Category: Feature

Cody Bass; Return of the War Horse

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The 2016-17 season was looking to be the stuff of dreams for a 29-year old Cody Bass. In what was the start of his tenth professional playing season he was making the Opening Night roster as an NHL player for the first time in his career. That story looked to be an awfully good one out of the first puck drop. It quickly turned into a season to forget.

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Vladislav Kamenev and the Path Moving Forward

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

These past two days have been really joyous ones for the Nashville Predators organization. On Monday, Frédérick Gaudreau signed a three-year contract. And, yesterday, Pontus Åberg signed a two-year contract. Similar to the likes of Austin Watson & Colton Sissons before them it displays a great strength in the developmental process with reward for all the hard work spent with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL before being counted upon for an NHL role.

It didn’t exactly dawn on me until late yesterday evening though just what the ramifications of both signings signals as far as Vladislav Kamenev is concerned. For a nice change, the Predators forward depth up top is becoming solidified with quality options and with a bit of years attached to their contracts. As much as any player would like to break into the NHL as fast as humanly possible the importance of being a polished and prepared product when you arrive is something the Predators have been specializing in these last many seasons. The proof of it’s effectiveness can be displayed through the run to the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Finals and it isn’t something that needs to be adjusted.

It’s that sort of thinking that means a soon to be 21-year old Kamenev, about to embark on his third professional playing season in North America, is in a good place right where he is for the moment.

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The Goaltending Gamble

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Today is Marek Mazanec‘s Birthday. And, with that, it is worth remembering and reflecting upon what the now 26-year old Czech netminder provided: stability. The 2017-18 season will be the first season since 2012-13 when the Milwaukee Admirals will not have had Mazanec between the pipes for them. In that four-year tenure playing in the AHL he was debatably one of the Admirals best goaltenders during the AHL era having played 165 games, earned 82 wins and 11 shutouts, provided a 2.59 goals against average and 0.909 save percentage, and even managed to tally 11 assists.

It was year-to-year stability with a goaltender that wouldn’t be that much of a question mark if tabbed as the third choice option for the Nashville Predators. At this moment, the organization is heading into a short span where having that is going to be a gamble contested on the free agent market and the 2017-18 season marks Year 1 of this window in Milwaukee.

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Tyler Moy; Bill Nye on Skates

Tyler Moy celebrates scoring the first goal of his professional playing career on 4/15/17 against the Grand Rapids Griffins at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

At the end of an AHL season the arrival of young talents from the college and major junior hockey scene is commonplace. They don’t all have to be players that were drafted by NHL parent clubs and signed to entry level contracts. Several undrafted players generally turn up to make their first big impression on the professional ranks to make a statement heading towards that rookie season as a pro. The aim isn’t purely what’s performed on the ice on gameday, either. It is a great chance to experience what it means to be a professional hockey player away from the rink and see what it takes on a day-to-day basis to maintain a lengthy career.

When Tyler Moy arrived to the Milwaukee he did so the day he signed his entry level contract with the Nashville Predators on 10 April, 2017. He showed up to an empty hotel room and embarked on his practice with the Milwaukee Admirals the following day. The day after that? Moy made his professional playing debut and tallied an assist in a 2-1 victory for the Admirals on the road against the Rockford IceHogs. Following the debut, two-days later, Moy had two more assists in a 6-2 victory on his debut at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena which was also played against the IceHogs and then notched the first goal of his professional career the very next day. That goal would come in a 5-1 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins and, sadly, his two games played during the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs were also in losing efforts to those exact same Griffins.

So, what about Moy’s experience at the end of the 2016-17 season was so unique compared to many of the others who were making that same step into the professional ranks? Homework. He was still doing homework so that he could graduate from Harvard University on schedule.

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Final Thoughts of Rookie Development Camp

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

The 2017 Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp concluded this past weekend. It provided a really good look at the Predators most recent draft class and several prospects within the system as well as thirteen invitees from abroad. The aim of the week long camp is very much like an orientation process into seeing what it is to be a professional hockey player at an elite level with elite coaches. That is why players such as Vladislav Kamenev or Trevor Murphy were not in attendance. They have experienced it in the past. Yet, for those still on the rise (e.g. Alex Carrier), it is good for some to return once again to build upon leadership skills and be there for those who have yet to take in the week long experience.

