Admirals Training Camp Schedule Released

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It’s almost time to get frozen over at the MSOE Kern Center! (Photo Credit: Daniel Lavender)

Remember this morning when I said that the Milwaukee Admirals Pre-Season Camp hasn’t been officially scheduled or set in stone? It’s the afternoon now. And it has! The team will start on-ice activities here in Milwaukee on Tuesday October 4th. That same week will see the Admirals play their two Pre-Season games on Friday and Saturday.

~Training Camp Schedule~

Tuesday, October 4th:

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ MSOE Kern Center

Wednesday, October 5th:

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ MSOE Kern Center

Thursday, October 6th:

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ MSOE Kern Center

Friday, October 7th:

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Pre-Game Skate @ MSOEKern Center
7:00 PM – Exhibition Game vs. Rockford @ MSOE Kern Center

Saturday, October 8th:

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Pre-Game Skate @ Kern Center
7:00 PM – Exhibition Game vs. Chicago @ Triphahn Center Ice Arena

Sunday, October 9th:

Team Building Activity

Monday, October 10th:

Off-Day

Tuesday, October 11th:

9:30 AM – 10:30 AM @ MSOE Kern Center

Wednesday, October 12th:

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ MSOE Kern Center

Thursday, October 13th:

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM @ MSOE Kern Center (Tentative Media Day)

Friday, October 14th:

Travel Day to San Antonio

Saturday, October 15th:

7:00 PM – Regular Season Opener @ San Antonio

It’s nice to have everything mapped out, eh? It is also worth noting that all practice sessions held at the MSOE Kern Center are open to the public. So, if you’re just too eager to see the Admirals back on the ice, get your calendars cleared up now and plan accordingly.

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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Milwaukee Admirals 2016-17 Season Preview

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Juuse Saros showed no signs of getting lost in translation as he made the leap from Europe to North America last season with the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Today marks the first day of on-ice activities for the Nashville Predators Pre-Season Camp. And with that comes the counting down of days until the Milwaukee Admirals’ coaches and players migrate North for their own Pre-Season Camp. There is no official date set in stone just yet as to when the Admirals will take to the ice at the MSOE Kern Center and that comes from two key factors: the on-going World Cup of Hockey and on-going construction at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. That primary factor is that of the World Cup of Hockey which affords coaches and players due for Milwaukee that extra bit of time in Nashville with the big camp and allows for the last rounds of construction to be completed before the Admirals move into their brand new home for the 2016-17 season and beyond.

~The Big Three Questions~

A variety of important storylines are being presented right now in Nashville: Will Kevin Fiala make that extra leap this year and start with the Predators on opening night? Is Marek Mazanec actually the lock for the back-up role to Pekka Rinne or is Juuse Saros capable of stepping in now? What final pieces and parts will stick in place and who falls to Milwaukee?

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

Tackling those one at a time means starting with the big one, Mr. Fiala. Around this time a season ago there was all the feeling in the world that Fiala was going to climb into a role out of Pre-Season Camp despite the immense competition surrounding him. That didn’t happen. And the impact of Fiala being cut from Predators camp was something that lingered into the start of his AHL season. By no means was last year any sort of a lost season for Fiala. Instead I’d say it was exactly the season that he needed to grow as a man and as a player. For all the adversity there is out on the ice the battles off the ice are far more trying and taxing. Fiala was essentially cut from a big team for the first time in his career after having called his shot the months prior by saying he would make the team. It wasn’t so much his ability to lead the Admirals in scoring last season that was impressive as much as it was him overcoming early season struggles and accepting his place and roles with maturity. There were some hiccups along the way, team and league suspensions, but they were all taken as part of the learning process and taken to heart. By season’s end the Fiala on the ice and in the locker room from that of the start of the season were two different people. Should he make the Predators? Last season will have proved to work exactly as hoped for by Predators management, coaching, and the guidance given by the like in Milwaukee. Should he start the season in the AHL? He will have had last season’s situation to fall back on and know that all he truly needs to do is keep working. Either way, Fiala should factor into the Predators this season. It’s really just a question of if it manifests immediately or not.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Mazanec or Saros? That’s a question that came about a fair bit around Milwaukee last season but its now a Pre-Season storyline in Nashville. The assumption would be that Mazanec, who has both the time logged in the system and NHL experience to boot, is the front runner to back-up Rinne. I agree with this assumption for two reasons: (1) Mazanec has paid his dues and is coming off of his most consistent season since arriving in North America. (2) Saros is still incredibly young and should get the experience of a full-season at the AHL level of being heavily leaned upon as “the guy” in net. Rinne played 147 games in Milwaukee at the AHL level. Mazanec, 118 games. Saros, 38 games. There’s no telling whether or not the Predators eventually fast track Saros but the only way they can confidently or remotely go with that as an option is to give him a full-season as a first choice goaltender in the AHL. In Rinne’s first season with the Admirals he played in 51 games. In Rinne’s last season with the Admirals he played 65 games. Saros literally 50-50 split starts with Mazanec last season at 38 starts per goalie. That needs to be upped substantially and it will be a true test of Saros ability as well as endurance. Therefore it isn’t exactly time to pull the trigger on Saros. But, should he pass with flying colors as he did last season but on an even larger sampling size, it will give plenty of people something to think about next off-season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

