2017 NHL Draft; Day 2 Recap

(Photo Credit: USA Hockey)

The 2017 NHL Draft is officially in the books. After selecting Finnish winger Eeli Tolvanen thirtieth overall in the first round the Nashville Predators had five more draft picks to make. Here were their selections from Day 2 of the 2017 NHL Draft.

~Day 2~

Grant Mismash, (2nd Round, 61st Overall): An 18-year old center from Edina, Minnesota. He was part of the United States National Team Development Program fresh out of the famed Shattuck St. Mary’s program. He was part of the 2017 IIHF World Juniors gold medal winning United States U-18 team. And is committed to University of North Dakota.

David Farrance, (3rd Round, 92nd Overall): An 18-year old left-shooting defenseman from Victor, New York. Farrance was a teammate of Mismash at the USNTDP as well as with that 2017 IIHF World Juniors winning team. Farrance is committed to Boston University and he will be joining fellow Nashville Predators prospects Dante Fabbro and Patrick Harper.

Tomáš Vomáčka, (5th Round, 154th Overall): An 18-year old goaltender from Trutnov, Czech Republic. Vomáčka breaks the trend by the Predators of drafting Czech goaltenders who catch with the right glove, Marek Mazanec and Karel Vejmelka. Standing at 6’3″ and catching with the left glove, Vomáčka has spent the past season in North America as a member of the Corpus Christi Ice Rays of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). He is committed to the University of Connecticut.

Pavel Koltygin, (6th Round, 176th Overall): An 18-year old forward from Moskva, Russia. Koltygin is a flexible forward that can play out on the wing as well as down the middle at center. He played this past season in North America with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) where he produced 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) in 66 games. It was his first season in juniors after developing in his native Russia as part of Dynamo Moskva’s youth academy.

Jacob Paquette, (7th Round, 216th Overall): An 18-year old left-shooting defenseman from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Paquette was part of the Ottawa Jr. 67s program before being selected in the 2nd Round of the 2015 OHL Drafy by the Kingston Frontenacs. He has spent his last two seasons playing for Kingston and has a nice track record going for himself: 23 points (4 goals, 19 assists) in 115 games with a plus/minus rating of +6. He will start his third junior playing season in 2017-18 on the back of his first playoff run with Kingston that ended in the second round of the 2017 OHL Playoffs.

What are your overall thoughts on the Nashville Predators 2017 NHL Draft Class? Are you surprised at all that the Predators didn’t make any trades during the draft or could it be like last year where trade talks were initiated at the draft? What steps are next for the Predators off-season?

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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Nashville Select Eeli Tolvanen (1st Round, 30th Overall)

(Photo Credit: Dan Hickling)

The Nashville Predators selected Eeli Tolvanen with the thirtieth overall selection in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft. The 18-year old from Vihti, Finland has spent his last two seasons playing for the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League (USHL).

Tolvanen’s track record shows that he has a knack for finding the back of the net. In the Espoo Blues youth academy system he scored 59 goals in 47 games in 2013-14 and followed that up by scoring 41 goals in 48 games in 2014-15.

He would leave his native Finland to play hockey in North America for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons as part of the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL. He has produced 92 points (47 goals, 45 assists) in 101 games during that time. Tolvanen announced on Twitter that he would be joining Boston College for the 2017-18 season but he was declined by Boston College Admissions Department.

What were your thoughts of this draft pick and the opening round of the 2017 NHL Draft? Are you surprised to see the Nashville Predators not active on the trade market at this time or is that a smart move if asking prices are too high?

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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2017 Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Tonight is the 2017 NHL Draft. It’s a date I’ve had on my calendar for awhile because I felt very strongly that this past season’s NHL Trade Deadline took a backseat to the eventual NHL Expansion Draft. Welp, that is over and done with for everyone now. We were all given Thursday off to assess the damage and next steps. Tonight’s NHL Draft could see trade activity alongside the next wave of prospects being ushered in.

Beyond these next two days comes the 2017 Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp. After attending the event last year I am happy to announce that I will again be back in Nashville to get a look at the prospects attending and an early glimpse at some of the soon to be Milwaukee Admirals later this year.

For those who missed the official release by the Predators you can view it right here for a full run of the scheduling. What I would like to highlight here on Admirals Roundtable is the preliminary roster for this year’s Rookie Development Camp.