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The Best of Chatterbox, Season 4

(Photo Credit: Jeremy K. Gover)

There is one last item here at Admirals Roundtable that needs to be addressed before we officially close the books on the 2016-17 season. It is always my goal to provide a comprehensive coverage of the Milwaukee Admirals behind the scenes. With so many practice held on home ice at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena I am certain this was our biggest year yet on Chatterbox.

It’s been a fun season chatting away with the Admirals. This was a special group of people and they were always a pleasure to talk to. In addition, fan requests this season provided a lot of timely conversations and entertaining questions. For that: thanks for your feedback and suggestions!

You can listen along to the best of Chatterbox in our SoundCloud playlist below. There are quite a few gems so feel free to reminisce the 2016-17 Admirals season at your leisure. Where shall I mark the starting point? Let’s venture back to Juuse Saros acknowledged the Milwaukee media depth at 2016 Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp.

Cheers to all members of the Milwaukee Admirals this past season for providing the time to do all of these interviews. In addition, the Nashville Predators who did much the same this season as well.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

2016-17 Milwaukee Admirals Report Card

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

There was a very good reason why there was such a lengthy delay between the end of the Milwaukee Admirals 2016-17 season and this end-season report card being published: it felt as if the Admirals were still working.

The Nashville Predators extended their all the way into mid-June by marking their first ever trip into the Stanley Cup Finals. Sadly, things just fell short against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a six-game series. But the Predators will have a banner to raise after earning their first Western Conference crown.

It might hurt for some just how close the Predators were. In fact it might hurt for the entire Summer. Yet, what the Predators organization displayed throughout the season -and especially in the playoffs- was how strong they are and can be for a great many years to come. The Predators 2016-17 season was a success. And for that it is hard to argue that the Admirals 2016-17 season also wasn’t a success.

~Season Summary~

From the moment the Milwaukee Admirals started their Training Camp at the MSOE Kern Center you could get a sense that the 2016-17 squad was a special one. There was a huge carry over from the 2015-16 team that won the Central Division and arguably had one of the best regular season campaigns in the team’s AHL history. The losses in terms of the roster of that team were not as significant as what was added by way of prospect depth and veteran leadership. And that showed very quickly with an exclamation point being a month of November in which the Admirals played 10 games, won 8 games, and didn’t suffer a single regulation loss.

(Photo Credit: John Saraya)

Where the season started to shift came during the months of December and January. The Admirals weren’t really in injury trouble much this season. Their parent club, on the other hand, was. In those two months there were swings in which the defensive and forward groups were hit hard and it shuffled the Admirals around a lot. In the long run, moments such as that help the team build and grow. In the short term, there is very erratic hockey being played and inconsistency can give life to further inconsistency. The Admirals were 12-13-0-1 in that span but the style of hockey was never quite as smooth as it was out of the gate and the team never really went back to that. Yet, how could it when certain players such as Juuse Saros and Harry Zolnierczyk aren’t there anymore?

The conclusion to this season was looking really good. The Admirals were trending upwards and integrating new blood long before the playoffs started. Unfortunately the Grand Rapids Griffins just appear to have the Admirals number. For a second consecutive season the Admirals were swept out of the first round by the Griffins. It has now been over four-years since the Admirals last won a playoff game. The Admirals have lost 11 straight playoff games and have been swept out of their last three playoff appearances in the first round.

(Photo Credit: Shane Abbitt)

What is bizarre, thinking in particular of these last two seasons, is that I wouldn’t consider the Admirals end result a failure despite the lack of playoff success. What are the Admirals at the end of the day? They are the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate to the Nashville Predators. The Admirals mission is to best prepare their players for NHL success. That mission has been a huge success and has especially been so with Dean Evason, Stan Drulia, and Scott Ford behind the bench. The poor stretches in the season or playoff difficulties are moments and scenarios to experience, to learn and improve from, and make use of come the time the Predators need a player to fill a role. That came into view for a mainstream audience during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Finals. And that should continue in the future because the prospect pipeline is continuing to deliver great talent with the Admirals grooming them for the NHL stage.

