The Future Isn’t Far Away for Saros

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Hype is a gift and a curse. There isn’t hype without a particular reason to get excited over a prospect. And, naturally, with the right amount of hype the ingredients can exist for that hype to never be met. Juuse Saros is a goaltending prospect that entered the North American pro hockey scene a year ago with a whirlwind of hype behind him and has been showing time and time again that the hype comes with great reason: he’s brilliant.

The long term planning that takes place in the organization can really come in waves when it comes to forwards or defenseman. As for goaltending you only have so many in play at a given time before you kick one out and look for a successor to join that prospect talent pool. Having a Pekka Rinne atop that totem pole is fantastic, because it is, but even he in his draft class wasn’t the first goaltender selected by the Predators. Of the eleven draft picks the Predators had in the 2004 NHL Draft the team selected Kyle Moir in the fifth round as their fourth selection while Rinne was drafted in the eighth round as the tenth selection. One of those two turned out to be a franchise building block. And the other was named Kyle.

With a goaltender in Rinne the Predators have had stability between the pipes for what is now the ninth season where he’s expected to be “the man” in net. That isn’t a luxury a lot of teams get to say. And when looking at the Predators draft history at the goaltending position ever since Rinne’s draft year – you kind of understand why.

Since the 2005 NHL Draft the Predators goaltending selections in the draft have been: Mark Dekanich (5th Round in 2006), Jeremy Smith (2nd Round in 2007), Atte Engren (7th Round in 2007), Chet Pickard (1st Round in 2008), Anders Lindbäck (7th Round in 2008), Magnus Hellberg (2nd Round in 2011), Marek Mazanec (6th Round in 2012), Juuse Saros (4th Round in 2013), Janne Juvonen (7th Round in 2013), Karel Vejmelka (5th Round in 2015), Evan Smith (7th Round in 2015), and Konstantin Volkov (6th Round in 2016).

Obviously the latter of the names are your current wee-nippers in the early stages of their developmental process but for much of the rest it is long done and dusted. And out of the names above who actually truly manifested into something the likes of a Rinne or to be his battery-mate in Nashville? The closest two would be Lindbäck and Mazanec. The rest just never really went to plan – or are hoping to be on the path to.

It’s this long and twisty path that gets us to the present and a present in which Rinne is a soon to be 34-year old. How many more seasons does he have in the tank where he is the reliable and dependable option as “the man” in net? It is that such question that makes Saros and his arrival all the more exciting.

(Photo Credit: Hämeen Sanomat)

(Photo Credit: Hämeen Sanomat)

In the off-season of 2015 it became clear that Saros was getting ready for his first pro season in North America. The question then was simple. Who is the odd-man out: Hellberg or Mazanec? That answer became Hellberg who the Predators traded to the New York Rangers and Saros had his spot opened up to play in the AHL as a 20-year old rookie. He entered having already played two full-seasons of pro hockey in his native Finland with HPK where he logged 91 games. As an 18-year old rookie in SM-Liiga for HPK he threw down a 1.76 goals against average and 0.923 save percentage in 44 games – as an 18-year old. That is where the hype train started and, with him and his hype effectively giving Hellberg the boot, the expectations of the 2015-16 season were incredibly high.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

When I met Saros that opening Training Camp in Milwaukee ahead of last season it became very clear that he was in fact a special sort of player and person. Similar to Colton Sissons when he arrived out of Kelowna you just didn’t get the feeling like Saros’ age was what it was for how he conducts himself. His professionalism off the ice translates to the ice. And his high level work ethic made the transition from Europe to North America look seamless. In his first season in North America as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL he split the deck with Mazanec in terms of starts. Both goaltenders had 38 starts, each. The two pushed one another incredibly hard to get time in net and that friendly rivalry meant for sharp seasons for all parties.

