The Then & Now Report

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It ’tis the season where we take a step back and check in on a good few former Milwaukee Admirals players. As we can often find ourselves in our own organizational bubble, myself included, it can be a bit of surprise to see how well or now well so many of these players have been performing. Let’s check in on last year’s departures and a good handful of others.

Johan Alm: I did enjoy more of what I got to see from Alm than any negatives when he was playing. When he was healthy and given a few games to really build momentum? He did rather well as a more defense-first defenseman. The problem was simply a troubling amount of time spent injured that hindered his time with the Admirals. He rejoined his ol’ Swedish team Skellefteå AIK last season and continues playing there today. Right now? He has only played 3 games this season is currently inactive due to an arm injury.

Taylor Aronson: Yes, it is he who must not be named. While we could be here for a good amount of time the short and sweet of it is that Aronson is actually doing rather well this season. In his first full season away from North America he hopped to Russia and played with HC Lada where he produced 15 points (2 goals, 13 assists) in 51 games. In the most recent off-season he went to Germany with the Nürnberg Ice Tigers and is already ahead of those numbers: 19 points (3 goals, 16 assists) in 33 games. It is all still well off of how high his momentum was up to in his final two seasons with the Admirals but it is kind of nice to see him having a good season right now.

Victor Bartley: One of the true #GoodGuys over the years with the Admirals. Bartley lost all of last season due to injury. It’s quite sad, as well, because he only would have added to the veteran culture change with the Iowa Wild and probably could have been in the mix for recalls with the Minnesota Wild with the right performance. Instead, he missed all of last season and now finds himself playing in Sweden with Örebro HK. He has already logged 22 games and has 7 assists on the 2017-18 season.

Jonathon Blum: Yes, the original he who must not be named. Honestly, this guy has done incredibly well for himself since going to Russia’s KHL. In three-seasons, all spent with Admiral Vladivostok, he has played 130 games and is averaging 0.54 points per game on the blueline. He was team captain last season and is their alternate captain this season. I’d say all-in-all Blum has been doing pretty good.

Reid Boucher: Too good for the AHL. Not good enough for the NHL. That appeared to be the toxic bubble Boucher was in a season ago while being claimed on waivers and playing for three different organizations. Thankfully for him this season has calmed down a great amount. He signed with the Vancouver Canucks. He played in the AHL without restriction and just getting the chance to play for the Utica Comets where he produced at a point-per-game clip: 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 25 games. He was recalled by Vancouver on Monday. Here is hoping things work out and this isn’t the beginning of the next Reid Boucher Waiver Wire Sweepstakes.

Zach Budish: As far as feel good stories go? I would say Budish is one. He was always one of the truly good people you could have in a locker room and for an organization in the community. His on-ice work was certainly a slow build given past injury history. But he was showing really positive signs in his last two seasons in North America that he was finding himself. He would go across the pond. He would sign with Jukurit in Finland. And he has been tremendous there: 57 points (24 points, 33 assists) in 91 games.

Jamie Devane: After a successful 2015-16 season with the Admirals Devane followed that up with an even better 2016-17 as a member of the Stockton Heat in the AHL. He then stayed in-state and joined the Ontario Reign on an AHL contract. Similar to the team itself this season. I can’t quite say things are really going positively or negatively. Devane has 4 points (1 goals, 3 assists) in 23 games while the Reign hold a record of 12-11-0-1 (25 points, 0.521 points percentage).

Justin Florek: There were times last season when I felt Florek was one of the more consistent forwards for the gritty work he could provide. In total he ended his run with the Admirals playing 75 games and scoring 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists). He would move to Germany as a member of the Iserlohn Roosters. That team is currently smack dab in the middle of the DEL table and Florek has 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) in 31 games. It just feels kind of “OK” for me.

Félix Girard: If there was one player who I really would like to have back: it’s Félix. He was a heart and soul sort of player for the Admirals whose work ethic is without question. Yet, perhaps switching organizations via trade last season is helping him open up that extra area of his game as far as developing towards the NHL is concerned. Girard was never quite the most offensively explosive player. He just always made the “right” or “smart” plays. In his Admirals run he averaged 0.22 points-per-game over a run of 172 games. Since joining the Colorado Avalanche organization and playing for the San Antonio Rampage he has doubled that by averaging 0.44 points-per-game in 66 games. That all still happens while he is one of the best face-off workers and defensive minded forwards within the AHL.