~Roster~

Forwards: Patrick Harper. Tyler Kelleher, Justin Kirkland, Tyler MoyTommy Novak, Alex Overhardt, Rem Pitlick, Anthony Richard, Jason SalvaggioNathan Sucese, and Yakov Trenin

Defensemen: Frédéric Allard, Alex Carrier, Jack Dougherty, Dante Fabbro, Samuel Girard, Hardy Häman Aktell, Joonas Lyytinen, Zach Osburn and Adam Smith

Goaltenders: Andrew Shortridge and Karel Vejmelka

For a more detailed list you can view the handy dandy PDF that the Predators produced of this preliminary roster.

~Notes & Thoughts~

It is worth noting that the following names were invitees for this year’s camp: Kelleher, Osburn, Overhardt, Salvaggio, Shortridge, and Sucese. Those in Milwaukee are already familiar with Kelleher who is signed through the 2017-18 season on an AHL contract with the Admirals. As of now he is the lone “Admirals property” in attendance. Though some of those invited to the camp could be names we see again in the near future.

Let’s start by looking between the pipes because, as far as prospect depth goes, the Predators and the near future at that position is hurting. Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have things on lockdown now for the Predators but it remains to be seen who will be entering the Admirals in both the AHL and ECHL for this coming season. Marek Mazanec and Jonas Gunnarsson do not appear to be coming back. And Mark Visentin already signed with Fehérvár AV19 in Hungary.

How would you best replace a tall Czech goaltender who catches pucks with a right glove such as Mazanec? By bringing in Vejmelka who is another tall Czech goaltender catching with a right glove.

As drafted talent goes, Vejmelka is likely the strongest candidate to make the leap into the AHL mix this coming season for the organization. He is 21-years old and has played consistently well between the top two tiers of the Czech League since being promoted from various youth academy programs. The last two seasons in particular have all been participated at the senior team level and he played 42 games in 2015-16 and 41 games in 2016-17. His best work was in Czech2, not the top flight, but he has shown signs that he could hit the ground running at the AHL level.

Other players that will be fun to see will be Allard, Moy, and Trenin who will all be starting their first seasons as professional hockey players in 2016-17. I’d expect all three to start off in Milwaukee at the AHL level. Trenin made his pro debut with the Admirals in the 2016 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs and recorded his first pro goal at the end of the Admirals 2016-17 regular season. Moy followed suit by also notching his first pro goal as an Admiral two games after Trenin.

The other whipper snapper that showed up at the end of the Admirals season to make his pro debut and record his first pro goal, Girard, will be at the camp. It is worth noting though that he will be returning to Shawinigan in the QMJHL for the 2017-18 season.

~Editor’s Note~

Lastly, I feel it important to make a personal announcement. I have been heavily involved in a full-time job commitment. As it has continued to drag on I feel it necessary to stick to what I do best here on Admirals Roundtable into the future until things change. Last season was a rough one behind the scenes for myself but, as is so often the case with players I watch in the AHL, adversity can be a good thing. I’ll find my way. And I will see you on Monday, Nashville. “The Doctor” is continuing on.

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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Mike Liambas Claims PHPA Built Tough Award

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Professional Hockey Players’ Association has named Mike Liambas the American Hockey League’s Western Conference Built Tough award winner. The award is voted by players within the PHPA and presented to individual players from the AHL and ECHL’s Eastern and Western Conferences who are regarded as the toughest in their conference, a player who is there for his teammates, and helps makes his team the most challenging to play against.

Press Release via PHPA:

(Niagara Falls, ON) The Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016-17 PHPA Built Tough Award as voted by the player Membership of the PHPA.

The PHPA Built Tough Award is presented to one player from the American Hockey League’s Eastern and Western Conferences and one player from the ECHL’s Eastern and Western Conferences who are considered by their peers to be the toughest in their respective conference. A player who is always there for his teammates and helps make his team one of the most challenging to play against.

ECHL Eastern Conference: Brandon McNally, Cincinnati Cyclones

Known for his combination of toughness and skill, Brandon McNally posted a career high 16 goals and 18 assists in 68 games split between Cincinnati, Utah, and San Diego during the 2016-17 season, while amassing 188 penalty minutes and 10 fighting majors. The 6’2, 218 pound forward from Saugus, Massachusetts split the 2015-16 season between the American Hockey League and ECHL after four years at Dartmouth College.