When it comes to European to North American transitions, especially at the AHL level, I get to see a lot of kinks and mistakes made. It makes sense to see that though. The rink is smaller. The game is faster. And, especially in net, the placement of rebounds and teams shooting to setup for rebound opportunities isn’t so much what you see in the European style game. Everyone can go through the process differently but the adjustment period exists whether it be fast, slow, or never adjusting to it at all.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the last three goalies that the Admirals have featured as European goaltenders making their North American debuts at the AHL level: Hellberg, Mazanec, and Saros.

Hellberg: 39 GP, 22-13-0-0 record, 2107 minutes, 2.14 GAA, 0.924 SV%, 6 SO
Maz: 31 GP, 18-10-0-3 record, 1866 minutes, 2.44 GAA, 0.914 SV%, 0 SO
Saros: 38 GP, 29-8-0-0 record, 2248 minutes, 2.24 GAA, 0.920 SV%, 4 SO

Hellberg’s debut season was rather remarkable, especially the end to his 2012-13 AHL season, but the minutes played and volume of wins favor Saros as a guy who was leaned on and responded. And that’s coming from him when he was 20-years old – a year younger than Hellberg and Mazanec’s AHL rookie season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

What impressed me more than anything you’d find simply by the numbers a season ago for Saros was his reliability. Never once did he look phased or overwhelmed by the North American pro style game. If the adaptation process existed for him it was a matter of a blink and it was over. He looked and played the part of, well, his counterpart last season -Mazanec- who had already logged three pro seasons with the Admirals to get to that point in his developmental process. Saros didn’t have a gaffe such as Hellberg’s rookie season letting in a shot that was aimed as a dump in for a line change that turned into a goal. Saros didn’t have episodes of deer in headlights that Mazanec would have in spurts in his first two pro seasons. Saros didn’t have any of that. He looked, played, and acted as if he had done it all before when in fact it was his first rodeo.

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

When Saros received the call to get his NHL debut last season for the Predators he didn’t get the result he would have liked. The team lost 4-1 to the Buffalo Sabres while Saros stopped 20/23 with the Sabres cashing in twice on a power-play stemming from a major penalty. The result didn’t go his way but the experience was taken in. The rush of the NHL debut ended. And then came a certain food poisoning outbreak that allowed for Saros to get a second crack at it all over again this past Saturday. All he did was stop 34/35 shots on goal against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and, surprise-surprise, look comfortable while doing it en route to his first career NHL win.

Nothing actually surprises me anymore when it comes to Saros. When he’s tabbed as the goaltender for an Admirals game, even as early as mid-way through last season, there was a calmness in the air knowing he was the last line of defense on the night. He’s 21-years old right now and still very much absorbing a ton that the North American game has to offer. It’s never mattered that he’s less than six-feet tall because his game preparation, compete level, and lateral quickness more than account for any issue that size might have. The further he gets pushed up the ladder the faster the game is going to get. His ability to adapt quickly, as evidenced Saturday night in Nashville, shows just why the hype is what it is for him.

It’s not all that clear how the Predators play Saros in the 2017-18 season but the objective for this year is. He is the Admirals anchor this season. He will log a ton of games, minutes, high-pressure situations, and get a chance to be “the man” for a team looking to win a Calder Cup for the first time since 2004. The amount of experience that can be absorbed and learned from this season for Saros is going to be important to take in. Because it might just set him on the path that another Finnish netminder took right out of Milwaukee.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Feature | 2 Comments

Roster Starts to Normalize

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

After yesterday’s chaotic happenings due to food poisoning for the Nashville Predators the process to bring some normality back into the AHL and ECHL outfits is starting to unfold. The Predators have reassigned forwards Trevor Smith and Frédérick Gaudreau to the Milwaukee Admirals. Meanwhile, the Admirals have assigned goaltender Mark Visentin back to the Cincinnati Cyclones. The Admirals have also released both Shawn O’Donnell and Dov Grumet-Morris from their PTO Contracts. O’Donnell is expected to report back with the Cyclones.