(Photo Credit: Mark Newman)

It is tough for many to take that the Admirals have a longstanding playoff losing streak right now. I get that. I read that often. Yet, it is also important to stress the bigger picture. The AHL is still a massively competitive league. The 2014-15 season should have acted as a reminder that playoff hockey isn’t a guarantee. The Admirals make the Calder Cup Playoffs on a regular basis. That’s still a positive. The next hurdle is making something of that stage. And, much like the trickle over from 2015-16 to 2016-17, the season ahead offers another great opportunity at making a big run.

The AHL is all about the process. It can be a long one. The Admirals effort to win the Calder Cup for the first time since 2004 is a long process. It isn’t a failure, though. And year after year it feels as if the Admirals can make it happen. Not all AHL organizations get to say that and some frankly fade out of existence. The Predators and Admirals are with each other as NHL and AHL partners until 2022. The chances of a Calder Cup being won in that time frame as the Predators continue growing is very great. Patience is important for the players. Patience is just as equally important for fans of an AHL team.

Continue reading “2016-17 Milwaukee Admirals Report Card”

The Next Chapter

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Last night, the Nashville Predators fell 2-0 in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Finals. In the process the Pittsburgh Penguins became the NHL’s first team in the salary cap era to repeat as Stanley Cup champions and the first to accomplish the feat since the Detroit Red Wings won in 1997 and 1998.

Ultimately, on the wrong side of any sort of a playoff exit, there are always those questions of: what if? There can be plenty of those.

What if Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen were never injured? What if P.K. Subban‘s opening goal wasn’t ruled “no goal” for offside? What if Colton Sissons‘ goal in Game Six wasn’t blown dead by a quick whistle? On and on they can go.

Those questions hold some weight. They do. But those questions also really don’t matter. What did matter was the here and now. That is something the Predators did very well when it came to making adjustments throughout the playoffs – be it through leadership within the room, smart work behind the bench from the coaching staff, or sheer organizational depth with the Milwaukee Admirals top two goal scorers on the season (Pontus Åberg and Frédérick Gaudreau) making a dent along the way.

There should be no sadness after a run the likes of which the Nashville Predators endured. At every level and with everywhere you could possibly look the Predators did something special. It was painfully close to reaching the ultimate goal: but that does not make what was done a failure.

For starters you need only look at the city itself. Nashville, from a general sense, simply had not been viewed as a hockey town by comparison to the vast majority of other teams in the NHL. This run forced all of the league’s audience to sit down and watch Nashville for what it really is. It is hockey mad. If there is such a thing as escalation among NHL fandoms, which I certainly hope for, what Nashville as a city and organization did in this playoff run goes past the Stanley Cup Finals. A non-traditional market put the rest of the NHL landscape on notice and shouted, “top that.”

What fans have created in “Smashville” is something that I actually feel teams will struggle to actually top. The Bridgestone Arena is “Bucket List” level loudness that needs to be admired in-person to fully grasp just what kind of an atmosphere is created. The scope of what Predators fans created was on full display these playoffs as the city was packed full of “Viewing Party” areas outside of the Arena itself and on down Broadway. It pretty much goes without saying, doesn’t it? That stigma is gone. Nashville is a hockey town.

Behind all the madness and the on-ice product the Predators front office has long been a great one in their own right. There are so many staff members, arena personnel, media members, and terrific people working behind the scenes that deserved this moment. Much like the team on the ice everyone behind the scene shined brightly in the spotlight. This is a multi-tiered process. I can’t think of many areas in which the whole of the Predators organization could do more in order to be more than what they already are.

It’s mid-June. The 2016-17 chapter has finally come to an end. Whenever any season does end it is difficult to let go knowing the team will change with the off-season ahead. The NHL Expansion Draft will happen. Trades will happen. Free Agency will see faces leave, new faces arrive, and some faces vanish by way of retirement. Yet, the foundation of what was just done isn’t moving anywhere.