“For me, the team comes first, and I think a lot of guys have that mentality in the league,” said McNally, “It’s nice to know people in the league recognize that I try to be there for my teammates. I play hard every single night and I’m willing to stand up for my teammates.”

ECHL Western Conference: Derek Mathers, Allen Americans

Derek Mathers lead the ECHL with a whopping 274 penalty minutes while posting 7 goals and 5 assists for 12 points in 59 games, helping the Allen Americans to a first place finish in the Mountain Conference. Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, Mathers has accumulated at least 100 penalty minutes in each of his four previous seasons split between the ECHL and American Hockley League.

“I’m glad my teammates and peers recognize me for being there for them,” said Mathers. “It’s always nice being recognized, especially when it’s those you play with who are voting.”

AHL Eastern Conference: Justin Vaive, Rochester Americans

Standing 6’6 and weighing 240 pounds, Justin Vaive amassed 90 penalty minutes during the 2016-17 season while adding 3 goals and 9 assists. After being drafted by Anaheim in 2007, Vaive spent four years at Miami University and has spent the past six season primarily in the AHL split between Rochester, Bridgeport, Hartford, and San Antonio.

“You go into a season not expecting to be acknowledged or rewarded for whatever you do on the ice whether that’s scoring, or assists, or just being there for your teammates,” said Vaive. “All the other guys that were up for this award clearly deserved it. Our team was a skilled team and I was able to add that toughness element to our skilled roster. I also played against all the guys that were up for the award and they were all obviously deserving of it, and brought pretty much the exact same thing I did to the table.”

AHL Western Conference: Mike Liambas, Milwaukee Admirals

Playing in his 6th full season at the pro level, the 5’10, 203 pound Mike Liambas lead the AHL in penalty minutes with 149. His play didn’t go unnoticed as Liambas made his NHL debut on December 3rd with the Nashville Predators. After beginning his career in the ECHL with Cincinnati, Liambas has played for Orlando, Rockford, and Milwaukee, often as one of the league leaders in penalty minutes. He also contributed 3 goals and 8 assists which was a career high in points in a single season.

“I’m pretty vocal on the ice and I play a hard and honest game,” said Liambas. “I don’t take too many penalties or take advantage of guys on other teams outside the rules or the code of the game. When guys on the other team are saying you’re tough to play against and that you play the game the right way, it’s is good to hear, especially when you’re playing a style that is sometimes controversial. It’s really cool to see the guys you battle against put your name in for an award like this, I appreciate it.”

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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Joonas Lyytinen Signs Entry Level Contract

(Photo Credit: Tomi Hänninen)

Yesterday, the Nashville Predators officially signed Joonas Lyytinen to a two-year entry level contract. By doing so the Predators organization has successfully advanced everyone from their 2014 NHL Draft class and made them professional hockey players in North America: Kevin Fiala, Vladislav Kamenev, Jack Dougherty, Justin Kirkland, Viktor Arvidsson, and Aaron Irving.

The last name on that list, Irving, made his pro debut as a member of the Admirals on an amateur try-out contract during the 2015-16 season. Behind the scenes, during that exact same time, Lyytinen and goaltender Janne Juvonen had joined the Admirals after completing their respective seasons in Europe. They traveled with the team, participated in practices, and were eventually tabbed to professional try-out contracts prior to the second game of the playoffs for the Admirals. But – they never played. Which happens. Alex Carrier was in that exact same boat at the time after he completed his junior playing season. It’s meant to serve as a glimpse at the road ahead, meet the coaches and players, and to understand the team and the city you’d be playing in long in advance of the debut season.

What is curious is that neither Lyytinen or Juvonen did come back to Milwaukee or the AHL for the 2016-17 season. Instead, the Predators and Admirals brought in Jonas Gunnarsson and Mark Visentin rather than the young Finnish goaltender. And Lyytinen returned to his longtime Finnish team KalPa.

Yet, here we are with Lyytinen signing an entry level contract with the Predators only eighteen days after he signed a two-year contract with Kärpät as a free agent in Finland. It’s a little bit confusing.

