Wild: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Reese Strickland // USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo Credit: Reese Strickland // USA TODAY Sports)

This is due to be a massive weekend for the Milwaukee Admirals. Yes, the home opener at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena is tomorrow but it is sandwiched by road games tonight and on Sunday. At the very least tonight and tomorrow’s games will have the exact same opponent in the Iowa Wild.

In recent memory the Wild have been a bit of a push over since shifting operations to Iowa after being the Houston Aeros. Since the 2013-14 season the best result the Iowa Wild have managed was that first season in which they were the third worst team in the AHL. The past two seasons they have had the worst record in the league. In their three-seasons in Iowa the team has a record of 74-126-14-14 (176 points, 0.386 points percentage).

As rough as the Wild always seem to be league-wide something about playing the Admirals that seems to bring out the best in the lowly Wild squads of the past. In 26 games over the last three-seasons the Wild have gone 9-13-2-2 (22 points, 0.423 points percentage). I get it. That doesn’t look all that great. It isn’t even a 0.500 record. But it is statistically better than how they handle the rest of the AHL. It’s been a near anomaly to the Admirals.

So, what of the Wild here in 2016-17? They have played two more games than the Admirals to this point and hold a record of 2-4-0-0 (4 points, 0.333 points percentage). Tonight’s game against the Admirals will complete a season opening seven-game homestand for the Wild.

What the Wild have done in the off-season is actually something I find smart if only the prospect pool from the Minnesota Wild was stronger than it is. They have added some high quality veterans to their group. It started last season with Maxime Fortunus who remains with the organization. They have now built on that by adding Jeff Hoggan from the Grand Rapids Griffins and Pat Cannone of the Chicago Wolves. In AHL experience alone those three combine for 1,816 games. The Admirals current roster, comprised of 21 players, clocks in at combined 2,387 games of AHL experience.

It’s a shame then that stagnant player development, poor scouting, and and weak drafting has left the Wild’s AHL affiliate out in the cold for years – including this season. The Wild’s two most exciting and interesting prospects to keep an eye on this season will be Alex Tuch and Gustav Olofsson. Tuch was drafted in the first round, eighteenth overall by the Wild in the 2014 NHL Draft. He is making the leap from Boston College to the AHL this season and has 3 assists in the opening 6 games. Olofsson was a second round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and made his AHL debut back in the 2013-14 season. I wasn’t really until last season when he stamped down a full pro season: 17 points (2 goals, 15 assists) in 52 games with 12 penalty minus and a plus/minus rating of -11. Last season he also played his first two-games in the NHL.

In net the Wild have a tandem that features Steve Michalek and Alex Stalock. Michalek has made a pair starts and been pulled in once while also having a relief appearance in one of Stalock’s five starts. It sounds as poor as it is -but- you can also thank a pair of games that exploded out of control: 8-3 loss to the Charlotte Checkers on 10/21/16 and 7-3 loss to the Cleveland Monsters on 10/25/16. The latter of those defeats? Yep, it was the Wild’s last game played. Expect them to want to not have a lull to that scale to end their homestand.

Thoughts on how the Milwaukee Admirals should handle the Iowa Wild this season? Will the Wild once again be the Admirals pests? If the Wild have been struggling defensively are these next two games finally a chance for the Admirals offense to surge?

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