In many ways I see something in the 2017 Predators that I saw from the 2008 Penguins. They were a young team filled with great talent, balanced with veteran leadership, and just so happen to get cut down in a six-game Stanley Cup Finals series to a more experienced group in the Red Wings at the time. That Penguins team took from that moment and went on to win the Stanley Cup the following season against the Red Wings in a seven-game series. Experience is everything. There are players who have been great for so long on the Predators roster that have become even better for having experienced hockey on a stage as big as the Stanley Cup Finals. That is where the next chapter really begins. After all, where else do you go from where the Predators just finished?

The Predators provided so much in the 2016-17 season. I’m thankful to have experienced a tremendous amount of it from Rookie Development Camp, to the full AHL season following the Milwaukee Admirals, as well as getting back to Nashville to watch hockey in both the regular season and for the moment the Predators clinched their first Western Conference crown. The view from here in Milwaukee only shows that more of the same is on the horizon. I don’t see why all of this momentum that was created can’t be sustained for years to come.

Next on Admirals Roundtable: we will have our 2016-17 Report Card available on Wednesday. Then comes the long waiting game that is a hockey off-season. If last off-season within the organization was an exciting one I can’t begin to imagine just what could happen from a team looking to perhaps find that last few pieces to go over the top.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Frédérick Gaudreau Seizing His Opportunities

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

There is something fitting about Frédérick Gaudreau rising to the occasion for the Nashville Predators. Whether it be late in the Western Conference Finals against the Anaheim Ducks or against the defending Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals: Gaudreau just isn’t one to waste an opportunity.

In fact, even prior to joining the Milwaukee Admirals as an undrafted free agent, it’s these kind of moments where Gaudreau tends to shine his brightest and excel.

(Photo Credit: Le Nouvelliste)

Where the Gaudreau story starts is with a loving family that supported his career path to take playing hockey seriously. A try-out under the watch of Shawinigan Cataractes head coach Éric Veilleux went very well but his opportunity to play in college would have been forfeited in the process of joining the Québec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) team. Gaudreau was heavily leaning towards exiting the junior ranks. He didn’t want to lose his chance to pursue the avenues that college could present.  He told Cataractes scout Alain Bissonnette that he needed to leave for college. Shortly after that discussion Gaudreau’s name would appear atop the list of players to have a meeting with the coaching staff to address the situation. They informed him that there was a spot for him on the team. What came first would be a conversation between Gaudreau and his family. What would follow would be Gaudreau’s first season of junior hockey which ended in him winning the 2011-12 CHL Memorial Cup with Shawinigan.

(Photo Credit: Stéphane Lessard)

Gaudreau’s path after that special moment wasn’t always the clearest. As phenomenal as that first year in the QMJHL was with Shawinigan it wasn’t always to be that way. The next season Shawinigan failed to make the QMJHL Playoffs. The season after that Gaudreau was traded in the QMJHL to the Drummondville Voltigeurs at the end of November-2013 in exchange for a first-round pick in 2015, a second-round pick in 2014 (which belonged to the Halifax Mooseheads), and Antoine Kilanowski. Gaudreau was suddenly thrust into a new system and opportunity with Drummondville to showcase what he was capable of. He responded with arguably his best run in the QMJHL in just over a half season of work: 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 36 games with a plus/minus rating of +14 and only a single minor penalty to his name. In the 2014 QMJHL Playoffs he recorded 14 points (10 goals, 4 assists) in 11 games which included an amazing 5 goal performance in the opening round’s deciding Game Five against the Victoriaville Tigres. Gaudreau and Drummondville would fall in a six-game series the next round against Val-d’Or Foreurs.

When Gaudreau’s junior career came to an end there was never much draft talk to be done despite having such a strong finish to his time in the QMJHL. The NHL Draft came and went. It wasn’t to be. And, nearly three-years ago, on 11 June, 2014, Gaudreau would sign his first career professional contract: a one-year AHL deal with the Milwaukee Admirals for the 2014-15 season.

Without getting into the massive details. The Admirals and the 2014-15 season didn’t get along. It was a season that ended a run of twelve consecutive playoff appearances for the Admirals. And also one that saw Gaudreau spending time between the AHL with the Admirals either on the ice or as a healthy scratch or in the ECHL as a member of the Cincinnati Cyclones. In total, he produced 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) in 57 games between the AHL and ECHL in his first professional playing season.