And to allow for a better note on Mazanec as the choice of back-up to Rinne I tell Nashville fans this: relax. It’s bizarre to think that for as good as Rinne is that there is this unease in the air regarding his ability heading into the season. Last year’s 2.48 goals against average wasn’t all that great but his ability to bounce back for the better has only really seen further regressions twice (2008-09 to 2009-10, 2011-12 to 2012-13). He is still going to be great in net. Mazanec, in the same light, is now being promoted into a role he’s been groomed for. His progressions in the AHL have been steady but last season was an eye-opener. Mazanec entered the 2015-16 season seeing his previous year’s battery-mate Magnus Hellberg get traded to make way for the young hyped up goaltending prospect Saros who would be pushing for playing time in net. Mazanec could have fallen flat on his face, Saros could have steam rolled him and started more games, but the two split starts. Mazanec had his best AHL season, in my book, in 2015-16 and only a stinker of a regular season finale in Rockford by the team in front of Mazanec cost him the statistical numbers to cement that as a 100% fact. Mazanec is ready. He’s always been ready as proven by his past work for the Predators. Now he just has the chance to match his AHL level work in the NHL.

The final question is more of a sitting and waiting game. The Pre-Season Camp roster provides plenty of insight as to who could be on the AHL and ECHL radar given the attention provided by Nashville from Development Camp through the recent Rookie Camp and Tournament.

Allow me to list a few players right now that people in Milwaukee and potentially Cincinnati should have their eyes on: Gabryel BoudreauMike DonnellanEric KnodelEric RobinsonZachary SawchenkoTylor Spink, and Tyson Spink.

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Out of those names there are already a few to keep a firm eye out on. Robinson became a familiar name when he joined the Admirals at the end of the 2014-15 season out of Dartmouth and proceeded to start the 2015-16 season with a bang before a knee injury around Thanksgiving ended his season. He took to the ice for the Rookie Camp and Tournament and looked just as dynamic as he did at the start of last season. I feel comfortable in saying he is a Evason-style player in that he always works hard and “does the right things.” If he is fully fit he should at least be due for Milwaukee once Pre-Season Camp begins and is likely for the ECHL as a flex player the Admirals could utilize again this season.

The next name that I think we should be getting used to is Boudreau who was a participant at this year’s Rookie Development Camp and has been brought into the mix again for the full-range of Predators Pre-Season activities. That same tag can be given Sawchenko but, unlike the goaltender, Boudreau is done with his junior playing commitments and is set for his first year of pro hockey this season. Boudreau made his professional playing debut last season as a member of the San Jose Barracuda in the 2016 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. He was a second round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in the 2013 NHL Draft and I’m willing to bet that high draft selection came due to his shot. I’ve watched him in person and his shot is a deadly one. He hits his wide variety of shots with pop and a very quick release. If the Sharks let him go? It’s the Predators gain to secure this 21-year old who still has plenty of potential.

~The Back Up~

For the sake of things let’s keep running with the assumption: Mazanec in Nashville, Saros in Milwaukee. That’s great. It makes a lot of sense. But who backs up Saros is debatably the biggest question facing the Admirals heading into the 2016-17 season.

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

Think about the onslaught of names that are behind Saros right now in the AHL/ECHL pipeline and the situation that awaits the Cincinnati Cyclones once everything falls into place: Jonas Gunnarsson, Mark Visentin, Brandon WhitneySteve Racine, and Joel Rumpel. One of those first three names listed will compete for the back-up spot. The rest will end up in the trenches down in Cincinnati. The front runner to back-up Saros right now would likely be Gunnarsson but a 100% healthy Visentin could prove to be quite the competition heading into the season. Just because Saros made last year’s transition from Europe to North America look easy doesn’t mean that it is the same for everyone. If there is any true positions in the game of hockey that get exposed in that transition it is in net and on defense where the pace of the game can cause all kinds of havoc that wasn’t experienced in the Swedish or Finnish leagues. I’ve watched Gunnarsson up close this Summer and liked what I saw. He looked alright in the Rookie Tournament, as well. But when the temperature drops outside and the real games are played what kind of Gunnarsson is going to show up as an AHL goaltender? This is a goaltender that was basically tabbed over Janne Juvonen despite Gunnarsson having teatered between the top two flights of the Swedish Hockey League in his career while Juvonen has been the go-to for Pelicans in the top flight of Liiga the past two-seasons. It’s a risk. Visentin and his injury history, it’s a risk. Whitney, who struggled mightily last season in the ECHL, it’s a risk. If Saros will be “the guy” for Milwaukee he really is going to be earning that title if some of these depth selections don’t pan out.

~Don’t Forget About Me~

People know about Fiala. People know about Saros. Nashville was introduced to Pontus Åberg last season in the playoffs and there is a sense of anticipation for Vladislav Kamenev this season. Yet, someone I don’t often hear spoken of in these prospect conversations is a guy who hit the AHL running last season by the name of Max Görtz.

(Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

(Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

Görtz narrowly missed out to Fiala for the highest scorer on the Admirals roster last season. The Swede scored 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) in 72 games. There are two stats I point to when comparing Görtz and Fiala last season, penalty minutes and plus/minus. Görtz had 18 penalty minutes to Fiala’s 78 penalty minutes, Görtz plus/minus came in at +14 while Fiala’s was -19. You can eye-roll the plus/minus as a stat all you want, call it a fluke stat, but that margin between the two is that of the second best forward and worst forward in that category on the team last season. In fact, Görtz was tied for second best in plus/minus on the entire team with defenseman Jimmy Oligny with both trailing leader Max Reinhart by a +2 margin. Görtz all-around level of play last season was reliable and, at times, explosive. In the month of December he scored 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in 13 games en route to being named the AHL Rookie of the Month. With one Swede with a power shot gone from the Admirals power-play, Viktor Arvidsson, who stepped in? It was Görtz – who hammered in a team best 11 power-play goals. Only seven players in the AHL scored as many or more power-play goals last season than Görtz. He also had 11 power-play assists last season which had him tied with Kamenev for fifth on the team.

His ability to score and his shot were known coming into last season. Would most have expected it to show off as well as it did in his debut season in North America? Not likely. But the element that ties everything together nicely is the on-ice maturity he displayed right away. Mistakes are minimal. Penalty issues don’t come up all that often and that comes from a big bodied player that can battle along the boards to get pucks. He isn’t careless. He showed a patient approach to his game last season and it paid off. Now that he should be a lot more comfortable knowing the North American game and the system of hockey the team looks to provide it is going to be a fascinating watch to see if Görtz can go from the guy that people just aren’t talking about to the one they would most like to see get called up in the middle of the season.

~Four More~

What excites me the most about the 2016-17 season for the Admirals isn’t as much the new venue they will be playing at but that pretty much all of last year’s team will be returning. You know, that team that went 48-23-3-2 (101 points, 0.664 points percentage) and won the Central Division? Sure there are some veteran names that left but some veteran names were added right back on. That’s the life of an AHL team. But the added entertainment value of the life of an AHL team is the new talent and prospects that join year-to-year. This season there will be four first-year pros that were drafted by the Predators that could make splashes straight away: Justin Kirkland, Anthony Richard, Jack Dougherty, and Alexandre Carrier.

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

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

If forward roles weren’t stacked enough for the Admirals in the 2016-17 season they will be seeing the inclusion of Kirkland and Richard. It’s worth noting that Richard made his pro debut in the playoffs with the Admirals last season and looked energetic despite playing with a lower-body injury. He’s healed up. And now he gets to really open up the throttle for his first full-season of pro hockey. As for Kirkland? He should be the one everyone is most excited to see take to the ice for the first time this season. When everyone was busy talking about Jimmy Vesey my mind shifted towards Kirkland. He’s younger, bigger, stronger, and more dynamic. The true selling point between the two though is that Kirkland sounds like just the type of player that an Evason is going to love to coach. He can play center. He can play out on the wing. Better than that? It doesn’t matter to him as long as he is out there doing what the coaches are telling him.

Defensively this year’s Admirals group will be a young one but I feel that’s been the conversation these last few seasons. Adding Matt Irwin should be a positive influence on the group but the hope is for guys such as Oligny and Trevor Murphy to really up what they were able to achieve a season ago as players such as Dougherty and Carrier enter the mix.

Dougherty has been in a storm these last few seasons where he can’t quite settle down and grow in the same place: USA Hockey National Team Development Program (2013-14), University of Wisconsin (2014-15), and Portland Winterhawks (2015-16). Hopefully by coming on-board with the Admirals he will finally have a stable platform from which to build from because, despite all the rapid changes in scenery, he has still done very well for himself. That showed late last season when he managed to play for 3 games with the Admirals. The pro debut is out of the way. His first pro point has already been achieved. He knows the team, its coaches, and its players. Perhaps this season is one where he can finally settle in and blossom.

Carrier is the one player on this list where I fear the numbers game could potentially rattle him down to the ECHL for his first full-season of pro hockey. That wouldn’t be a bad thing but my experience this Summer seeing his line-work with Murphy really makes me hope that they stick together for awhile. The two had instant chemistry and have games that are quite similar to one another. They aren’t the biggest defensemen on the ice but their skating and puckhandling skills make-up for the size. If the Predators defensive structure and the ideals of what it is to be a Predators defenseman is to be an active offensive presence by joining the rush while utilizing that same skating and attacking ability to defend? There might not be a better example coming down the pipeline than a paring between Murphy and Carrier. I just hope Milwaukee gets a chance to see it work this season.

~Closing~

This season is going to be a roller coaster ride that far exceeds the on-ice product for the Milwaukee Admirals. It is a reintroduction of the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena as the home to the franchise that it once housed when it was the MECCA. A changed environment is going to be a surreal feeling those first few games. I actually wonder just how many fans have actually never stepped foot inside of the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena but are bracing for that first experience in close to a month’s time. Those who have experienced it but will be taking in all the renovations. Myself? I last attended an event in the building during the US Cellular Arena days for a Motocross event with my dad when I was a middle school kid. Seeing these changes to what I remember are simply impressive.