When you consider all that took place yesterday across all three tiers of the Predators organization it is rather incredible how all responded. The Predators came away with a stunning 5-1 win at home over the reigning Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Admirals fought a hard contest, battling back from down 2-0, but took away a point on the road after a 3-2 shootout loss to the Rockford IceHogs. Then the Cyclones earned their first win of the season by defeating the Wheeling Nailers 2-1 at home. For rapidly getting stretched thin the entire organization really shined last night.

UPDATE. You can now include goaltender Juuse Saros as one of the names being reassigned by the Nashville Predators to the Milwaukee Admirals.

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Posted in News | 1 Comment

A Hard Earned Point; Ads Fall 3-2 in Shootout

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

The Milwaukee Admirals lost 3-2 in a shootout on the road against the Rockford IceHogs Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Despite all the roster activity that took place today the Admirals delivered a really inspired performance on the ice tonight. Mark Visentin made thirty-four saves in a relief start for the Admirals while Juuse Saros earned his first career NHL win for the Nashville Predators. It was a solid performance. The Admirals earn a point. They just come up short in the shootout.

After a steady first period the entertainment provided by the second period more than made up for the scoreless opening frame. Mark McNeill opened the scoring up for the IceHogs after being unleashed on a counter attack from the Admirals defensive zone. He had a full head of steam before Ville Pokka fed him the puck. McNeill’s pace burned through Matt White and Jonathan Diaby before he managed to beat Mark Visentin with a low wrister for his first goal of the season.

The IceHogs would make it a 2-0 second period lead after a bomb from Carl Dahlström. The Admirals vacated the point as a puck trickled back to Dahlström who hammered a shot first-time that buzzed through a screen and Visentin to record his first North American pro goal.

It seemed that the second tally for the IceHogs was finally enough to awake the Admirals. In a span of 1:12 the Admirals went from trailing 2-0 to being on level terms. Félix Girard scored his first of the season just twenty-one seconds after the IceHogs had made it 2-0 and did so in the middle of a scrum out in front of Lars Johansson. Before any control by the netminder could be had Girard popped past the loose puck to get the Admirals on the board and make it 2-1.

Matt White was able to level things for the Admirals fifty-one seconds after Girard’s goal to make it 2-2. White was ranging down the right wing and appeared to be getting set to pass off to his opposite wing. After dragging the puck and cutting towards the center White unleashed a wrister that wired into the top shelf past Johansson’s glove for his first goal of the season in his 2016-17 debut. White had been a healthy scratch for the Admirals in the first three-games of the season.

The game would stay deadlocked through the third period and overtime for both team’s first shootout of the 2016-17 season. The IceHogs were able to score their first chance of the shootout through Spencer Abbott. After misses by White and Anthony Richard for the Admirals, and a failed attempt by Brandon Mashinter, the chance came for McNeill to finish what he started – and he did. He beat Visentin with a wrister blocker side to give the IceHogs the 3-2 shootout win.

A tip of the cap can be given to Visentin in net for the Admirals tonight. After a slow start to his season with the Cincinnati Cyclones at the ECHL level he was given the start tonight with the Admirals amidst the chaos going on in the organization. He delivered a great performance against the team he played for a season ago by stopping 34/36 shots on goal. He and the Admirals came up short in the shootout, yes, but after what took place earlier in the day I’d say taking a hard earned point such as this is a solid result and something to build off of.

The Admirals first loss of the season has them at a 3-0-0-1 record dropping only a single point out of a possible eight these first four games of the season during a five-game road trip. That road trip ends next week when the Admirals face-off against the Iowa Wild on Friday. The Admirals then look to make their mark at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena the next night against the Wild. They’re then right off to Rockford that Sunday to complete the three-in-three weekend and their October slate.