It can easily be frustrating for a young player to find themselves so far down the pecking order and in the ECHL after having such a stellar time in either juniors or college. For Gaudreau, he slowly found himself while spending time with the Cyclones and started developing a positive mindset focused on what he can actually control: his game.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

As awful as that 2014-15 season for the Admirals felt by the end of the campaign there was a player that entered the lineup before it ended that was a breath of fresh air for how hard he was working. It was Gaudreau. Knowing how hard he practiced, Admirals head coach Dean Evason placed Gaudreau back into the lineup before the season ended urging him to play with the same intensity he displayed in practice. That last weekend of the regular season could have been a blur for everyone as things went so sour. Gaudreau handled those games as if he was making a statement for the season ahead. The Admirals would re-sign Gaudreau to a new one-year AHL contract on 21 May, 2015. It wouldn’t take him as long to make good on that statement.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

When the 2015-16 season dawned in the AHL for the Admirals it did so with Gaudreau oddly sitting out as a healthy scratch for the season opener. He would proceed to play every single game after that. The exact moment that it was impossible to ignore just how good Gaudreau was came following a recall by the Predators of the Admirals captain Colton Sissons on 10 November, 2015. It was this recall that presented Gaudreau an opportunity to be thrust into Sissons’ top center role for the Admirals. What he did next was a sign of things to come: he excelled. In the time Sissons was recalled and reassigned by the Predators Gaudreau produced 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 5 games. He would add a further 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in the space of Sissons following recall and reassignment by the Predators in the span of 14 games. Gaudreau producing offensively was the eyebrow raising part. What he arrived with and showed so well was incredible skating ability and lockdown defensive awareness. Once Gaudreau’s skills on offense started to make its way to the ice he was undeniable for the two accolades that followed: being named to the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic and signing his first career NHL contract good for two-years through the Nashville Predators.

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

Gaudreau was a headline act on an Admirals team that had won the 2015-16 AHL Central Division crown. He ended the season having massively eclipsed his rookie scoring total: 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 75 games. How would he respond the next season now that he wasn’t some great mystery and that the door to the NHL was within grasp? The same way he always does: he excelled. Gaudreau was nearly scoring goal-for-goal alongside Pontus Åberg during the 2016-17 season with the Admirals in the AHL. The moment he was put opposite wing to Anthony Richard with Mike Ribeiro centering the line? Things shot into the stratosphere for Gaudreau and resulted in a 48 point season with 25 goals and 23 assists.

Uncertainty over a junior playing career has lead to a chain of events that end up with a CHL Memorial Cup, going undrafted, two AHL contracts, an AHL All-Star appearance, and an NHL Contract. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to see Gaudreau in the NHL this season. Sure, his NHL debut came when the Predators should have went for the special instead of the soup and everyone went ill with food poisoning. But he belonged. Gaudreau has belonged in the NHL for awhile now. All that he has needed is the opportunity to show just how good he really is. There shouldn’t be surprise once that opportunity came in the form of a season ending injury to Ryan Johansen that Gaudreau would seize it and excel. It’s who he is. It’s what he does. And he’s just getting started.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

The Road to Nashville

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

Last night the Nashville Predators became the NHL’s Western Conference Champions. You could say that sentence a dozen times and it just wouldn’t get old. Nor would it get old in knowing the path that the Predators went through to get to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance but also the manner in which they did it. The Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Anaheim Ducks. And there really wasn’t a time in this run when the team was absolutely running at 100% strength. They’ve been winning through depth and competing as a team.

The saying “The Road to Nashville Goes Through Milwaukee” is one that has been put up all over the Milwaukee Admirals locker room for quite awhile. It’s also made mention several times by either Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile or the coaching staffs at both the NHL and AHL level. What is happening right now for the Predators is a direct result of that statement. It’s truth. All you need to do is look at some of the names contributing right now and you will find countless Admirals who either participated this season or in the past.

