The Nashville Predators’ season opener has come and gone (and what an opener it was). The Predators dominated the third and won 5-2 against the Minnesota Wild with four of those goals coming from former members of the Milwaukee Admirals – cue transition:
The roster is “set” and the Milwaukee Admirals are preparing for their first regular season game this upcoming Sunday against Central Division rival, the Iowa Wild. What will this Admirals team look like? There may even be some *gasp* predictions for this season!
At the end of August, Penalty Box Radio posted this article where I predicted which players I believed would end up in Milwaukee after camp and the preseason. Each player ended up at their predicted location with one exception. Tanner Jeannot was put on waivers this last Monday and assigned to ECHL Florida Everblades.
In the event you don’t feel like reading that full article, here’s where the Admirals are starting the season: The Admirals received Eeli Tolvanen and Rem Pitlick from Nashville. This surprised many Nashville fans due to the strong pre-season performance from both. In my opinion, this is not a bad move. Both players are young and will benefit from getting regular minutes. It is important to understand that players normally do not advance in a linear progression through the lines of a hockey team. A player doesn’t go from being a fourth line player to first line (in most cases). These are different types of players. Top six players play top six minutes. It is better for a “top six” level player to play top six minutes in the minor league than it is to play bottom six minutes in the NHL. Pitlick and Tolvanen both are top six players.
With that being said, this philosophy doesn’t always translate when a player is regressing. For example, the Predators assigned Freddy Gaudreau to Milwaukee after he cleared waivers last week. I would expect to see him playing on either Milwaukee’s first or second line. A top line of Richard-Dauphin-Tolvanen gives Milwaukee a top line of intense scoring prowess. While a second line of Pitlick-Blackwell-Gaudreau gives Rem Pitlick a chance to develop with two players with NHL experience. Pitlick is more of a play-maker than a shooter, while both Blackwell and Gaudreau (at least in the AHL) both like to shoot the puck.
The rest of the offensive roster will fall into place within the first few games. I’d predict seeing Miikka Salomaki on the third line. The rest of the third and fourth lines will include a hodgepodge of Tommy Novak, Cole Schneider, Lukas Craggs, Mathieu Olivier, Joe Pendenza, and Yakov Trenin just to name a few.
Coaches have their work cut out for them when it comes to defensive pairings. After receiving Steven Santini from Nashville (part of the PK Subban trade), I’d predict seeing him on the second defensive pairing with Matt Donovan. Jarred Tinordi had a nice showing during the Predators’ preseason, I predict the Admirals Captain will anchor the top pairing with Frederic Allard. This leaves Alexandre Carrier pairing up with either Arvin Atwal, Brandon Fortunato, Josh Healy, or Jeremy Davies.
In terms of goaltending, Wisconsin native Troy Grosenick will get the majority of starts, but Predators prospect Connor Ingram will get his fair share of starts as well. Nashville is pretty set with goaltender depth and the future is bright with Juuse Saros. Milwaukee will defer to playing the best goaltender as opposed to developing Nashville’s next starter.
All this to say that the Milwaukee Admirals have one of the most talented rosters that I’ve seen.
The one move that had many Admirals fans upset was the release of Michael Huntebrinker from his PTO (professional tryout contract) at the conclusion of the preseason. Huntebrinker scored 7 points during the preseason with a very strong showing. It came down to the first and foremost purpose of the Milwaukee Admirals being to develop talent for the Predators. Huntebrinker would have been an AHL contract and the Admirals already retain the contract for Cole Schneider. For the time being, he simply did not fit into the system.
I’m not going to go as far as to say that the Milwaukee Admirals are going to win the Calder Cup this year. As a minor league affiliate, events in Nashville can drastically alter your season. An injury or an underperforming player can drain the talent from a minor league roster. Pitlick or Tolvanen being recalled puts a damper on things, for sure. But even without them, you have some serious offensive talent in Richard, Gaudreau (AHL Gaudreau… not NHL Gaudreau), Dauphin, and Schneider.
I will say, this team is a serious contender when both Milwaukee and Nashville are healthy and will make a deep run in the playoffs. My predictions is the Admirals will at least make it to the Conference Finals so long as Nashville’s roster stays healthy.
The Milwaukee Admirals play their first regular season game this Sunday in Iowa against the Wild with the puck dropping at 3:00pm Central. All AHL games are free to stream this weekend on theahl.com.