The first professional playing season for Tyler Kelleher has been bittersweet. He had an amazing showing during the Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp, continued that form into Pre-Season Training Camp, and hit the ground running with the Milwaukee Admirals. Unfortunately he has lost over a month’s time due to a knee injury.
Kelleher is on the comeback trial right now. He is slowly edging towards a return in the coming weeks. When he gets back to the ice it will be a great boost for the Admirals. The future is a bright one for the 5’6″ forward from Longmeadow, Massachusetts.
Before going into the pro career of Kelleher one has to recognize how tremendous of a collegiate career he had. He played four-years with the University of New Hampshire. His NCAA career with the Wildcats saw him produce 167 points (57 goals, 110 assists) in 153 games. In his senior season he was voted as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award after a 2016-17 season where he tallied 63 points (24 goals, 39 assists) in 40 games.
This is when the Milwaukee Admirals came into the story. After Kelleher’s collegiate career came to a close he signed an AHL Contract with the Admirals that extended to the 2017-18 season. It was a literal feet to the fire story, too. Kelleher made his professional playing debut the exact same day that his contract with the Admirals was announced and took part in a 2-1 victory for the Admirals over the Iowa Wild at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
That all seemed to be a bit of a jarring situation from the outside looking in. Thankfully, as can so often be the case, that brief spell of experiencing the pro game at the end of a season before the first full professional season takes place can really benefit a player coming out of college or major juniors. Kelleher was no different. And he showed up to Nashville for Rookie Development Camp with a swagger and skill level the likes of which made you understand why he was in the running for being one of the best players in college hockey the year prior. He was outstanding and that form trickled right to the 2017-18 season.
Kelleher would score his first pro goal in the Admirals second game of this season in Iowa. That would be followed swiftly by Kelleher scoring 4 goals in the Admirals following 3 games. What stood out with some of those goals weren’t necessarily high flashy skill level. It was seeing a forward as small as him go where one must go in order to get the goals at all, right at the net. Kelleher’s size might always be a topic of discussion but seeing him battle around the net for second and third chance opportunities makes the topic of height meaningless when he is able to battle and generate as he was. He played a direct game and was seeing results. Slowly, those results pitter-pattered out ever so slightly. Then the unfortunate came a few games into a new wave of great form.
Towards the end of a morning practice at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena an awkward fall into the boards for Kelleher would turn into a fractured patella. It wasn’t Juuso Puustinen levels of fractured patella but Kelleher knew right away that something wasn’t right. He’s not played a game since 12/22/17 and has now missed the last 14 games.
There is plenty that can still be learned from as Kelleher has an outside perspective for the moment. With a rookie season thoughts -not just about the game- but living a pro lifestyle can run rampant. The Admirals are fortunate to have a great veteran leadership core this season. It’s allowed Kelleher to keep grounded and progress even though he might not be able to be with the team competing over the last month. The good news is that he is back to skating and participating in practice once again. It shouldn’t be too long before #63 is back on the ice for the Admirals.
A massive thanks to Tyler Kelleher for spending time with us to do this interview. This afternoon following practice we also chatted with Anders Lindbäck, Jake Paterson, and Tyler Moy for the next installments of Fifteen. Those will all be coming out in the coming days. We’ll also be looking to get a few more including Bobby Butler prior to his adventure to PyeongChang representing USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
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