Colton Sissons was the star man last night and for good reason. Sissons became the fifth player in the past 40 years to score a hat trick in a series-clinching victory to reach the Stanley Cup Finals: Mike Bossy (1983), Jari Kurri (1985), Wayne Gretzky (1993), and Patrick Kane (2013). It wasn’t just the goal scoring for Sissons that was impressive as it was him excelling in the moment, as effectively the Predators top line center on the evening, in all areas of the game: face-offs, defense, special teams, blocking shots, keeping an active stick, and being skillful when in attack.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

What last night was for Sissons was the best game that he has played to this point in his professional career. Yet, it isn’t something that should come as a surprise. From the moment that Sissons left the Kelowna Rockets and joined the Milwaukee Admirals to begin his pro career all that you could ever tell out of him was that he was mature beyond his years. He conducted himself the right way upon arrival and became an AHL All-Star and an NHL name in his debut 2013-14 season. It felt like that was a sign of bigger things to come. But, at 20-years old at the time, there was still plenty to learn. Which is what the next step really was.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The sophomore season for Sissons did not feature NHL hockey. It didn’t even feature playoff hockey in the AHL for him, either. Sissons’ 2014-15 season was one that saw him start to evolve his game, refine and polish defensive aspects, and implement more physical play. Those areas all circulate around his finest attribute: leadership. At the start of every season the Admirals locker room votes for their captains. Sissons, still 20-years old at the start of that sophomore season, was named an alternate captain alongside Mark Van Guilder and team captain Joe Piskula. Despite making a push in camp the following season Sissons would begin Year Three with the Admirals in the AHL. At 21-years old he was voted by his teammates to be team captain. And he would continue working, pushing, and preparing himself for the next stage. Sissons’ 2015-16 season would see a return to the NHL scene and it would really be his last true stint of AHL hockey. Sissons belonged up. Sissons was good enough to be testing himself at the NHL level and improving with the Predators on a daily basis. Last night was the finest example of that countless work paying off.

Another great impact player for the Predators on this run to the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Finals has been Austin Watson. Which is funny if you think about it. Watson is the man who started his 2016-17 season off being placed on waivers by the Predators, not getting claimed by any other NHL organizations, and being assigned to start the year off with the Admirals back in the AHL.

(Photo Credit: Clint Trahan)

Watson’s journey to get where he is right now is actually remarkable in the most untraditional of ways for someone who was selected as highly as he was in an NHL Draft. Watson was taken eighteenth overall by the Predators in the 2010 NHL Draft. He was taken exactly one pick ahead of Nick Bjugstad and then several others who have become rather good names in the NHL: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Charlie CoyleBrock Nelson, and Tyler Toffoli. Yet, entering his fifth pro season, Watson was being put on waivers by the Predators -no one claimed him- and he became an Admiral once again in a league where he was a 20 goal scorer for three consecutive seasons. He arrived, conducted himself like a pro, was setting himself up to play alongside Vladislav Kamenev and Harry Zolnierczyk, and managed to suit up for 3 games before going right back where he belongs.

I’ve asked Watson himself, and Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason, just where did this physical element to his game come from and haven’t really had an answer. Me, I believe the answer is an obvious one. Watson had the start to this season that he did while he sees Cody Bass make the Predators roster at his expense. Watson has since dropped the gloves 14 times. He only had 3 fights prior to this season.

(Photo Credit: Darren Abate)

Perhaps lost in all the fighting, but even more so all that bone-crunching hitting, has been Watson’s advancements in his skating ability this season. Often in the past that has been his biggest issue: speed. There was a season in which Watson was centering the likes of Miikka Salomäki and Joonas Rask in which he told me outright that those guys were way too fast for him. That’s kind of a problem. And that’s why he was shifted out from center to wing where he could free roam a little bit easier to work damage in more ways than one. He displayed all of what he has been so well known for and some of the things he is becoming even more well known for last night for the Predators against the Ducks. It’s the scoring touch that is still yet to be shown on a more regular basis that he did display in the AHL with the Admirals. The more comfortable he gets the more that can really come together.

Even at 25-years of age, after seasons upon seasons in Milwaukee where he could have just about felt forgotten about in the prospect pipeline, Watson is right there for the Predators and he is still showing that he is capable of doing even greater things. Who scored the empty netters last night to seal the deal for the Predators? The forward they risked losing on waivers to begin the season. Who knows what sort of a fire that lit underneath him and just how much that fire is powering the Predators to success right now.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.