What isn’t confusing is that Lyytinen’s stay back home last season was hugely positive for him. The Espoo, Finland native suited up with KalPa for 54 games while recording 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists). Those are all either matching careers bests or setting career bests. The most important one for me is the career best 54 games being played while competing at the senior level in Finland’s top flight: Liiga. He was 21-years of age during the course of the season and shrugged off a lesser 2015-16 season with one closer in strength to his full-season debut campaign of 2014-15 in Liiga. In my eyes he hit his sophomore slump and learned to make the right adjustments to vault forward.

It would seem that Lyytinen’s delayed arrival might have been worth it. But there is always going to be the question of will what he did on defense in Europe translate into how he has to play defense in the North American game. In recent years defensemen such as Johan AlmKristian Näkyvä, and Mikko Vainonen haven’t exactly been able to make that leap. In Vainonen’s case that remained to be true even after two years dabbling in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs. Will Lyytinen stick or end up heading back home where he basically had already signed a new two-year contract with Kärpät? That’s a storyline that will be coming up throughout the 2017-18 season.

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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The Best of Chatterbox, Season 4

(Photo Credit: Jeremy K. Gover)

There is one last item here at Admirals Roundtable that needs to be addressed before we officially close the books on the 2016-17 season. It is always my goal to provide a comprehensive coverage of the Milwaukee Admirals behind the scenes. With so many practice held on home ice at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena I am certain this was our biggest year yet on Chatterbox.

It’s been a fun season chatting away with the Admirals. This was a special group of people and they were always a pleasure to talk to. In addition, fan requests this season provided a lot of timely conversations and entertaining questions. For that: thanks for your feedback and suggestions!

You can listen along to the best of Chatterbox in our SoundCloud playlist below. There are quite a few gems so feel free to reminisce the 2016-17 Admirals season at your leisure. Where shall I mark the starting point? Let’s venture back to Juuse Saros acknowledged the Milwaukee media depth at 2016 Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp.

Cheers to all members of the Milwaukee Admirals this past season for providing the time to do all of these interviews. In addition, the Nashville Predators who did much the same this season as well.

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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2016-17 Milwaukee Admirals Report Card

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

There was a very good reason why there was such a lengthy delay between the end of the Milwaukee Admirals 2016-17 season and this end-season report card being published: it felt as if the Admirals were still working.

The Nashville Predators extended their all the way into mid-June by marking their first ever trip into the Stanley Cup Finals. Sadly, things just fell short against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a six-game series. But the Predators will have a banner to raise after earning their first Western Conference crown.

It might hurt for some just how close the Predators were. In fact it might hurt for the entire Summer. Yet, what the Predators organization displayed throughout the season -and especially in the playoffs- was how strong they are and can be for a great many years to come. The Predators 2016-17 season was a success. And for that it is hard to argue that the Admirals 2016-17 season also wasn’t a success.

~Season Summary~

From the moment the Milwaukee Admirals started their Training Camp at the MSOE Kern Center you could get a sense that the 2016-17 squad was a special one. There was a huge carry over from the 2015-16 team that won the Central Division and arguably had one of the best regular season campaigns in the team’s AHL history. The losses in terms of the roster of that team were not as significant as what was added by way of prospect depth and veteran leadership. And that showed very quickly with an exclamation point being a month of November in which the Admirals played 10 games, won 8 games, and didn’t suffer a single regulation loss.

(Photo Credit: John Saraya)

Where the season started to shift came during the months of December and January. The Admirals weren’t really in injury trouble much this season. Their parent club, on the other hand, was. In those two months there were swings in which the defensive and forward groups were hit hard and it shuffled the Admirals around a lot. In the long run, moments such as that help the team build and grow. In the short term, there is very erratic hockey being played and inconsistency can give life to further inconsistency. The Admirals were 12-13-0-1 in that span but the style of hockey was never quite as smooth as it was out of the gate and the team never really went back to that. Yet, how could it when certain players such as Juuse Saros and Harry Zolnierczyk aren’t there anymore?

The conclusion to this season was looking really good. The Admirals were trending upwards and integrating new blood long before the playoffs started. Unfortunately the Grand Rapids Griffins just appear to have the Admirals number. For a second consecutive season the Admirals were swept out of the first round by the Griffins. It has now been over four-years since the Admirals last won a playoff game. The Admirals have lost 11 straight playoff games and have been swept out of their last three playoff appearances in the first round.

