First and foremost, I hope all had a lovely time last night at the Milwaukee Admirals season ticket holder event. It always sounds like a blast and it’s a great way to go behind the scenes with the team for an evening or to hang out casually with the players.
Speaking of hanging out with the players – the Admirals did just announce the date for their annual Celebrity Serve event hosted by Major Goolsby’s. That will take place on March 16th and further details are expected to be announced as that date closes. I wasn’t going to gate crash the season ticket holder event but I will be around for the Celebrity Serve. Hope to catch you folks there. That’s always a fun time. Friendly Suggestion: Be sure to brush up on your Russian to have some polite dialogue with Vladislav Kamenev while you’re there.
Apologies for the slow traffic on my end during this cushioned road trip stretch for the Admirals. To put it bluntly, there is only so much to talk about leading into and exiting those two games against the San Antonio Rampage.
The most I can say really is that the Rampage lost against last night and have now lost thirteen straight home games. As much as I want to say “ouch” and be done with it there was an incident within the game that was far more painful.
Brian McGrattan, current member of the San Diego Gulls and formerly of the Nashville Predators and Admirals (aka the man who helped bring Joe Piskula back to his home state), was knocked out during a fight against the Rampage’s Daniel Maggio. While Maggio is familiar with just such an incident this season what took place to McGrattan was even more scary. The two fought without their helmets on, McGrattan was rocked by a stiff right hand, and planted head first into the ice. He required immediate medical attention and left the ice on a stretcher. You can watch the full incident here.
There is some good news that has come out from this. McGrattan did reportedly give a “thumbs up” to the San Antonio crowd and the Gulls organization did come forward with a quick update that stated he was conscious, alert, and had full range of movement. That’s fantastic to hear and hopefully the trauma he sustained from the fall didn’t damage his skull or that ever important organ that the skull protects.
Elsewhere around the AHL I feel as if a team that might be going under the radar, especially for those of us here in Milwaukee, are the Charlotte Checkers. They’ve recently exploded in the standings thanks to a run of 13-1-1-1 over their last sixteen games. That included a twelve-game point streak that went on until some Grand Rapids Griffins team beat them. The Checkers would push back and take them down the very next night.
Who is the driving force to this run by the Checkers? Tilt your eyes from offense and focus on the goaltender. No, not former-Admirals netminder Drew MacIntyre. Look at 21-year old goalie Daniel Altshuller and the astonishing run that he has been on since getting recalled from the ECHL in mid-December: 11 starts, 9-1-1-1 record, 1.71 goals against average, 0.941 save percentage, and a shutout. That’s stunning. Can he sustain these performances or crash back to Earth? With the Checkers now in front of the Admirals on the diabolical points percentage system you kind of hope for the latter.
Part of the bummer of these long breaks or gaps in the Admirals schedule with road games is my ability to conduct interviews for Fifteen. I did attempt to stockpile some for this time period -BUT- I had too much fun with the interviews of Marek Mazanec, Max Görtz, and Scott Ford that I raced to get them out ASAP rather than wait on them. Good news? You got to hear those three in three days! Bad news? You’ve sadly not had one for this week – and now the team is setting sail for a weekend set in Cleveland – so you’ll be getting a week off from the feature.
In the week that follows off this coming weekend I’m planning on logging a good amount of interview time and running down the ever growing list that you readers keep building upon. Unfortunately, next man up was Kevin Fiala and he’s since scored his first career NHL goal and is a wee bit busy doing Nashville things. I could substitute him with who he substituted in Nashville, Viktor Arvidsson. Fair deal? I’ve been trying to make that guy laugh for awhile now and this might just do the trick. I honestly think he’s more German than Swedish sometimes (real life example).
~Then & Now Report~
It’s the mid-season point for a lot of hockey teams out there so I think it would be a fun time to check in on some familiar names and see how they’re doing.
