and Vainonen isn’t a lock to return to North America either. The point is that this is the bare bones roster that exists right now.

~Quick Thoughts~

An immediate thing that I love about the Admirals roster is the versatility up front. There are lots of options for Dean Evason to play with. With so many centers, even some wingers who can play the position, it affords moving some out on the wing – a possible plus for Watson who has excelled on the wing the last season and a half. Most wingers are also adaptable to working on either the left or right side which can help mixing and matching line combinations.

What still could be an issue is the defense. Once again each and every defensemen is a left-handed shot. Should Aronson rejoin it would add one – but that’s it. Having that blend seemed to help the Admirals a touch last season when an Ian White or Scott Ford were in the mix. I think yet another righty or two from the point would be a welcome addition – if even just an ECHL option.

~Line Combinations~

As I said, the fact that there are so many centers means that lines can be easily mixed and matched. What I think will end up happening is for Watson and Gaudreau to kick out on the wing with Pendenza being utilized as the fourth line center. It allows Watson to be put in a better position to succeed on the wing as he can be added to an attacking line up top.

Arvidsson-Sissons-Fiala
Salomäki-Reinhart-Watson
Åberg-Girard-Görtz
Gaudreau-Pendenza-Bass

Diaby-Alm
Allen-Näkyvä
Oligny-Noonan
(Vainonen-Rissling)

Mazanec/Saros
(Whitney)

Not too shabby, right? There’s still uncertainty as to any other additions and where they might factor in but this should give a nice cheat sheet for those wanting to play arm-chair GM and figure out what needs to be helped out. Personally, it’s still defense for me. Mazanec can go into ‘deer in headlights’ mode and Saros will be adjusting to the pace and gameplay of North American hockey. They won’t be helped out too much with a group that doesn’t really feature that many stay at home defensemen – really only Diaby, Alm, and Rissling are those sort of players. Looking to add a veteran or sturdy AHL defenseman, possibly two, could help out a lot.

As for forwards, if someone like Fiala makes the Predators roster out of camp than alternative options are needed. Heck, with this roster there are only three players headed to the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL and none of them are forwards (Vainonen, Rissling, Whitney).

I feel like bringing back Gary Steffes and Eric Robinson as wingers would be a solid move considering they’re already adjusted to the coaching staff and quite a few players on and off the ice. If Steffes were to join with Fiala up – I would pencil Steffes directly in Fiala’s place due to his chemistry with Sissons at the end of the 2014-15 season.

Other options? There’s plenty still out there in the AHL alone. Free Agency is still very young. Waiting for the parent club to conduct their business seems to be what the Admirals are going through at the moment. To date, the Predators have helped a lot with their two-way contracted players signed so far. When bigger names in their RFA pool sign I feel the roster shapes up and the Admirals can look for certain names to snag.

Put yourself in the GM suit for a moment: what do you make of your current AHL roster, what needs help, how do you address it, who would you target as free agent AHL signings, and are you confident that those in-camp right now are good enough to maintain AHL status for this season?

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Posted in Ramblings | 1 Comment

Rich Clune Joins The Toronto Marlies

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It didn’t take long but Rich Clune became an immediate fan favorite in Milwaukee. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

There is yet another member of the 2014-15 Milwaukee Admirals roster on the move to a new destination. Rich Clune has just signed an AHL contract with the Toronto Marlies.

Press Release via Toronto Marlies:

The Toronto Marlies announced today they have signed forward Richard Clune to an AHL contract, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Clune, 28, skated in 62 games last season with the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) recording 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 62 games. The Toronto native was also held pointless in one appearance with the Nashville Predators last season. Clune has skated in 120 NHL games, recording 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) along with 305 penalty minutes as a member of the Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings.

Originally selected by the Dallas Stars in the third round (71st overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Clune will be attending training camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs opening September 17th.

It didn’t take too long for Clune to become a big hit with Admirals fans. Whether it was a fight, a goal, or an interview segment he was always a blast to kick back and watch. After clearing waivers from the Nashville Predators he suited up for 62 games with the Admirals and scored 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) with 181 penalty minutes (17 fights) and had an even plus/minus rating.

If you haven’t read Clune’s article titled The Battle on The Players’ Tribune I highly recommend it. His story coming up through the ranks of hockey while battling addiction and getting sober is a great one. While I’m sure lots of Predators and Admirals fans will miss seeing him on the ice what I like about this move to the Marlies for him will be his opportunity to play in his native Toronto in front of family and friends. That’s always pretty special. Plus, he’ll connect back with Brendan Leipsic where I’m sure their chirping will drive plenty of teams crazy this season.

“It’s not easy being Dicky sometimes.”
~Rich Clune

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Posted in News | 1 Comment