As last season was unique with new uniforms and the realization that the BMO Harris Bradley Center was no longer going to house Admirals hockey this too is going to have such a unique look and feel about it. While renovations will be on-going, as the old becomes new again, the constant that we can all rely on is that this year’s team should provide the same level of excitement that it did a season ago. The benefit of last season, despite the painful playoff exit, was the experience and the time provided to learn and grow. Those players are pretty much all coming back. The idea of unfinished business and multiple players looking to prove their NHL value right now should make the 2016-17 season a special one on the ice. And it will be paired at the hip with a special one off it as the Admirals well and truly have a place they can call their home.

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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Predators Rookie Camp Roster & Notes

(Photo Credit: Daniel Lavender)

Alexandre Carrier and Samuel Girard will be among those participating in this year’s Nashville Predators Rookie Camp and Tournament. (Photo Credit: Daniel Lavender)

The long slumber that is the off-season is near its end. The Nashville Predators pre-season activities will start with their Rookie Camp on September 15th. Plus, the new World Cup of Hockey will open up with exhibition games tonight with competitive fixtures beginning a little over a week from today on September 17th. Hockey season is finally upon us and all is right with the world once more.

There are plenty of talking points when looking at the released roster for the Predators Rookie Camp. A good chunk of the names listed are quite familiar, some were on hand during this summer’s Rookie Development Camp, and a few others are invitees who could potentially land with the Milwaukee Admirals or the Cincinnati Cyclones for the 2016-17 season.

~Rookie Camp Roster~

Forwards: Kris Bennett, Kevin Fiala, Max Görtz, Vladislav Kamenev, Justin Kirkland, Mathieu Olivier, Gabryel Paquin-BoudreauAnthony Richard, Eric Robinson, Tylor Spink, Tyson Spink, and Shane Walsh.

Defensemen: Frédéric AllardAlexandre Carrier, Jonathan Diaby, Teddy Doherty, Jack Dougherty, Samuel Girard, and Trevor Murphy.

Goalies: Jonas GunnarssonJuuse Saros, and Zachary Sawchenko.

The players that are listed as invitees, or are under contract through the Admirals, are: Bennett, Olivier, Paquin-Boudreau, Robinson, Spink, other Spink, Walsh, Doherty, and Sawchenko.

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

My first head turning moment with the roster comes in the form of Robinson being listed. The 26-year old winger made his pro debut with the Milwaukee Admirals at the end of the 2014-15 season and returned on an AHL contract last season. His 2015-16 season started with a bang: 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist) in 5 games with the Admirals (AHL) and 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 8 games with the Cyclones (ECHL). This all came to a thundering halt on 11/26/15 when he suffered a significant knee injury that required surgery and put him out for the rest of the season. It’s unclear if the forward is officially set to rejoin on an AHL contract with the Admirals but his inclusion on the Predators Rookie Camp Roster is a welcome sight given the story of “what if” for him a season ago. Not to mention, if not for his injury, who knows if Matt White would have entered the fold.

(Photo Credit: Bob Cornell // Colgate Athletic Communications)

(Photo Credit: Bob Cornell // Colgate Athletic Communications)

It’s not all that often that you see identical twins playing on the exact same team but the Spink twins are looking to make a splash together in their first full-season of professional hockey. The two 23-year olds played at Colgate University where they both enjoyed a solid four-year run of NCAA Division I hockey. At the end of last season they both joined the Toledo Walleye in the ECHL on ATO contracts and Tylor managed to get a bump up to the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Telling the two apart off the ice  might be a bit tricky but on the ice it becomes a bit more clear: Tylor is a center with a right shot and Tyson is a winger with a left shot. All things told these two combined for 243 points (92 goals, 151 assists) at Colgate University. They’re in as invitees but could both add to an already deep AHL forward group for the 2016-17 season.

To end with some final notes: If Sawchenko manages to climb up from being an inclusion to Rookie Development Camp and Rookie Camp all the way to a pro contract – that would mean the AHL and ECHL setup having five goaltenders. Allard attended Rookie Development Camp this summer but did not participate in on-ice activities due to injury. Paquin-Boudreau was involved in on-ice activities this summer with the Predators, looked great, and could be yet another forward slated for a pro contract.

Who do you feel has an opportunity to best elevate themselves from invitee to a contract for the 2016-17 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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Fifteen with Harris Turer and Jon Greenberg

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

He’s a pretty good one. And Juuse Saros will be, too. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Last season here at Admirals Roundtable the feature interview series Fifteen allowed fans to get to know their favorite players off the ice that little bit better and to participate by submitting requests for who they wanted to hear from first.  Little did I expect that on a few occasions non-player personnel would be requested to have on. The goal during the season for me is to access the players in the short while that they’re around. And I’m happy to say that was accomplished last season. With the 2016-17 season creeping upon us I think now is the perfect time to launch Season 2 of Fifteen with some of those non-player requests that fans asked for.

When I turned up to the Milwaukee Admirals front office late last week I went with this intention in mind. Admirals Owner/CEO Harris Turer and President Jon Greenberg were both actually early requests in the feature last season but I felt obligated to get to the players first. Both Harris and Jon always make themselves available so this timing came well enough for us to do an extra interview on top of this one.