Magnus Hellberg: Our old pal Magnus has been pretty battle tested within the New York Rangers organization after the Nashville Predators traded him to land a sixth round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He has played 25 games and sports a 13-10-2-0 record to go with a 2.57 goals against average (GAA), 0.912 save percentage (SV%), and a pair of shutouts. He also was able to get in net at the NHL level for the second time in his career. That didn’t go well. The Rangers were abysmal against a non-abysmal Washington Capitals team and the big guy went 4/6 in saves. In his NHL career he has two relief appearances, 32:12 of ice time, and has gone 7/10 for save attempts. Harsh.
Viktor Stålberg: Why not stay with the New York Rangers, eh? To his credit, this season Stålberg has managed to stay at the NHL level the entire season so far. To his ineptitude, he continues to make everyone look at his 2010-12 career numbers and what he cooks up now while looking like they’ve slammed a packet of lemon flavored Warheads. As a lower end winger his 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in 40 games stat line doesn’t look too bad. But we’re four-years removed from a 43 points (22 goals, 21 assists) in 79 games 2011-12 season. I won’t be shocked at all if he ends up in Europe soon.
Rob Madore: This is going from sour to sweet. Why? Because who isn’t a Rob Madore fan? He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve come across in the game. Sad to see that he didn’t get to actually play for the Admirals last season but he did have some bench-side cameos as a back-up here and there. That of course followed on the heels of his amazing 2013-14 season for the Cincinnati Cyclones where he earned the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs MVP despite coming up on the losing side of the 2014 Kelly Cup Finals. This season he is with the Toronto Marlies organization. He has spent the majority of his time with the Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) and performed well: 19 games, 7-8-1-3, 2.94 GAA, and a 0.913 SV%. He has seen time with the Marlies and has been brilliant: 4 games, 4 wins, 1.25 GAA, 0.952 SV%, and picked up his first AHL shutout since 4/20/13 as a member of the Charlotte Checkers playing on the road against the Peoria Rivermen.
Jared Nightingale: While in similar circumstances to the Sheriff last season Mr. Nightingale continues to fight the good fight as an ECHL name that keeps finding occasional AHL loan time. Though, it must be said, this season has been far calmer for him. Like last season he is stationed predominantly with the Toledo Walleye (ECHL). He has suited up for one AHL team this season (Chicago Wolves) and that lasted one-game. Last season, away from ECHL Toledo, Nightingale played 42 games between five different AHL teams (Hartford Wolf Pack, Norfolk Admirals, Grand Rapids Griffins, Milwaukee Admirals, and Syracuse Crunch). I’d love for someone to do the grunt work for me and find out if he was the first person to ever play for both versions of the AHL Admirals (Milwaukee and Norfolk) in the same season.
Joe Piskula: Good Guy Joe from Antigo moved out to get him one of them new hockey jobs out Californee-way with the Anaheim Ducks. He’s the team captain of the San Diego Gulls and unfortunately missed a lot of time due to injury. The good news? He is back and playing. His 2015-16 season only reads as such: 15 games, 2 points (0 goals, 2 assists), 11 penalty minutes, a plus/minus rating of -1, and is averaging a shot on goal per game.
Zach Budish: We had the chance to see last year’s Milwaukee Admirals Man of the Year award winner this season on a brief PTO deal from the Admirals very own ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones. Sadly, that’s the best Budish could do off of what was his best pro season to date last year. He turned up to the Iowa Wild’s pre-season camp as an invitee and was cut. The Iowa Wild cut him. I think that’s more of a reflection of how terrible the scouting of the Minnesota Wild organization is than a blow against Budish. Because, looking at the ECHL number today, Big Head leads the Cyclones in scoring with 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 34 games. If you look at his past injuries at Minnesota and beyond – all he’s ever truly needed was a good run on a clean bill of health with consistent playing time. He is finally getting that this season and delivering. I truly hope he gets an AHL look again this season or next season.
