The Admirals season opens up -FINALLY- tomorrow night on the road against the Abbotsford Heat. It will be the first of a back-to-back with the Heat. The follow up to the Ads 2013-14 curtain raiser will take place no less than 24 hours later. New season for the Ads. New season for the Heat. So, let’s scout the enemy!
The Heat finished last season with a 34-32-4-6 record that put them out of the Calder Cup playoff picture. There are a few familiar names back from last season, but the affiliate of the Calgary Flames boast plenty of prospects this year that should be a big boost.
According to Hockey’s Future’s Top 20 prospects for the Calgary Flames, the Heat will field nine of that list on their roster: C Max Reinhart (4), D Tyler Wotherspoon (6), D Patrick Sieloff (7), C Corban Knight (13), LW Michael Ferland (15), C Markus Granlund (16), D Mark Cundari (17), D John Ramage (18), LW Ben Hanowski (19).
What stands out to me here is defense. There are some quality young defensemen on the Heat with the name Wotherspoon being among the brightest of the core. Wotherspoon was a 2nd Round selection of the Flames in 2011. This will be his first year of professional hockey after a very outstanding career with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. It’s going to be a great watch to see how he handles the AHL level at the start of the season, and the Ads will be amongst his first tests as a pro.
Another one of those Top 20 names that’ll be fun to watch this year is Reinhart. The 64th overall selection in the 2010 Draft made his pro debut with the Heat in the 2011-12 season by scoring two goals in his first game. Yet, that appearance was late in the season and his only appearance. His first full season as a pro came last year. He played 67 games, scored 7 goals, 14 assists, and posted a less than stellar plus/minus of -26. As far as games against the Ads go, he was the biggest threat on the ice last season. In the four games the two matched up Reinhart put up a team best 3 points against the Ads. So, small note to the Milwaukee defense: stop Maximilian.
A name that doesn’t appear on the Top 20 list that deserves mention, Joni Ortio. The 22 year old netminder has been developing in the Finnish Elite League and the AHL the past few years and has been steadily improving between the pipes. His standout performance to date came in the 2011 IIHF U20 World Juniors for Team Finland where he posted a 1.86 GAA with a .931 SV% in six games. Another season means more experience for the young Fin. Expect more improvement from one of the many names hoping to take claim to Miikka Kiprusoff’s ye olde throne.
Also worth mentioning, because I just can’t help it, Mike Liambas versus Zach McKelvie. I don’t believe we’ll necessarily see a Round II, but believe me when I say Abbotsford is a team prided on physicality and toughness. The team has played two games this season and have already set a team record for fighting majors in an opening weekend with six. Expect Mr. Liambas and company to have a little Dosey Doe or two.
How do you think that the Ads will fair this weekend against the Heat?