Today the Milwaukee Admirals held their annual media day at the MSOE Kern Center. Coaches and players were all available to give their thoughts ahead of the season opener this Friday in Abbotsford. Above all, this is a team really excited to get off and running with the 2013-14 campaign.
“[Abbotsford] will be a good test for us,” said head coach Dean Evason. “It’s good to get out on the road. To get our group together. We’re looking forward to that start on Friday.”
The team practice ahead of the media festivities gave a solid glance at the Ads final product of countless roster movements. The team includes many fresh faces: Teddy Ruth, Mathieu Tousignant, Colton Sissons, Miikka Salomaki, Simon Moser, Bryan Rodney, and Marek Mazanec. Yet, the general make up of the team feels quite similar to last year’s roster. The Ads will have Taylor Beck, Austin Watson, and Kevin Henderson back in the mix after all enjoyed stints in the NHL last season. The familiar names of Mark Van Guilder and Scott Ford are also be back. All in all, this group looks similar to the one that finished last year off but with a fresh injection of new blood. Something that coach Evason and players alike are excited about.
“We’re excited about having some of the same people back [from last season],” said Evason. “Last year was new for everybody. We didn’t have training camp in Nashville last year. There was a lot of teaching, a lot of getting to know the players, and a lot of the players getting to know [the coaches]. So it’s nice this year to have people that know what to expect from us and we know what to expect from them.”
“We have a good group of guys who played here last year,” cited Magnus Hellberg. “So everybody knows what we’re all about and we can continue to work on what was finished off last year. We have some new guys but they’ve got into the group really well.”
“We have a lot of guys back from last year who were big pieces to our group,” commented Watson. “We’ve got some good young guys coming in like Sissons, Salomaki, and Rask. A lot of good young players only add to that. We’re all excited.”
Speaking of excitement, playing for his first full-year of pro hockey in the States will be Joonas Rask. The younger brother of Bruins starting netminder Tuukka, Rask played 52 games in Finland for Jokerit Helsinki before joining the Ads roster late in the 2012-13 season. In his one and only game as an Admiral last year he scored a goal and an assist. After that game, he went up to Nashville and played two games posting one assist for his first career NHL point. The young Rask features great speed, stick handling ability, and an aptitude to be a solid two-way player.
“[Rask] has impressed us through training camp,” cited Evason. “He finished [last season] well. His speed. His work ethic. He has shown us a skill level this year. We hope that he can continue to grow, develop, and do what he’s done through training camp and show it in the regular season.”
Another player to watch this season is Magnus Hellberg. The catalyst to last season’s surge into the playoffs will start the season in Milwaukee as its number one goaltender. While his experience in Nashville’s camp this offseason might have hit a wall due to a lower body injury, the big Swede is back to 100% fitness and is hoping for a crack at the NHL this season.
“I know the chance is there [to be recalled by Nashville] but I really don’t think about it to much,” said Hellberg. “I’m trying to focus on what I can do down here. If I play good I might get a chance to get called up. But I take it one day at a time and one game at a time. We’ll see what happens.”
The team will also have another young netminder backing up Hellberg in the presence of Marek Mazanec. The native of the Czech Republic has been looking very sharp in camp ahead of the season. According to veteran Scott Ford, this goaltending duo bodes really well for the team.
“[Mazanec] is going to push Magnus right to the limit,” claimed Ford. “I think it’s going to be a great tandem. Kind of a doubleheaded monster where we have confidence in both guys. They’re going to push each other to be the best.”
Did I say Scott Ford? Of course I did. The longest tenured Admiral of the AHL era is back for his sixth season in Milwaukee. Ford started last season as a member of the Peoria Rivermen before jumping ship back to the Ads. The former Ads captain is happy to be on-board for the start of this year’s campaign.
“I’m excited about it,” smiled Ford. “It’s good to be back in this city. It’s good to be back as an Admiral. It’s going to be an exciting year with the guys that we’ve got here.”
One final thought when looking at this team: who is the captain? It hasn’t been unveiled as of yet. Last season’s captain Mike Moore is a member of the Providence Bruins. Men who adorned the “A” such as Brad Winchester, Chris Mueller, and Michael Latta are all long gone. Mark Van Guilder and Scott Ford, who both wore the “A” last season, are on the team and the most likely candidates. So who gets the C? Could it be the man who held it during the 2011-12 season?
“It’s a possibility,” laughed Ford. “I think they’ll unveil it tomorrow at the season ticket holder event. Getting a letter is a big honor. If it happens I’ll be proud to be bestowed with that.”
Should that news take place – expect an update!