Patrick Cehlin: I tapped into the sob story of Cehlin in depth in last season’s Report Card. I suggest reading that in-full first. … Caught up? Depressing right? Well, cheer up because this season has been far more kind to the Swede. He joined Rögle BK, has scored 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in 34 games in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). That scoring output has him ranked twenty-third best in the entire league. So, while his NHL dream went crashing down in a conveyor belt of bad luck and injuries, he’s found his game back home. I do always enjoy seeing our European talents getting back on their feet back in their native countries. Cehlin, at 24-years of age, has plenty of good hockey to play in Sweden at a high level.
Rich Clune: You no doubt read his story The Battle on The Players Tribune this summer. If not, it really is a must read and something to appreciate where he is right now all the more. Clune signed with the Toronto Marlies in the past off-season but that got bumped up to an NHL deal because he, like that entire Marlies team, has been great: 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in 29 games with a plus/minus rating of +12 and 102 penalty minutes (8 fights). At the moment he is in the NHL with the Maple Leafs where he can be seen out-grappling people like Zac Rinaldo.
Brendan Leipsic: Let’s stick with that white hot Marlies team where Leiper went to. Remember that trade? Where he, Olli Jokinen, and a 2015 first round draft pick went to Toronto in exchange for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. By the way, ever wonder what that first round draft pick turned into? Well, that one pick turned into three draft picks: Travis Dermott (2nd round, 34th overall), Jeremy Bracco (2nd Round, 61st Overall), and Martins Dzierkals (3rd Round, 68th overall). Remember those last three names just in case, guys. Where was I? Oh, right Leipsic! He has been part of a beastly Marlies team that is tearing up the AHL’s Eastern Conference this season. In the 2015-16 season so far he has 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists). That’s all being done on a Marlies team that has the best record in the AHL right now: 31-8-2-0 (64 points, 0.780 points percentage).
Triston Grant: He missed a massive chunk of this season for reasons I’ve never really found out. Why he hasn’t been playing lately is probably down to injury or simply that the Griffins are so freakishly loaded with players at the moment that they don’t have to play him. He has logged four games this entire AHL season. Weirdly, the first two games he played this season were the back-to-back losses the Griffins took after setting their franchise record fifteen game winning streak. Bad luck?
Mike Liambas: The Bus’ season got of to a rough start thanks to a lower-body injury that wiped out two-months of his debut season within the Chicago Blackhawks organization. He has played 13 games with the Rockford IceHogs, has spent all of that time as a forward despite some shoddy writing suggesting he would play or was playing previously as a defenseman with the Admirals. No points of offense yet for Liambas but he does have just one more shot on goal (7) that fighting majors (6) this season.
Gary Steffes: Is boy Gary scoring more goals than he did last season? No. No he is not. Sadly, that’s sort of expected. He did after all score 61 goals in all competitions (AHL, ECHL, ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs) last season over the course of 97 games. That production somehow didn’t get him on any AHL radars what so ever and he returned to the Allen Americans (ECHL) where he enjoyed such success including winning the 2015 Kelly Cup. This season hasn’t been close to what he enjoyed a season ago: 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in 35 games. Still, he is team captain and has a chance to push Allen into another deep playoff run later this season.
Mark Van Guilder: It was sad to see good ol’ MVG set sail in the off-season. It was always going to be unusual seeing him in something that wasn’t an Admirals uniform but I think the move to Italy’s Serie A Hockey League ranks up there as about as unusual as it could have gotten, for me. That said, he has been doing great as part of Rittner Buam: 44 points (13 goals, 31 assists) in 31 games with a plus/minus of +20. You have to go back to his 2008-09 stats with the Cyclones (ECHL) for something remotely that explosive. Perhaps a different league in Europe would provide better competition and paychecks for MVG? That would be something I’d love to see. How about HIFK in Finland where Juuso Puustinen, Joonas Rask, and Joonas Järvinen all play? I love me some HIFK Finnish Admirals. That would put them even further over the top. Perhaps I’ll try a Twitter campaign of #MVGtoHIFK to persuade the powers that be to make it happen.
Any other players of interest that you miss or would like to know what they’re up to? Comment down below with the player and I’ll get back to you with what I know or what I’m seeing out of their current performance.