(Photo Credit: Shane Abbitt)

What is bizarre, thinking in particular of these last two seasons, is that I wouldn’t consider the Admirals end result a failure despite the lack of playoff success. What are the Admirals at the end of the day? They are the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate to the Nashville Predators. The Admirals mission is to best prepare their players for NHL success. That mission has been a huge success and has especially been so with Dean Evason, Stan Drulia, and Scott Ford behind the bench. The poor stretches in the season or playoff difficulties are moments and scenarios to experience, to learn and improve from, and make use of come the time the Predators need a player to fill a role. That came into view for a mainstream audience during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Finals. And that should continue in the future because the prospect pipeline is continuing to deliver great talent with the Admirals grooming them for the NHL stage.

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

It is tough for many to take that the Admirals have a longstanding playoff losing streak right now. I get that. I read that often. Yet, it is also important to stress the bigger picture. The AHL is still a massively competitive league. The 2014-15 season should have acted as a reminder that playoff hockey isn’t a guarantee. The Admirals make the Calder Cup Playoffs on a regular basis. That’s still a positive. The next hurdle is making something of that stage. And, much like the trickle over from 2015-16 to 2016-17, the season ahead offers another great opportunity at making a big run.

The AHL is all about the process. It can be a long one. The Admirals effort to win the Calder Cup for the first time since 2004 is a long process. It isn’t a failure, though. And year after year it feels as if the Admirals can make it happen. Not all AHL organizations get to say that and some frankly fade out of existence. The Predators and Admirals are with each other as NHL and AHL partners until 2022. The chances of a Calder Cup being won in that time frame as the Predators continue growing is very great. Patience is important for the players. Patience is just as equally important for fans of an AHL team.

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The Next Chapter

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Last night, the Nashville Predators fell 2-0 in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Finals. In the process the Pittsburgh Penguins became the NHL’s first team in the salary cap era to repeat as Stanley Cup champions and the first to accomplish the feat since the Detroit Red Wings won in 1997 and 1998.

Ultimately, on the wrong side of any sort of a playoff exit, there are always those questions of: what if? There can be plenty of those.

What if Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen were never injured? What if P.K. Subban‘s opening goal wasn’t ruled “no goal” for offside? What if Colton Sissons‘ goal in Game Six wasn’t blown dead by a quick whistle? On and on they can go.

Those questions hold some weight. They do. But those questions also really don’t matter. What did matter was the here and now. That is something the Predators did very well when it came to making adjustments throughout the playoffs – be it through leadership within the room, smart work behind the bench from the coaching staff, or sheer organizational depth with the Milwaukee Admirals top two goal scorers on the season (Pontus Åberg and Frédérick Gaudreau) making a dent along the way.

There should be no sadness after a run the likes of which the Nashville Predators endured. At every level and with everywhere you could possibly look the Predators did something special. It was painfully close to reaching the ultimate goal: but that does not make what was done a failure.

For starters you need only look at the city itself. Nashville, from a general sense, simply had not been viewed as a hockey town by comparison to the vast majority of other teams in the NHL. This run forced all of the league’s audience to sit down and watch Nashville for what it really is. It is hockey mad. If there is such a thing as escalation among NHL fandoms, which I certainly hope for, what Nashville as a city and organization did in this playoff run goes past the Stanley Cup Finals. A non-traditional market put the rest of the NHL landscape on notice and shouted, “top that.”

What fans have created in “Smashville” is something that I actually feel teams will struggle to actually top. The Bridgestone Arena is “Bucket List” level loudness that needs to be admired in-person to fully grasp just what kind of an atmosphere is created. The scope of what Predators fans created was on full display these playoffs as the city was packed full of “Viewing Party” areas outside of the Arena itself and on down Broadway. It pretty much goes without saying, doesn’t it? That stigma is gone. Nashville is a hockey town.

Behind all the madness and the on-ice product the Predators front office has long been a great one in their own right. There are so many staff members, arena personnel, media members, and terrific people working behind the scenes that deserved this moment. Much like the team on the ice everyone behind the scene shined brightly in the spotlight. This is a multi-tiered process. I can’t think of many areas in which the whole of the Predators organization could do more in order to be more than what they already are.