One of the things I often admire about the Admirals front office, for those that haven’t experienced it first hand, is that it is very much a family atmosphere. The whole group is really a nice reflection of its leaders from up top where hard work is done but done while loving the work that’s being accomplished. That same family atmosphere out of Harris and Jon can also be seen at any Admirals game you’ve attended. Some owners take the luxury box seat and avoid the crowds. The Admirals Owner/CEO and President are always seated with the fans and often wearing jerseys with their own names on them if you needed an added reason to stop by and say, “Hello.” It’s really been this way since the two joined forces in 2005. Perhaps after this interview even more moments of “Hello” will be done.

Cheers to both Harris Turer and Jon Greenberg for spending the time to conduct both sets of these interviews. Again, the behind the scenes activities leading into the Milwaukee Admirals 2016-17 season is by far busier than the hockey news cycle this summer may lure you to think. I appreciate the time afforded by both to take a break for a moment to chat.

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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Sitting Down with Harris Turer and Jon Greenberg

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

While the off-season news-wise hasn’t been all that eventful in regards to the organization there has still been plenty taking place behind the scenes for the Milwaukee Admirals. The franchise is set to reopen a history of hockey at what was once the fabled MECCA – now known as the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The Admirals started playing playing hockey in that building in the mid-70’s before making the leap to the Bradley Center in 1988. The ol’ MECCA opened in 1950 and has seen its share of renovations and name changes over the years. The latest round of renovations though as substantial and come by way of the reunion of the Admirals and their former stomping grounds.

So, what is all happening behind the scenes and how are things progressing? Will the renovations around the concourse, as well as the construction of the locker rooms for both pro and youth hockey teams, be completed on-time? Where are we all going to park? And what will it be like going head-to-head with competition from across the street from the Milwaukee Bucks this season and beyond?

To answer those questions and more I ventured in to chat with Admirals Owner/CEO Harris Turer and Admirals President Jon Greenberg. This is the first of a two-part interview series I was able to conduct with the head of the Admirals front office with a Fifteen feature set for Monday. Originally the plan was for Fifteen only -but- we all enjoy talking about the business and the future of the Milwaukee Admirals. That allowed for this sit down with the two to learn more about where things currently stand at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and how things are progressing.

Cheers to both Harris Turer and Jon Greenberg for taking the time to discuss everything connected to what has been a busy off-season of preparation on a whole new level for the Milwaukee Admirals front office staff. Fifteen with both Turer and Greenberg will turn up on Monday morning. Hopefully the 2016-17 AHL schedule won’t be too far behind that.

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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Ramblings, Vol. 47

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

October 29th will feature a night in Milwaukee with the Milwaukee Admirals and Milwaukee Bucks both in action in arenas separated by only West State Street. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Happy Friday, everyone. The work week has come to a close and the hockey off-season keeps inching closer and closer to its end as well. For example, the AHL’s schedule is due out in the near future thanks to the NBA officially unveiling their league schedule for the 2016-17 season last evening. While the Milwaukee Admirals are no longer tenants to an NBA arena there are still a few teams caught in that mix which forces the wait. That being said, both last season and the season prior both had the AHL schedule get released on the 27th of August. So, we’re almost in the good.

~Aww Shucks, There Go The Bucks~

 

While the wait for the AHL schedule to drop has been a lengthy one most fans have had their calendars circled for the home opener for a good while. The Milwaukee Admirals return to the ol’ MECCA, now known as the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, is on Saturday October 29th. What became known last night was that across the street at the BMO Harris Bradley Center is that it wouldn’t be the only professional sporting event taking place that date. The Milwaukee Bucks are set to play the Brooklyn Nets on the -exact same night- with the -exact same time- tag not attached to it because the Admirals will be playing an hour earlier on the evening.

While the AHL schedule isn’t out yet I have to imagine this will be the first of a few crossover moments between the Admirals and Bucks for the year’s to come. I’d also have to take a shot in the dark guess that this might be the first instance of the two teams playing at the same time in the same city since the Admirals’ Wilson Park days of the franchise.

The long story short here is that this little head-to-head between the Admirals and Bucks is the present and future of downtown Milwaukee. What’s ironic here in terms of actual business practices is that both would love to lean on casual fans to sweep on by and attend games – but now one will likely detract from the other in that respect. It would be in both organization’s best interests to minimize these head-to-head dates – especially for the Admirals once the allure of attending a new arena becomes a reality. Whether this means the Admirals shifting towards afternoon games on the weekend during conflict dates or not will remain to be seen. But, it’s either that or directly going head-to-head and seeing which fans cross West State Street to their respective homes. Uniquely that is a story behind the on-ice product that will be fascinating to see unfold if there are a solid number of conflict dates between the two teams.

~Cleveland Cavaliers On-Ice~

If that little NBA/AHL crossover discussion wasn’t enough there was the news this week that the 2015-16 AHL Calder Cup Champions will no longer be known as the Lake Erie Monsters but as the Cleveland Monsters.

On the surface, I’m a fan of that switch because that is where they play and it provides a better professional identity for the team to utilize the name of their city. What I am not sold on having Dan Gilbert’s ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the Monsters mean having the exact same look. Because, at a certain point, why not rename last year’s Calder Cup winners the Cavaliers as well if their uniform update is meant to copy them anyways.

