When the rosters in the AHL switch from one season to the next it can be amusing to see those who cross enemy lines within the same division. Lately, it has been fascinating to see the exodus from the Rockford IceHogs to the Milwaukee Admirals. In the last three years there have been three players making the leap: Cody Bass (2015-16), Mike Liambas (2016-17), and Pierre-Cédric Labrie (2017-18). For Liambas it was a one-year pit stop around time with the Admirals. For Bass he was a one and done guy within the Chicago Blackhawks organization. But Labrie was competing against the Admirals with the IceHogs the last three seasons. It hasn’t taken him long to blend into Milwaukee.
Last season, I wanted fan requests to determine who and when players of your choice would be heard from in Fifteen. It worked a treat. We heard from several different people and had a lot of laughs. There was just one problem: the most requested player and most frequently referred to as the funniest player Admirals teammates had played with, Harry Zolnierczyk, was recalled by the Nashville Predators moments after being named Admiral of the Month last December and Milwaukee didn’t see him again. That’s the bad news. The good news? Harry Z re-signed with the Predators before the start of the 2017-18 season.
Yesterday, we announced our Admiral of the Month for October as Emil Pettersson. The 23-year old from Sundsvall, Sweden has quickly adapted to the North American game and made an impact for the Milwaukee Admirals. Pettersson leads the team with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in 7 games and has done a great job at center and working both sides of special teams. Should he continue as he has started? It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him getting involved with the Nashville Predators this season.
The Milwaukee Admirals finished up their slate of seven-games for the month of October. They ended with a record of 5-2-0-0 (10 points, 0.714 points percentage) and are sitting behind only the Rockford IceHogs (0.778) in the Central Division. That’s only thanks to the IceHogs playing, and winning, two further games in October than the Admirals. Though, given the early back and forths between those two, I get a feeling that we could be hearing about that divisional battle until the end of the regular season.
This start for the Admirals has been really impressive. I had a feeling based on Training Camp that this year’s group was a special one. Still, to get things to gel as quickly as they have, it’s a rather impressive feat. As a team, the Admirals are operating really well and their AHL best penalty kill (93.1%) stands out as an example of how well everyone has clicked. Individually, there are many great performers right out of the gate. Which makes this choice a difficult one -but- one that I feel is deserved. The Real Estate Center‘s Admiral of the Month Award for October belongs to Emil Pettersson.
It wasn’t exactly that long ago that the 2017-18 Season Preview was published. Yet, so much has already been solved or shaken up, it feels as though another speed run through the Milwaukee Admirals is required. Yesterday’s news cycle alone almost demands it. When viewing the landscape of the AHL this season: it’s as talent filled as the league perhaps had ever been. The competition is going to be tremendous. There will be no better reflection of that than the AHL’s Central Division. And the Admirals are going to be a huge player within that murderer’s row of teams.
We’re a week away from Milwaukee Admirals Pre-Season Training Camp. Festivities will be taking place from the MSOE Kern Center next week Tuesday and will build towards two exhibition matches. The Admirals will travel to the BMO Harris Bank Center next Thursday before hosting the Chicago Wolves inside the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena next Saturday. The week that follows that is the final preparation before the 2017-18 season officially begins. The Admirals start on the road against the Iowa Wild.
To get everyone prepared before all the action picks up it is time to look over some of the key storylines heading into Training Camp and the 2017-18 season. This season proves to be a bit more mysterious than last season. Who is the starting goaltender? Where is all the offense going to come from? Is the Nashville Predators organizational depth finally starting to stretch thin at the AHL level? These are questions that should be answered quickly into the season. Let’s preview what to expect come Training Camp and into the start of the new season.
Tuesday morning at 9:00 AM CST will mark Game 3 in the Pre-Season Rookie Tournament. That will conclude the rookie slate of the schedule before the main camp begins on Thursday. And, with the wait before Milwaukee Admirals Training Camp gets underway, it feels overdue for a proper Admirals Roundtable Mailbag. Feel free to continually ask questions and have them added and answered below the jump.
Last season, I broke a rule of mine that was an important one for myself. When I started at Admirals Roundtable I didn’t want to be anything more than the byline. I had written on a few occasions how difficult things were becoming behind the scenes. I was mentally burned out. After spending five seasons around the Milwaukee Admirals it felt like I needed to hit the reset button on my career aspirations.
As I’ve continued getting things published here throughout the off-season, attending Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp, revamping the website’s look and functionality, and making business partnerships for the 2017-18 season – I’ve been receiving a lot of “are you back” questions. The simple answer is: Yes. The more complex answer involves me breaking my rule again. I need to tell my story.
If you were to look over the Milwaukee Admirals run under head coach Dean Evason you would see a rather successful regular season squad that has yet to escape the first round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. The playoff run in the Evason era is 1-12 with three successive exits via sweep and an eleven game losing streak. The Admirals last playoff win came against the Texas Stars on 27 April, 2013. They won 2-0 behind a 23-save shutout by Magnus Hellberg and received goals from Austin Watson and then team captain Mike Moore. Watson wasn’t the only current Nashville Predators player on the roster for that last playoff win for Admirals. Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm were both active in that game.
What can standout from the playoff exits that followed is the team’s youth and veteran leadership structure sometimes not providing for the greatest of on-ice consistency. In the season after that last playoff win, 2013-14, the captain was Scott Ford and his alternates were Joe Piskula and Mark Van Guilder. 2014-15, the Admirals went with Piskula as captain and saw a then 20-year old Colton Sissons join Van Guilder as an alternate captain. The Admirals streak of twelve consecutive playoff appearances ended that season. 2015-16, Sissons would be made team captain with a veritable hodgepodge of alternate captains behind him in a season where he played 38 games in the AHL and 34 games in the NHL.
Establishing a core leadership group comprised of veteran talent started last season with the arrival of Trevor Smith. He was on top of a leadership group that had many other solid and established players behind him: Cody Bass, Harry Zolnierczyk, Adam Pardy, and Mike Liambas. While some of those names have either moved on or are still free agents the process of keeping a veteran leadership group has remained a focal point for the Admirals. And it is almost already solidified after yesterday’s signing of Bobby Butler.
Around this time a year ago one of my biggest concerns heading into the season was the Milwaukee Admirals defense being too young and too inexperienced. And that was with Matt Irwin likely in the fold at the time. At the moment, the elder statesman of the Admirals defense is 24-year old Jimmy Oligny who suffered ligament damage that required season ending surgery in April. Despite that, the defense really should be one of the least concerning elements to the Admirals efforts in the 2017-18 season. Yes, they might be young -but- they’re a year better off than a season ago and last season proved rather well for that group.