Ramblings: Prior to tonight’s game a massive situation broke out regarding food poisoning for the Nashville Predators. The Predators officially recalled Frédérick Gaudreau, Austin Watson, Trevor Smith, and Harry Zolnierczyk from the Milwaukee Admirals. The Predators also recalled Juuse Saros from the Admirals under emergency conditions and placed Cody Bass on injured reserve due toan upper-body injury. The Admirals in response recalled Justin Kirkland, Eric Robinson, Jaynen Rissling, and Mark Visentin from the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). They also signed forward Shawn O’Donnell and goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris to PTO Contracts. The Admirals scratches tonight were Shawn O’Donnell (healthy), Jaynen Rissling (healthy), and Dov Grumet-Morris (healthy). By recording an assist on Félix Girard’s goal tonight Alex Carrier earned his first career point as a professional hockey player. In addition to Juuse Saros earning his first career win in the NHL tonight’s contest for the Nashville Predators also saw the NHL debut for Frédérick Gaudreau.

Thoughts on tonight’s performance? All things considered do you feel taking a point from this game is a positive result for the Admirals? Did any of the new blood out of the ECHL impress you?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Game Recaps | 2 Comments

Five Recalled to Nashville

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Freddy Time is coming to Nashville. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

During last night’s Nashville Predators road game against the Detroit Red Wings it was apparent that a touch of the flu was tackling some players in the lineup. Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith both left the game early due to flu-like symptoms and didn’t return. As it so happens the team was stricken by food poisoning thought to be caused by a pre-game meal at the hotel. The majority of the team was impacted by the situation and it has caused a wave of roster activity today. The official word is now this: the Predators have recalled Frédérick GaudreauAustin Watson, Trevor Smith, Harry Zolnierczyk, and Juuse Saros from the Milwaukee Admirals.

This is the first career NHL recall for Gaudreau. And, out of all the names listed above set for recall, Gaudreau is the special story of the group. He was an undrafted talent out of the QMJHL and signed an AHL contract with the Admirals in the Summer of 2014. He flipped between the Admirals and their ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones during his first pro season (2014-15) but made a huge name for himself last season. He missed last season’s regular season opener as a healthy scratch but from then on he was undeniable: 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 75 games while playing in all situations – namely a first man over the boards on the penalty kill alongside Félix Girard. Gaudreau really exploded the moment that then Admirals captain Colton Sissons was recalled to the Predators and Gaudreau stepped right into his role and outperformed Sissons at the top-line center position by producing 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 14 games during the month of December. It paved the way to him earning an NHL contract with the Predators and was followed up not too long by his selection to the AHL All-Star Game.

The rest involved with the recall are a more veteran established group – and Saros. With just the lone goaltender chosen to stick around I hazard to guess whether or not Jonas Gunnarsson is due to return and make his North American pro debut tonight for the Admirals. In the instance he isn’t? They have taken care of that by bringing Mark Visentin up from the ECHL and penning Dov Grumet-Morris to a PTO Contract.

Matt Irwin was seen in Nashville today but it sounds very much like he was swiftly en route to join the Admirals once again. It has simply been a day of chaos and flu-like symptoms all around for the food poison riddled Predators. Thankfully for the Admirals this issue should only impact tonight’s game with the next outing past tonight’s game in Rockford being next Friday.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Six Names Added to Milwaukee; Cincinnati Lose Five

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

With all the scrambling going around topside this news shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. The Nashville Predators were stricken by food poisoning last night and it should mean several Milwaukee Admirals getting recalled ahead of tonight’s game with the same being said out of the team’s ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones.

Confirmed additions to the Admirals roster tonight from the Cyclones are Justin KirklandEric RobinsonMark Visentin, and Jaynen Rissling. Additionally the Admirals have signed current member of the Cyclones Shawn O’Donnell and prototypical emergency goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris to PTO contracts.

The major notable here would be Kirkland who should be expected to make his AHL and Admirals debut in tonight’s game. Kirkland was reassigned by the Admirals to the Cyclones in order to log some playing time while the numbers at forward in Milwaukee were stacked against him. He did manage to get his pro debut out of the system this past Tuesday. The Cyclones lost at home to the Toledo Walleye 5-0 in the contest but all signs pointed to an active and good performance by Kirkland in his debut.