(Photo Credit: @monstershockey // Twitter)

(Photo Credit: @monstershockey // Twitter)

I suppose a throwback to the Cleveland Barons was simply out of the question. That’s a shame for purely nostalgic reasons. If anything this rebranding and new look is uniquely their own identity. I will give the Cleveland Monsters that. It’s not a very good one -but- it is all their’s now. They aren’t exactly the first team to really embrace the look or identity of their local NBA team. True. It’s just an odd mishmash. I do however look forward to the potential Cavaliers/Spurs and Monsters/Rampage crossover game that will need to take place twice this season – once in Cleveland and once in San Antonio. For a laugh. You can read more about the the updated look of the Monsters on Icethetics.

~Pre-Season~

I did some due diligence in sharing the news on social media but, for those that missed out, the pre-season dates for the Milwaukee Admirals are officially set.

Friday, Oct. 7 vs. Rockford: 7:00 pm CST (MSOE Kern Center)
Saturday, Oct. 8 @ Chicago: 7:00 pm CST (Triphahn Center Ice Arena at Hoffman Estates)

This is becoming a tale as old as time. The Rockford IceHogs at the Kern Center followed by a road game against the Chicago Wolves the next evening. The pre-season really picks up in Nashville with the Nashville Predators Rookie Camp on September 15th with a Rookie Tournament taking place September 17-20. The official Predators training camp begins on September 22nd and their official pre-season schedule is locked and loaded with the final pre-season game taking place the same night as the Admirals meeting with the Wolves.

How do you feel head-to-head competition between the Milwaukee Admirals and Milwaukee Bucks will impact both organization’s business?

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 Ramblings | 12 Comments

Admirals Sign Mark Visentin to One-Year Contract

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

The Milwaukee Admirals have officially signed goaltender Mark Visentin to a one-year AHL contract this afternoon. Visentin was an invitee to the Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp this Summer where he was reacquainted with goaltending coach Ben Vanderklok who he started his career with in junior hockey with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.

Press Release via Milwaukee Admirals:

Milwaukee, WI—The Admirals announced today that they have signed goaltender Mark Visentin to a American Hockey League contract for the 2016-17 season.

Visentin, 23, spent last season with the Rockford IceHogs, where he accumulated a 4-6-2 record with a 2.60 goals against average, .906 save percentage and one shutout in 13 contests. The Arizona Coyotes first round pick in 2010, Visentin played two seasons with the Portland Pirates from 2012-14 and made his NHL debut with the Coyotes on April 12, 2014 against the San Jose Sharks.

Visentin played four years of junior hockey with the Niagara IceHogs of the OHL. He was named the league’s Goalie of the Year in 2011 after going 30-9-6 with 2.52 GAA and a .917 save %. The following year he led OHL goalies with 10 shutouts and a 1.99 GAA. The Waterdown, ON native played for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships in both 2010 and 2011, winning silver and bronze medals, respectively.

The Admirals will open up the home portion of their 2016-17 season on Saturday, October 29th at the UWM Panther Arena. The remainder of the schedule will be released later this summer.

Visentin was the second goaltender selected in the 2010 NHL Draft when he was drafted by Arizona Coyotes organization with the twenty-seventh overall pick. He made his NHL debut on 4/12/14 but unfortunately for the soon to be 24-year old goalie that was his one and only game played at that level. A series of ankle injuries have hindered his career which ended up leaving him in a similar position last off-season when he wound up signing an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs. He only logged 13 games in the 2015-16 season sporting a 4-6-2-1 record with a 2.60 goals against average, 0.906 save percentage, and a lone shutout.

The depth now at goaltender shouldn’t be all that worrying. Between the Nashville Predators potential back-up options, the Admirals options, and the ECHL there are five options to chose from: Marek Mazanec, Juuse Saros, Jonas GunnarssonBrandon Whitney, and now Visentin. It’s most likely that the latter two names will be the ECHL depth options but, with strong performances in pre-season camp versus the debutant to the North American game Gunnarsson, the options for the back-up role in Milwaukee just improved.

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 News | 9 Comments

Making Sense of the Defense

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

A few days ago I was questioning whether or not the seventh choice defenseman for the Nashville Predators would be Petter Granberg or Stefan Elliott. Now it appears they will be fighting for the eighth choice option with the seventh now being Anthony Bitetto after yesterday’s free agent signing of veteran defenseman Matt Carle. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

In the past two days the Nashville Predators made moves to finally boost that defensive group of their’s. Relax, that’s the sarcasm that can be afforded when the top four defenseman on your team are: Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis. With Petter Granberg being brought into the fold for two-years I felt that the matter of seventh choice defenseman could come down to him or potentially Stefan Elliott. Now that the Predators signed veteran defenseman Matt Carle I’m left thinking Anthony Bitetto is the odd-man out in Nashville -and- whether or not both Granberg and Elliott could be Milwaukee bound with first-year pro’s such as Jack Dougherty or Alexandre Carrier getting shipped to the ECHL all thanks to NHL overflow.

At this point in time the Predators current defensive group seems to be setting up with high-powered and full-throttled machines taking up the top two defensive lines with a good veteran presence mixed in as the third pairing.

