The Underrated All Stars

There are a few players this season who haven’t quite been put in the spotlight as often as they should. Who is the most underrated Admiral this season? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Tonight, Colton Sissons will take part in the AHL All Star Skills Competition. The book is still out on what he is going to be doing, last year Victor Bartley was tossed into the accuracy shooting portion, but our Admiral representative should be in the mix in some shape or form. As mentioned in yesterday’s story on Sissons – tune in tonight at 10pm EST on NHL Network for part one of the AHL All Star festivities.

With that in mind, I feel we should take a look at some players who have been out of the spotlight all season long but have actually performed very well. I think we all know about Sissons. We know and are cheering on our Olympian in camp Simon Moser. But who are some of the players that are having good seasons despite lacking the glitter that others might have on them as they play?

36, Joonas Jarvinen. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Joonas Jarvinen is somewhat of a rarity of the Admirals defensive core. He is a stay at home type of defensemen. Perhaps the only other d-man on the team that I can really think sticks to the defensive aspects of the game, like Jarvinen, is captain Scott Ford. Even Joe Piskula is the type to race forward and be active on offense – often playing a role on the team’s second power-play unit from the point. So what is it about Jarvinen this season that puts him under the rader?

I feel Jarvinen’s lack of offensive spark, combined with his calm defensive nature, can often take a back seat to some of the guys such as an Anthony Bitetto or even a Charles-Olivier Roussel – guys that can skate effortlessly from behind their net, up the gut of neutral ice, and get the offensive cycle started all on their own. Jarvinen’s game isn’t about that. Mostly it’s about doing stuff like this:

It’s his incredible checking and physical ability that led to me nicknaming him, Big Daddy. Just as is the case of the Big Daddy in Bioshock – Jarvinen is a mountain of steel to have to work through. He can dish out some nasty and, if need be, stick up for himself or his teammates. Last season, I feel that the fighting element was a major part of his game. He engaged in the chippy side more than the defensive part of the game. He hasn’t needed to do that this season. He’s had three fighting majors so far this year and, on at least two of them, he was basically jumped by an opponent following a clean check. If he has to drop the gloves he will. But, it’s when he’s had his gloves on this season when he has looked and played the part as the most underrated defensemen on the entire team.

In 40 games this season Jarvinen has only been a minus rated player in 10 games. The bulk of that sum came in the goals against infested month of January where he was a negative player 6 times. Despite this, he remains the best player on the Admirals team in plus/minus with a rating of +9. And while we can debate the legitimacy of the plus/minus statistic day and night, I’ve heard it already, it still tells me more than enough about how Jarvinen’s defensive focus helps contribute to that team best rating. He’ll take a silly minor penalty here and there. But, if I needed to pick the team’s best shutdown defensemen right now… there isn’t a better choice than Joonas Jarvinen.

24, Zach Budish. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

As has been discussed here in the past, Zach Budish is known very well for having a really big head.

Audio Evidence from Big Head himself:

So, he has had one of the single best entries into the Chatterbox this season. But what has he been doing on the ice that lands him here?

This season Budish has played in 35 games, scored 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists), and has the second best plus/minus rating on the team with a +8. He has primarily played on the forth line the entire season but, when given the chance, he has displayed a great ability on both sides of the puck. From late-December to mid-December, his work alongside linemates Mike Liambas and Mathieu Tousignant were probably amongst the best work from a single line this season – they simply lacked a goal scoring touch for all their hard work.

Budish has really proven himself to be the Roussel of the forward group. He was on the outside looking in, remains on the cuff, but has played so well it is difficult for the team to remove him from the starting lineup. The Minnesota man has had his difficulties in the past with ACL injuries and putting together a full-body of work where he can mature in his game. We’ve been able to see a lot of that maturation process this season and I feel like there is an extra gear waiting to come out for him yet.

His game is somewhat contained on the lower playing lines where he is asked to handle a defensive checking role. His performance, as mentioned, puts him as the second best in plus/minus on the team – and the best forward in that category by +3 over Joonas Rask. Were he given the bigger role to test his offensive game – I feel there is an extra Austin Watson type player on the team: size, strength, defense, offense, stable, and smart. Time will only tell if we get to see that side of him leap out. For now, he has been a very pleasant surprise for how consistently well he performs on a minimal basis for the team.

Who do you feel is the most underrated player on the Admirals this season and why?

4 thoughts on “The Underrated All Stars”

  1. Jarvo is an easy pick as Milwaukee’s most underrated player. Kind of reminds me a lot of Teemu Laakso, with more of a physical edge and a little less offensive talent. He’s a steady player, rarely makes too many mistakes and exactly the kind of 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th defenseman every franchise loves to have. With his size and strength, Jarvinen has the ability to grow into an everyday NHL player. I still can’t believe he or anyone else could rack up 125 PIMs in the Finnish Elite League:

    But my choice for the most underrated Admiral is Vinny Saponari. He’s the kind of player that fits on just about any line, has enough talent to play in a scoring role and enough size to be a checker. Considering he started the season in Cincinnati, 8 goals and 15 points in 30 games is impressive. Not too bad for a 2008 Atlanta Thrashers fourth-round pick, with a checkered college past: He’s doesn’t have the wow-factor of some of his teammates, but the Powder Springs, Georgia native has been a nice find.

  2. I have to agree about Saponari. I’ve been really happy with his role and his play. He really seems to want to continue improving. I have to disagree about Budish. Considering what was expected of him he has disappointed me. You could very well be right about a great player being inside of him, but I don’t see that fire.

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