It’s mid-June. The 2016-17 chapter has finally come to an end. Whenever any season does end it is difficult to let go knowing the team will change with the off-season ahead. The NHL Expansion Draft will happen. Trades will happen. Free Agency will see faces leave, new faces arrive, and some faces vanish by way of retirement. Yet, the foundation of what was just done isn’t moving anywhere.

In many ways I see something in the 2017 Predators that I saw from the 2008 Penguins. They were a young team filled with great talent, balanced with veteran leadership, and just so happen to get cut down in a six-game Stanley Cup Finals series to a more experienced group in the Red Wings at the time. That Penguins team took from that moment and went on to win the Stanley Cup the following season against the Red Wings in a seven-game series. Experience is everything. There are players who have been great for so long on the Predators roster that have become even better for having experienced hockey on a stage as big as the Stanley Cup Finals. That is where the next chapter really begins. After all, where else do you go from where the Predators just finished?

The Predators provided so much in the 2016-17 season. I’m thankful to have experienced a tremendous amount of it from Rookie Development Camp, to the full AHL season following the Milwaukee Admirals, as well as getting back to Nashville to watch hockey in both the regular season and for the moment the Predators clinched their first Western Conference crown. The view from here in Milwaukee only shows that more of the same is on the horizon. I don’t see why all of this momentum that was created can’t be sustained for years to come.

Next on Admirals Roundtable: we will have our 2016-17 Report Card available on Wednesday. Then comes the long waiting game that is a hockey off-season. If last off-season within the organization was an exciting one I can’t begin to imagine just what could happen from a team looking to perhaps find that last few pieces to go over the top.

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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Frédérick Gaudreau Seizing His Opportunities

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

There is something fitting about Frédérick Gaudreau rising to the occasion for the Nashville Predators. Whether it be late in the Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks or against the defending Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals: Gaudreau just isn’t one to waste an opportunity.

In fact, even prior to joining the Milwaukee Admirals as an undrafted free agent, it’s these kind of moments where Gaudreau tends to shine his brightest and excel.

(Photo Credit: Le Nouvelliste)

Where the Gaudreau story starts is with a loving family that supported his career path to take playing hockey seriously. A try-out under the watch of Shawinigan Cataractes head coach Éric Veilleux went very well but his opportunity to play in college would have been forfeited in the process of joining the Québec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) team. Gaudreau was heavily leaning towards exiting the junior ranks. He didn’t want to lose his chance to pursue the avenues that college could present.  He told Cataractes scout Alain Bissonnette that he needed to leave for college. Shortly after that discussion Gaudreau’s name would appear atop the list of players to have a meeting with the coaching staff to address the situation. They informed him that there was a spot for him on the team. What came first would be a conversation between Gaudreau and his family. What would follow would be Gaudreau’s first season of junior hockey which ended in him winning the 2011-12 CHL Memorial Cup with Shawinigan.

(Photo Credit: Stéphane Lessard)

Gaudreau’s path after that special moment wasn’t always the clearest. As phenomenal as that first year in the QMJHL was with Shawinigan it wasn’t always to be that way. The next season Shawinigan failed to make the QMJHL Playoffs. The season after that Gaudreau was traded in the QMJHL to the Drummondville Voltigeurs at the end of November-2013 in exchange for a first-round pick in 2015, a second-round pick in 2014 (which belonged to the Halifax Mooseheads), and Antoine Kilanowski. Gaudreau was suddenly thrust into a new system and opportunity with Drummondville to showcase what he was capable of. He responded with arguably his best run in the QMJHL in just over a half season of work: 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 36 games with a plus/minus rating of +14 and only a single minor penalty to his name. In the 2014 QMJHL Playoffs he recorded 14 points (10 goals, 4 assists) in 11 games which included an amazing 5 goal performance in the opening round’s deciding Game Five against the Victoriaville Tigres. Gaudreau and Drummondville would fall in a six-game series the next round against Val-d’Or Foreurs.

When Gaudreau’s junior career came to an end there was never much draft talk to be done despite having such a strong finish to his time in the QMJHL. The NHL Draft came and went. It wasn’t to be. And, nearly three-years ago, on 11 June, 2014, Gaudreau would sign his first career professional contract: a one-year AHL deal with the Milwaukee Admirals for the 2014-15 season.