Josi-Subban
Ekholm-Ellis
Carle-Weber

For those living under a rock, my apologies for not getting to much into it on this website’s end, but that Weber there is not -that- Weber. That would be Yannick Weber as the whole reason for getting Mr. Subban was trading long-time captain Shea Weber to the Montréal Canadiens straight-up. The -other- Weber signed a one-year deal on the first day of free agency and, to be honest, it was fairly quiet since that actually took place. That changed once Granberg and Carle were given the thumbs up.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The true loser and odd-man out in yesterday’s news was Bitetto who looked to be taking that left side role on the third defensive pairing with Weber for the 2016-17 season. When Granberg signed his two-year deal no one really bat an eyelid on the matter. Bitetto and Granberg were the surplus to requirements for the Predators last season and figured in here and there until Bitetto started to pull further ahead between the two. Bitetto was still in and Granberg was likely the best bet for seventh choice defenseman. That changed yesterday when a veteran defenseman in Carle, someone that operated with Predators head coach Peter Laviolette oversaw with the Philadelphia Flyers for three seasons (2009-12), signed as a free agent with Nashville. The move should mean that Carle bumps Bitetto down the pecking order where he was already last man on the “ice-time for defenseman” totem pole and into that cobweb collecting, NHL payday collecting, and suit wearing position of seventh choice defenseman. It’s simply the downside of being on the fringe to being part of -no arguments here- the best and deepest defensive group in the NHL entering this season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Most may have understandably burned that last Predators playoff game from memory but my lasting image from that game, aside from wondering what happened with -that- Weber, was seeing a cool, confident, and aggressive Bitetto storming the ice. He looked to have really settled in finally and let loose. That made his contract extension all the better. Under my microscope here in Milwaukee Bitetto showed constant year-to-year improvements in his game as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals be it improving his professionalism by accepting a trip to the ECHL (2012-13), getting in better shape (2013-14), improving offensively (2013-14), and blending his game all together to be a complete defenseman (2014-15). Last season was his first full go at the NHL and, hey, there were speed bumps with signs of promise. Sounds familiar to a Bitetto I’ve watched previously. Allow him to access a seasonal performance and await to see his progression because he tends to make the necessary adjustments. Sadly, that’s going to be a bit more complicated now given he will need to do it from the outside in.

Where Bitetto loses out doesn’t stop purely on his playing time for this year’s Predators, either. The trickle down effect that the Carle signing has actually becomes an overflow in the talent pool that makes that two-way portion in Granberg’s contract make all the more sense for the 2016-17 season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Last season the Predators felt fine and dandy with two surplus defenders waiting in the wings if needed. That eventually ended up becoming three with Granberg being snagged off waivers and then back to two once Victor Bartley was sent on and then cleared the waiver wire process to reach the Admirals. The Bitetto and Granberg “on the outside looking in” setup allowed for Bitetto to play 28 games while Granberg played 27 games. If needed the Predators can go right back to this well. Either that or they can now play with the concept of trusting Bitetto as a seventh man anchor in the event he is needed while allowing Granberg, on his two-way contract, to start the upcoming season in the AHL. This is where we reach an overflow problem.

My assumption for the Admirals defense for the 2016-17 season was for a very clear cut concept based on what head coach Dean Evason started to preach in regards to having three left-handed shooting defenseman paired with three right-handed shooting defenseman. For how the off-season looked up until Tuesday I felt confident that opening night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena would look something along these lines (pun intended):

Oligny-Elliott
Irwin-Dougherty
Murphy-Carrier

Jimmy Oligny won’t have his line-y Corey Potter back from the end of last season but he should have someone just as capable in Elliott to play alongside as the top defensive pairing. While signed on as a two-way contracted talent it is most likely that Matt Irwin remains in Milwaukee for the bulk of the coming season and the eventual 29-year old should provide a great security blanket for the likes of a first-year pro such as Dougherty who did log game-time for the Admirals at the end of the 2015-16 season. Then comes a question of what to do with sophomore defenseman Trevor Murphy? Well, the recent Rookie Development Camp in Nashville conducted by Evason and the Admirals coaching staff seemed to indicate an answer to that question considering Murphy and incoming first-year pro Carrier were paired the entire camp and looked great together.

And this is where the curveball of overflow from Nashville changes things…

Now that it appears that the Predators defense has gone to plaid (cheeky joke inside of a joke) the potential overflow of talent topside can alter things quite drastically for the Admirals and for the incoming prospects set for their first full-season of professional hockey. Let’s assume that both Granberg and Elliott end up in Milwaukee and that the Evanson philosophy of pairing of left-handed and right-handed shots on defense remains. The Admirals likely slot Granberg with Oligny as a shutdown defensive line, Elliott with Irwin to have a balanced yet attack minded line, and then are left to decide between Dougherty or Carrier for Murphy’s linemate all while Teddy Doherty and Jonathan Diaby familiarize themselves with Skyline Chili in Cincinnati. Given Carrier’s form at Rookie Development Camp alongside Murphy I have a hard time seeing that dynamic get split up which would make Dougherty the man on the fringe.