As for what this all means for the Admirals and Predators? It’s a wait and see process right now. There have already been a number of current Admirals spotted arriving to the Bridgestone Arena ahead of the Predators game against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight: Frédérick Gaudreau, Austin Watson, and Matt Irwin. With Visentin, and especially Grumet-Morris, being brought in it would be extremely safe to say both Juuse Saros and Jonas Gunnarsson are in the group brought in to assist during Nashville’s food poison woes as well.

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Posted in News | 3 Comments

IceHogs: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

Great news! Mike Liambas is no longer aligned with the baddies. (Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

With all due respect to the San Antonio Rampage and Chicago Wolves tonight’s game should be a far better barometer on how the Milwaukee Admirals stack up right now. The Rockford IceHogs had a terrific season last season that simply pitter-pattered apart towards the finish. Much has changed in the Chicago Blackhawks organization which impacts how the IceHogs now look -but- they are just as strong of a team as they were a season ago.

Who of last season’s IceHogs have been promoted to the Blackhawks? Ryan Hartman, Vinny Hinostroza, and Tyler Motte.

Who of last season’s IceHogs has departed from Rockford-land? Bryan Bickell, Daniel CiampiniKyle Cumiskey, Matt FraserKirill Gotovets, Ryan HaggertyJay Harrison, Sam JardineMichael Leighton, Drew MacIntyre, Dennis Robertson, Garret Ross, and David Rundblad.

The new blood in Rockford: Spencer Abbott, Tyler Barnes, Sam Carrick, Bryn ChyzykLars Johansson, Jeremy Langlois, Martin Lundberg, and Evan Mosey.

Some big hitters are out and moved on, yes, but I feel the IceHogs have filled back out real well. Abbott and Carrick have a combined 249 points (91 goals, 158 assists) from 385 games in their AHL careers. Having well-rounded players such as these to complement an already good veteran group. The IceHogs still have Jake DowellPierre-Cédric Labrie, and received familiar names after the passed through waivers in Brandon Mashinter and Mark McNeill. It’s a very established group of players and that should make the an incredibly tough test for the AHL this season.

Where a question mark can be thrown to the IceHogs this season is in net. Leighton was marvelous for the IceHogs last season: 46 games, 28-8-5-3 record, 2.44 goals against average, 0.918 save percentage, and 5 shutouts. He is now with the Carolina Hurricanes organization where he is with the Charlotte Checkers. Stepping into his place? A tandem between first year North American pro Johansson and a familiar face in Carruth.

Johansson is a 29-year old goaltender who has logged a lengthy career in his native Sweden before making his splash to the North American scene this season with Rockford. Looking at what he accomplished last season with Frölunda HC you can get the idea just why the Blackhawks wanted to bring him in:

Johansson, has played the last three seasons with Frolunda HC in the Swedish Hockey League, posting a 56-27-0 record with 11 shutouts in 93 games. During the 2015-16 season, he recorded a league-leading 1.74 goals-against average alongside a save percentage of .927 while going 27-6-0. Johansson picked up league honors for Goalie of the Year last season as Frolunda captured the league championship. In 10 playoff games last season, Johansson recorded a 1.27 GAA with a save percentage of .934. A native of Avesta, Sweden, Johansson also played professionally in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league with Mora IK (2008-11) and VIK Vasteras HK (2011-13).

As always, the European to North American transition is a different process for all who go through it. But I often find that the biggest trouble area for those going through it come at defenseman or in net. Why? That’s where the pace and style of the game can twist and turn you inside out the most. So far, he has hit the ground running with the IceHogs: 2 games, 1-1-0-0 record, 1.52 goals against average, and a 0.946 save percentage. His first win came last night in the IceHogs’ 2-1 victory of the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Carruth? This season is really his first chance to get a long AHL run. In the Blackhawks organization he has essentially bounced around between the AHL and ECHL 50-50 in his career. He’s been decent enough when given the opportunity for the IceHogs in his career: 28 games, 10-9-2-1 record, 2.53 goals against average, 0.912 save percentage, and 3 shutouts. That stat-line still comes through sporadic playing time and while going through the AHL/ECHL roller coaster. Can he stick and push for first choice goaltender? Or will he struggle alongside a netminder going through the motions of the North American pro game for the first time? That’s the true gray area on the IceHogs season to me.

