Admirals GM Paul Fenton was in town over the weekend to catch a couple of games, and was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of his time. We talked about promotions, development, and a few names of players that may be wearing a Milwaukee Admirals uniform before the season is done…..
AR: Jon Blum got his first call-up recently — has this been a long time coming?
PF: I think his development process was a long time coming. We drafted him when he was 160 pounds, and give Jon credit, he’s put the work in. He’s been playing 25-28 minutes a night down here, honing his skills even more. The transition I think was seamless for him. He was really comfortable when he came up, he looks like he’s fit and he’s ready to be an NHL player for good.
AR: He looked like the happiest guy in the world getting his first NHL goal the other night…
PF: He looked like it, and so did the guy that scouted him – I did! First kid from California, born and bred there…it was nice for the both of us.
AR: Blake Geoffrion recently made the trip too…is this sooner than you expected to see him in a Predators uniform?
PF: He started out slow this year and it took him awhile as it has with a lot of his career (both in college and at the US team too) to adapt. When he came up the first night he was really nervous, and I talked to him afterward and told him “you belong” . Honestly that’s the most important thing I could tell him. “You belong. Be comfortable. Play like you normally do down there. Look at the guy across from you, because it’s somebody that you’ve played against at some level, and you deserve to be here.” And progressively he got better every game, and the last two games scoring back to back goals for us. Got his first game winner against Vancouver, and now it looks like he’s getting more and more comfortable each shift.
AR: Anders Lindback played four games in five nights for the Admirals recently. Did he get everything out of the trip that you were hoping he would?
PF: We just wanted to continue the process of developing him. With all of our kids, we know that they have to play. And the battle that we’re in, and the star that we have with Pekka Rinne, it makes it difficult to get him games. Give him credit, he came in in the beginning of the year when Pekka got hurt in the second game, and he kept us in things from then on. At the same time, we’ve got Mark Dekanich here, who is quite the prospect as well. Deservedly so. It could just as easily be Mark up there as it could be Anders. We’re fortunate to have some pretty good depth here.
AR: Probably the question that I’m getting asked the most these days is “What’s the deal with Wade Belak?” Should we expect to see him in Milwaukee?
PF: Wade is just going to stay in residence with us. Technically he’s on the roster here, but he’s just going to stay in residence with us.
AR: You brought in some new guys over the last few weeks to help out, and you saw them produce in Chicago the other night. What are some of your thoughts on the new guys?
PF: It’s nice to be able to find quality guys like that to fill in. (Connor) Shields came to us here in training camp, and when he left, I told him that you never know, you might be back here at some point. It’s good to be familiar with somebody. He was one of the guys we looked at for a replacement. I’ve known the McBride kid since he was at St. Lawrence, watching some colleges, so had familiarity with him. And same with Coulombe playing in the Quebec league. We had a lot of good things to say from our scouts on all of these guys, and you look for people that are going to fit. They were really good last night…Coulombe got hit from behind, and I didn’t think he was going to come back. That shows how tough of a kid he really his.
AR: One of the guys on the team that’s been a lot of fun to watch this year has been Gabriel Bourque. How would you describe his growth as a pro?
PF: His adjustment period has been like one of these gradual climbing the hills. Every time that I watch him play now, he gets a step quicker, a hair stronger, and he uses his sense – he’s got a unique sense where you don’t expect him to make the passes or plays that he does. He bodies positions so well to be able to do things. He brings energy, kills penalties, can play on any one of your four lines. That’s the nice thing – we recognize that, and at some point he’ll get his chance too. But we want him to just continue to play and develop his game, just like the rest of our guys have until their time is ready.
AR: As the season winds down, sometimes we see guys from the colleges or junior teams spending some time with the Admirals on ATO contracts. Who are some of the guys we may see this year?
PF: I’ve got some guys that are signed…two kids in Guelph….Mike Latta and (Taylor) Beck are signed contracted guys. And if they do get eliminated out of the playoffs, they’ll be coming here. Ryan Ellis is the same way. I’ve got a couple of European guys that I’m talking about. And I’ve got Ben Ryan coming out of Notre Dame. The way that I have it right now, I think I’ve got seven guys penciled in that I could see being here by the end of March and contributing.