Oligny-Granberg
Irwin-Elliott
Murphy-Carrier
(Diaby-Dougherty)
(Doherty)

If this all sounds dodgy: relax. This is just a potential scenario and one that may not even need to happen if the Predators hold true to having Bitetto and Granberg watching from the sidelines until they are needed like last season. After all, if the Predators want Bitetto and Granberg to be stationary and not playing but just be there in the off chance a rotation is needed? They showed they can be up to the task a season ago and can give it a fair go once again this season. There is just one thing that creeps into my head and it is this. The Predators paying NHL level money to Granberg to be a stationary eight choice defenseman while the option exists to pay him less while playing him in the AHL doesn’t quite fit their typical modus operandi… although Austin Watson was a rare exception to that last season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Should Bitetto and Granberg end up falling into their roles held previously? It’s good. Should the Predators decide to go with Bitetto as that surefire fallback plan if someone gets injured and send Granberg down to Milwaukee to remain active? It’s good. At day’s end the beauty out of all of this defenseman madness is that the Predators have so much depth that it is almost problematic to try and figure out the best path for all parties to get set on the right course while maximizing team performance and career development for the prospects. Certainly Taylor Aronson and Garrett Noonan might have different opinions about how the thickening of glass ceilings at both the NHL and AHL level can hinder career progress. I’m hopeful that for Dougherty and Carrier’s sake that they don’t eventually find themselves this coming season, as first year pro’s, in situations that they shouldn’t be playing in with it then coming back as a year lost or not fully utilized.

The question of “whether the Predators will need an optional eighth defenseman in Granberg” will be one of those storylines to keep an eye out for once the pre-season starts up in late-September. It can go really two ways with possible repercussions that would not only impact the look of the defense in Milwaukee but also Cincinnati. Is there such a thing as having too much depth? Because I feel the Predators might test that boundary in 2016-17.

If you were in Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile’s shoes: would you keep Petter Granberg alongside Anthony Bitetto as defensemen in reserve or would you have Granberg start his season with the Milwaukee Admirals and have seven defensemen stationed in Nashville?

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 | 1 Comment

Patrick Mullen Signs with Dinamo Riga

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

The recent news of defenseman continues. This go-round it is actually a member of last year’s Milwaukee Admirals team finding a new home. Patrick Mullen has signed with Dinamo Riga of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

Mullen was acquired from the Ottawa Senators organization by the Nashville Predators in exhange for Conor Allen during the Admirals defensive re-organization last season. This was then followed by the acquisitions of Stefan Elliott and Corey Potter. From Mullen’s debut on 1/15/16 to the end of the regular season the Admirals put together a brilliant record of 25-10-1-2 from their final 38 games. Mullen contributed 14 points (2 goals, 12 assists) from 29 games with the Admirals in the 2015-16 season and held a plus/minus rating of +6 with 19 penalty minutes.

For those who enjoy following Admirals careers post-Milwaukee, such as I do, it might interest you to note that Mullen will not be the lone former-Admirals player at Dinamo Riga this coming season. Vinny Saponari, the Legend of Toe-Drag City, will also be there.

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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Järnkrok Signs 6-Year Contract with Nashville

CB-Jarnkrok-3714-1

In the spring of 2014 Calle Jarnkrok enjoyed a brief stay in Milwaukee. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Nashville Predators signed another Milwaukee Admirals alum long-term as today the team announced a new six-year contract for forward Calle Järnkrok.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 26, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Tuesday that the club has signed forward Calle Jarnkrok to a six-year, $12 million contract. The contract will pay him $1.7 million in 2016-17, $1.8 million in 2017-18, $2.1 million in 2018-19, $2.2 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and $2 million in 2021-22.

Jarnkrok, 24 (9/25/91), appeared in all but one of Nashville’s 2015-16 regular-season games, more than doubling his previous career high in goals (16), as well as setting personal bests in assists (14) and points (30). The Gavle, Sweden, native also ranked second on the Preds in game-winning goals (4) a season ago, and saw his year-over-year average ice time increase by 3:17. In 167 career NHL contests since joining the Predators via trade on March 5, 2014, Jarnkrok has amassed 57 points (25g-32a) and played in all 20 of the team’s postseason contests, recording three assists.

Detroit’s second choice, 51st overall (second round), in the 2010 Entry Draft, Jarnkrok has represented Sweden in five international competitions in the last eight years, winning a gold medal at the 2013 World Championship and earning a bronze at the 2014 World Championship. Prior to making the jump to North America for the 2012-13 season, the 6-foot-1, 186-pound forward helped Brynas win the 2012 Le Mat Trophy as Swedish league champions on a team that also included Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm, and was a finalist for the 2011 Swedish league rookie of the year (won by Ekholm).

The 24-year-old came into his own in the NHL last season, scoring 16 goals and 30 points, and then added an assist in 14 playoff contests. It was Järnkrok’s second full season with Nashville after joining the franchise in the spring of 2014.

After being acquired in the trade that sent David Legwand briefly to Detroit, the Gavle, Sweden native dressed in six games for Milwaukee, scoring nine points including five goals. He had a goal and an assist in the Admirals’ three playoff games.

The trade another of the brilliant variety by Predators General Manager David Poile. In addition to the budding Järnkrok, Nashville also added a conditional second-round pick (Jack Dougherty). Legwand, Nashville’s first ever draft pick, played in just 26 total games for the Red Wings, making a limited impact on a team that barely squeezed into the playoffs. He then moved on to Ottawa later that summer and last year played in Buffalo.

So Roundtable, what do you think of Calle Järnkrok’s new six-year deal? Will the young Swede continue to develop making this contact a nice bargin, or will the tail end of it fizzle like Viktor Stålberg two years ago?

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 News | 2 Comments