Samuel Girard: We had “Little G” in Milwaukee for the briefest of times a season ago. Even from that we could see here in Milwaukee what a special talent he was. He is only 19-years old. He could just as easily be finishing out his final season of major juniors with Shawinigan. But he is sticking to the NHL right now. That’s how good he is. He produced 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 5 games with the Nashville Predators. He was then traded to the Colorado Avalanche where he keeps rolling today: 2 assists in 19 games. This to me is a sponge year for Girard. The more information, in-game experience, and life experience he can really absorb from this first real test of an NHL season – the better he is going to be over the next many many years.

Max Görtz: When I hear this name I just get a little sad. His debut North American pro season with the Admirals in 2015-16 was phenomenal: 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) in 72 games. In the 80 games he has played since that season he has 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists). It fell apart fast all last season and a mid-season swap to the Anaheim Ducks organization and the San Diego Gulls appeared to briefly help. Yet, he is already back in Sweden playing for the Malmö Redhawks.

Jonas Gunnarsson: After last season Nashville Predators GM David Poile said that they wanted to re-think and re-organization their minor league goaltending depth. That meant saying goodbye to Gunnarsson who really didn’t get much of a chance at ever being placed in a comfortable situation to play. Instead he played sporadically and had sporadic results. Fortunately we’re not in a situation in Milwaukee this season where one guy plays and the others hardly see net time. Problem solved. Anywho, Gunnarsson started his season on loan with HV71 in Sweden before returning to the team that he had played for previous to the Admirals – the Malmö Redhawks. He is already 2 appearances away from matching his total from last season with the Admirals. His goaltending numbers are pretty much in line with how he was playing in Sweden previously.

Darren Haydar: I was under the impression that this Admiral legend had retired after the 2015-16 season. And, yeah, for the most part that is kind of accurate. The 38-year old did sign with Dundas Real McCoys in early-December. “Who is that,” you ask. It is a team based out of the Ontario Hockey Association as a AAA Senior League team.  Still, it is always nice to see our old pal Darren do well.. even if he did just skew the Facts & Experience numbers on that team’s roster.

Magnus Hellberg: After two rather good seasons with the New York Rangers organization it was time for Hellberg to take the adventure away from North America. He signed for Kunlun Red Star in Russia’s KHL and has proceeded to do incredibly well by stamping out a 2.33 goals against average, 0.926 save percentage, and 5 shutouts in 37 appearances. Slightly only unfortunate thing is the team itself which is near the bottom of the KHL’s divisional and conference standings. Hellberg has only won 12 games from those 37 appearances despite the sparkling numbers.

Vladislav Kamenev: What more can be said than how sad it was to see him be given a chance to instantly play for the Colorado Avalanche after this season’s trade only to be injured badly before the midway point of his debut game in the Pepsi Center. I’m still gutted for him. But, at 21-years of age, this is a minor setback in the grand scheme of a rather big organization change taking place in Colorado. Kamenev looks set to be part of that along with Girard. Once his left arm fully heals from surgery he likely goes to San Antonio in the AHL briefly before getting put right back into the NHL mix. It isn’t a lost season for him. And he still has a lot more ahead of him in a place where opportunities are pretty well boundless for those looking to earn them.

Michael Latta: This man is becoming an odyssey at this point. Ever since being packaged in a trade from the Nashville Predators to the Washington Capitals for some kid named Filip we have seen Latta play for six different teams – most recently the Binghamton Devils after he was traded last week from the Tucson Roadrunners for a guy not named Filip. I’m not sure why Latta can’t find a proper fit. He’s always been such a good player and presence in a locker room. I’d just like to see him get into a situation that works. Hopefully this is finally it.

Brendan Leipsic: Speaking of players that were traded away – Leipsic has done very well for himself over the past three seasons. His time within the Toronto Maple Leafs organization came to an end with the NHL Expansion Draft seeing him claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights. He has played there this entire season to this point and contributed 10 assists in 25 games.

Mike Liambas: “The Bus” is another player who I’d still wish was around for stretches such as the last month or so in Milwaukee. He would be the type to run through walls or start a scrap in moments when the Admirals would be fading or falling asleep behind the wheel. He joined the Anaheim Ducks organization in the off-season. He started this season out with the San Diego Gulls where he managed 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 13 games while accumulating 50 penalty minutes along the way. He was then recalled to the Ducks and was able to earn his first career NHL point with a primary assist. Sadly, he has been there ever since because of an injury.