Expectations for tonight’s game? How do you feel the Admirals match-up against the IceHogs? Will the penalty minutes issue continue to be a problem for the Admirals?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Scouting | 2 Comments

Watson’s PPG Holds Up; Ads Win 2-1 Again

(Photo Credit: Ross Dettman)

(Photo Credit: Ross Dettman)

The Milwaukee Admirals won 2-1 on the road against the Chicago Wolves Wednesday night at the Allstate Arena. The Admirals were able to hold to a power-play goal in the second period by Austin Watson all the way to the finish line to start the season off with three consecutive 2-1 victories.

The penalty woes that turned an ugly head in San Antonio manifested in Chicago early. The Admirals found themselves shorthanded four times in the first period and the Wolves were able to cash in off one of those opportunities. A feed from the left point by Brad Hunt went over to the right wing circle where Kenny Agostino hammered a one-timer on goal. His short appeared to deflect a touch off of Admirals defenseman Matt Irwin before getting past Juuse Saros to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead from a power-play goal.

The Wolves lead didn’t last long at all. Just thirty-nine seconds after the Wolves scored on the power-play a skillful piece of puckhandling by Pontus Åberg ended with a wicked shot at the top of the right wing circle. Pheonix Copley blockered the Åberg shot in front of the net and Ads captain Trevor Smith was able to pop home the rebound to level things at 1-1.

Penalties continued to mount and finally the Admirals were able to cash in for their second power-play goal of the season. Vladislav Kamenev completed a circle-to-circle pass to Austin Watson in the right wing. Watson measured up his wrist shot and beat Copley to the far post and in to record his first AHL goal since 4/7/15.

The Admirals would hold to that 2-1 scoreline yet again to secure their third win from three games to start the season. All wins have come at the 2-1 scoreline. Saros came up really big down the stretch in tonight’s contest. He ended the night with thirty saves and quite a few big time stops as the Wolves went empty net and extra attacker in the dying seconds.

As nice as these wins have been for the Admirals a major talking point remains to be the issue with taking trips to the penalty box. Last season the Admirals through three games had sixty penalty minutes from nineteen infractions with a 7/13 penalty kill. This season the Admirals have fifty-nine penalty minutes from twenty-eight infractions with a 21/24 penalty kill in their first three games of the season. That penalty kill has been fantastic, no doubt, but the amount of penalties being taken is laboring to the penalty kill and breaks up so much of the flow for the offense to roll when so much of the game is spent on special teams. In short: it has to change.

Next up for the Admirals will be a road tilt against the Rockford IceHogs this Saturday night at 7:00 PM CDT. They will then get a relatively nice spot of downtime before a home-and-home between the Iowa Wild with a game in Iowa next Friday. That sets the stage for the Admirals home opener against the Wild next Saturday at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

Ramblings: Since the Milwaukee Admirals last played on Sunday the team assigned forward Justin Kirkland to the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. Kirkland made his pro hockey debut last night in the Cyclones 5-0 shutout defeat to the Toledo Walleye. The line combinations for the Admirals was exactly the same as it was in the weekend opening set in San Antonio. That meant healthy scratches for Matt White and Jonathan Diaby. Austin Watson’s goal tonight was his sixty-ninth career AHL goal and it was scored in his two-hundred and thirty-second AHL appearance. All AHL goals scored by Watson have come with the Admirals. He is fourth in the team’s AHL history in goal scoring behind Darren Haydar (110), Chris Mueller (87), and Mike Santorelli (74).

Are you concerned by the volume of penalties being taken by the Milwaukee Admirals out the gate this season? How impressive has Juuse Saros looked in net these first three-games? Are you underwhelmed at all by the lack of offensive output thus far? 