Without getting into the massive details. The Admirals and the 2014-15 season didn’t get along. It was a season that ended a run of twelve consecutive playoff appearances for the Admirals. And also one that saw Gaudreau spending time between the AHL with the Admirals either on the ice or as a healthy scratch or in the ECHL as a member of the Cincinnati Cyclones. In total, he produced 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) in 57 games between the AHL and ECHL in his first professional playing season.

It can easily be frustrating for a young player to find themselves so far down the pecking order and in the ECHL after having such a stellar time in either juniors or college. For Gaudreau, he slowly found himself while spending time with the Cyclones and started developing a positive mindset focused on what he can actually control: his game.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

As awful as that 2014-15 season for the Admirals felt by the end of the campaign there was a player that entered the lineup before it ended that was a breath of fresh air for how hard he was working. It was Gaudreau. Knowing how hard he practiced, Admirals head coach Dean Evason placed Gaudreau back into the lineup before the season ended urging him to play with the same intensity he displayed in practice. That last weekend of the regular season could have been a blur for everyone as things went so sour. Gaudreau handled those games as if he was making a statement for the season ahead. The Admirals would re-sign Gaudreau to a new one-year AHL contract on 21 May, 2015. It wouldn’t take him as long to make good on that statement.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

When the 2015-16 season dawned in the AHL for the Admirals it did so with Gaudreau oddly sitting out as a healthy scratch for the season opener. He would proceed to play every single game after that. The exact moment that it was impossible to ignore just how good Gaudreau was came following a recall by the Predators of the Admirals captain Colton Sissons on 10 November, 2015. It was this recall that presented Gaudreau an opportunity to be thrust into Sissons’ top center role for the Admirals. What he did next was a sign of things to come: he excelled. In the time Sissons was recalled and reassigned by the Predators Gaudreau produced 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 5 games. He would add a further 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in the space of Sissons following recall and reassignment by the Predators in the span of 14 games. Gaudreau producing offensively was the eyebrow raising part. What he arrived with and showed so well was incredible skating ability and lockdown defensive awareness. Once Gaudreau’s skills on offense started to make its way to the ice he was undeniable for the two accolades that followed: being named to the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic and signing his first career NHL contract good for two-years through the Nashville Predators.

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Gaudreau was a headline act on an Admirals team that had won the 2015-16 AHL Central Division crown. He ended the season having massively eclipsed his rookie scoring total: 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 75 games. How would he respond the next season now that he wasn’t some great mystery and that the door to the NHL was within grasp? The same way he always does: he excelled. Gaudreau was nearly scoring goal-for-goal alongside Pontus Åberg during the 2016-17 season with the Admirals in the AHL. The moment he was put opposite wing to Anthony Richard with Mike Ribeiro centering the line? Things shot into the stratosphere for Gaudreau and resulted in a 48 point season with 25 goals and 23 assists.

Uncertainty over a junior playing career has lead to a chain of events that end up with a CHL Memorial Cup, going undrafted, two AHL contracts, an AHL All-Star appearance, and an NHL Contract. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to see Gaudreau in the NHL this season. Sure, his NHL debut came when the Predators should have went for the special instead of the soup and everyone went ill with food poisoning. But he belonged. Gaudreau has belonged in the NHL for awhile now. All that he has needed is the opportunity to show just how good he really is. There shouldn’t be surprise once that opportunity came in the form of a season ending injury to Ryan Johansen that Gaudreau would seize it and excel. It’s who he is. It’s what he does. And he’s just getting started.

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Matt White Signs One-Year Deal with Augsburger

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Matt White has officially signed a one-year contract with German club Augsburger Panther that will have him playing in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) for the 2017-18 season. White joins the likes of Justin Florek from the 2016-17 Milwaukee Admirals to shift to the DEL for next season.

It’s still rather hard for me to believe that it took until December of the 2015-16 season for the Admirals to be the first team to give White an AHL chance. He had played 158 career games in the ECHL prior to joining on a PTO Contract and proceeded to never play ECHL hockey again. In his time with the Admirals in the AHL he produced 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) in 125 games. He showed -across the board- that he was fully capable of excelling in the AHL and did so while displaying great skill, sound ability on defense, and leadership skills.

White will turn 28-years old prior to the start of the 2017-18 season. This will not be his first spell playing in Europe however as he did play for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia for a brief period of time in the 2014-15 season scoring 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) in 11 games before returning to North America.

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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