Marek Mazanec: This is the man responsible for this story coming together – because he is back! Mazanec’s recent off-season was a blur. He was qualified as an RFA to expose him for the NHL’s Expansion Draft. He wasn’t claimed. He then filed for arbitration and the two actually stamped out a deal at one point. That was all done in an effort to then have his ties to the Predators organization  severed so -if- he came back he could do so with any NHL organization that would be willing to take him. After a small contracted run with HC Slovan Bratislava in Russia’s KHL that saw him make 23 appearances? He is back under the umbrella of the New York Rangers and playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL. He has made 3 starts earned 2 wins, and his last outing was a shootout loss where he stopped 42/43 shots on goal. Perhaps the NHL hasn’t seen the last of Maz.

Chris Mueller: This man is still an AHL force. While he has been well traveled since his last run in the Predators organization (2012-13) it feels like he is setting himself up for a potential second AHL Calder Cup run this season with the explosive Toronto Marlies. Mueller is third on the team in scoring with 19 points (5 goals, 14 assists) in 28 games while the Marlies are the top team in the AHL’s Eastern Conference with a record of 21-7-0-0 (42 points, 0.750 points percentage).

Adam Pardy: Last season, Pardy was brought into the organization early to be a veteran anchor on the Admirals defense. He did really well and was brilliant alongside Alex Carrier. Pardy managed 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 31 games with the Admirals and also played 4 games with the Predators in the NHL. He didn’t sign anywhere this off-season. He continues to be a free agent. And I’m not sure if the longer this goes on whether or not the 33-year old defenseman decides to call it a career or seek opportunities overseas. It does feel though that this lack of playing feel more like retirement is the option.

Adam Payerl: Alongside Mazanec, this is a guy who really made me want to get back into the Then & Now Report. While Mazanec is back – I can’t for the life of me begin to understand what has happened to Payerl. When Payerl turned up to Milwaukee in 2015 he started a career turn-around and was sensational. He had a career season in his first Admirals campaign: 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 74 games. He followed that up in 2016-17 by doing even better: 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 76 games. He wasn’t brought back by the Predators after never getting the look up top. Payerl then moved to an AHL contract with the Providence Bruins where everything has gone completely wrong: 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist) in 16 games. That means he narrowly has more points scored this season than league suspensions. I don’t know what is happening for him in Providence – but it isn’t working at all.

Mike Ribeiro: By now I get the impression most know this story. It’s a sad one. Ribeiro has been struggling with alcoholism and suffered a relapse. The story only gets more sad the more you look. What can be said of Ribeiro’s run with the Nashville Predators is a lot of things. What can be said of his stay with the Milwaukee Admirals was that he showed up to work, the team appeared to gravitate to him very well, he did a great job on the ice, and you never would have known he was in the place that he clearly was mentally. I truly hope he gets the help that he needs. No one is ever beyond the point of saving.

Mark Van Guilder: The Van Tour continues in Europe. This season the 33-year old is a member of EHC Visp in Switzerland where he has produced 20 points (11 goals, 9 assists) in 27 games. It seems ever since he went to play in Europe he has found success: winning championships in both Italy and Norwary in his first two seasons after his tenure with the Milwaukee Admirals came to an end. Now that he is competing in the second tier of Swiss hockey the aim is to see EHC Visp promoted to the top flight – NLA. Though, that team currently sits seventh in a league table of eleven teams. It will be a tough ask.

Matt White: After being a really nice success story for the Admirals the time for White to move to Europe was now. This season he has been playing in Germany for Augsburger Panther where he is currently producing 26 points (9 goals, 17 assists) in 33 games. Plus, prior to the season, he was with Team USA competing in the 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship – where he won gold – and was named Best Forward of the Tournament.

Any surprises in how well or not well some former-Admirals are doing? Are there any who you think this team misses at the moment or would benefit by having in the fold?

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3 thoughts on “The Then & Now Report”

  1. Karen: Good Guy Joe from Antigo went from Leksands IF in Sweden last season to Ilves in Finland this season. I imagine the Green Bay Packers colors were a huge selling point for him there. As far as his play? He isn’t wracking up points but he was always more of a stable defense-first. He has 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist) in 23 games with a plus/minus rating of -2. Ilves is fourteenth out of fifteen teams in Finnish’s Liiga. So.. not too great there, sadly.

  2. I have been traveling and missed this update. Latta is a good player but not great at anything. He isn’t a shoot the lights out scorer or a heavy checker or a good fighter or a shut down winger. That all works against him. Adam Payerl was ignored by Nashville, just like Cal O’Reilly was. There wasn’t room for him in Nashville.

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