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Game Recaps | 1 Comment

Wolves: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The first Amtrak Rivalry game of the 2016-17 season is upon us. Last season saw the Amtrak Trophy awarded to the Milwaukee Admirals after a successful 9-3-0-0 record over the Chicago Wolves. It was the first Amtrak Trophy the Admirals secured over the Wolves since the 2012-13 season when they were AHL affiliates to the Vancouver Canucks.

With such success against the Wolves last season one wonders what a difference a year makes? The Admirals scored 32 goals in the 12 games against the Wolves last season. There are 19 goals worth of offense not returning to the Admirals lineup from that Amtrak Trophy winning group, namely Max Reinhart (8 goals) and Kevin Fiala (5 goals).

A similar painting can be made on the flipside of the canvas. The Wolves scored 23 goals against the Admirals last season. 14 goals of that aren’t back with sniper Ty Rattie‘s 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 10 games worth of offense no longer at the AHL level this season in the St. Louis Blues organization.

When looking in net for last season’s match up it also sets up a good picture. Juuse Saros made 9 starts out of 12 games against the Wolves and he earned 7 wins with a  1.98 goals against average, 0.934 save percentage, and a shutout.

As for the Wolves, last season it looked like the goaltending position was meant to be their strongest asset after such great 2014-15 seasons for both Jordan Binnington and Pheonix Copley. It looked like Binnington was primed to be the go-to with Copley in camp to really push hard for net time to keep the two razor sharp throughout the season. But that rarely, if ever, manifested itself. It’s probably why 21-year old Ville Husso is still knocking about at the start of this season on their AHL roster as a third choice option in net.

The fall of Binnington last season was one of the more eyebrow raising stories I followed from an outside perspective. It felt like he was one of those glorified Admirals Killers in net and specifically followed in the path of former Wolves goaltender Jake Allen in that respect. In Binnington’s 2014-15 season he was a perfect 7-for-7 against the Admirals and pitched a 1.94 goals against average and 0.930 save percentage. Last season though? 3 wins from 8 appearances with a 2.49 goals against average and 0.915 save percentage. His overall numbers year-to-year fell: 2.35 goals against average, 0.916 save percentage in 2014-15 to 2.85 goals against average, 0.907 save percentage in 2015-16.

I feel if the Wolves are going to amount to anything this season the stability between their pipes is everything. Binnington was very spotty a season ago and Copley, for the lack of a better term, was not good enough nor who he was thought to be when the Blues organization acquired him in a package deal when they sent T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals.

Elsewhere on the Wolves roster this season you find noteable losses from a season ago as well as returning or familiar names. Pat Cannone, who I felt was one of their most consistent and polished players the last three seasons, is now a member of the Iowa Wild. His absence, along with prospects that have migrated to St. Louis, left a rather big hole to fill. That’s where I suppose all these blokes step in: Brett Sterling (former member of the Wolves), Landon Ferraro (former member of the Grand Rapids Griffins), Kenny Agostino (Stockton Heat), Andrew Agozzino (former Lake Erie Monsters and of getting shown up by Fiala after an overtime winning goal fame), Wade Megan (former Cincinnati Cyclones product), and Brad Hunt (former Wolves, Barons, and Condors defenseman).

Long story short, too late, it is very much hit the nuke and reset button for the Chicago Wolves AHL roster. It is rather remarkable, really. How has it fared in their first two-games of the season? Well, not being a hard judge here, they lost two straight games to the Grand Rapids Griffins in a home-and-home series. They lost 3-1 on Grand Rapids followed by a 4-2 loss on home ice in Chicago. They were outshot 62-53 by the Griffins, went 7/10 on the penalty kill, and 1/7 on the power-play.

Much like the Admirals, the Wolves will be looking to improve off of those season opening mistakes and tightening up the details in their play. My hope is for minimized trips to the penalty box for the Admirals as well as making better use of their chances on the power-play. For all the Admirals looks on the power-play in San Antonio, which included some extended five-on-three time, they still only scored on their first power-play opportunity of the season. They went on to squander the next 12 power-play opportunities. That’s something that just can’t be allowed to fester on and on with a group of skilled scoring talent that the Admirals possess.

Expectations for tonight’s game? What do you think of the Chicago Wolves massive overhaul for the 2016-17 season? Do you feel like the Wolves have progressed or degressed because of those changes?

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Posted in Scouting | 2 Comments

Chatterbox, Vol. 142

(Photo Credit: Daniel Lavender)

Among the newbies starting up with the young AHL season was defenseman Alex Carrier. He made his pro debut with the Milwaukee Admirals this past weekend in San Antonio. (Photo Credit: Daniel Lavender)

The Milwaukee Admirals returned back home after a successful weekend sweep in San Antonio to start the 2016-17 season. Practice today at the MSOE Kern Center, as you might have expected from those games, was offense and power-play centric.

(White) Liambas-Girard-Payerl



A notable absentee for today’s practice was Justin Kirkland. That is because he was assigned to the Admirals ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones where he is expected to make his pro hockey debut tonight.

Already seeing a mixed bag response on that move I feel the need to chirp in by saying something very blunt: relax. The talent spectrum of hockey right now, in general, is astonishingly good. This means a stockpile of young and exciting talent is being groomed at not just the AHL level but is overflowing into the ECHL as well. Being sent to the ECHL isn’t some sort of a death sentence on a career. Especially this early in a player’s developmental process it can be largely beneficial. Kirkland wasn’t assigned to Cincinnati because of performance or ability. He was assigned because there are so many other talented forwards stationed in Milwaukee and that’s because the same can be said in Nashville. It is far better at this stage in his career for Kirkland to be playing that waiting on the outside looking in for a chance to play in the AHL. That time will come. It always does. Just look at how many PTO signings the Admirals had last season from specifically the Manchester Monarchs, three, just to field a lineup on certain stretched of the season because of injury accumulation. Patience is a great thing. Even more so, just being able to play and learn right here right now at any level will benefit Kirkland and many others in his situation.

Beyond that, everything else today was rather much business as usual. Today’s practice did see the inclusion of Matt White in and out of the fourth line for drills. It’s unclear whether or not he sees playing time for tomorrow night’s game over alternate captain Mike Liambas or not but I sort of have a hard time seeing him get tabbed over anyone else at the moment.

After practice I had the chance to speak with Admirals head coach Dean Evason. I also spoke with Harry Zolnierczyk who had a scary moment in today’s practice when he was hit by a shot from Vladislav Kamenev to the head. Everything in that department appears to be a-ok, though. Additionally, I spoke with Adam Payerl and Alex Carrier to get their thoughts from the opening games this past weekend. Here is what everyone had to say.

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Justin Kirkland Assigned to Cincinnati

(Photo Credit: Marissa Baecker // Shoot the Breeze)

(Photo Credit: Marissa Baecker // Shoot the Breeze)

The first proper roster move of the season has been made. And it isn’t one that sees a member of the Milwaukee Admirals heading to the Nashville Predators. The Admirals are sending forward Justin Kirkland to their ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones in order to log playing time. Kirkland is expected to make his pro hockey debut with the Cyclones tonight in Cincinnati when they face-off against the Toledo Walleye.

Kirkland was the Predators third round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft out of Kelowna (WHL). In his three full seasons with the Kelowna Rockets he produced 168 points (71 goals, 97 assists in 187 games. He split time between Kelowna and the Notre Dame Argos Midget setup between the 2011-13 seasons.

At the very least Kirkland is expected to make his pro hockey debut tonight with the Cyclones at the ECHL level. Past that? It isn’t certain how long he will remain with the club. The Admirals weren’t anticipating he would play a part in Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Wolves and, should the same be said of this weekend, Kirkland could find himself playing Saturday for the Cyclones as well. It’s a wait and see process for now with the goal in mind to have Kirkland being active rather than stationary in Milwaukee.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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