Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Admirals’ 2022-23 season came to an end as their playoff run was halted by the red-hot Coachella Valley Firebirds.
After one of their best campaigns in recent memory, the Admirals’ roster is facing some significant turnover heading into the offseason, and General Manager Scott Nichol will have some notable decisions to make. Below, I took a look at each position group, previewing the forthcoming roster decisions and predicting what Milwaukee’s group will look like for the 2023-24 season.
Milwaukee ended the playoffs with 18 forwards officially on their roster and a few more who joined the group but were ineligible to play. Those under contract for next season include Egor Afanasyev, Jachym Kondelik, Navrin Mutter, Kiefer Sherwood, Phil Tomasino, and Mark Jankowski.
I suspect Sherwood, Tomasino, and Jankowski will challenge for full-time roles in Nashville during training camp, plus the Admirals will welcome in newer prospects like Nolan Burke, Zachary L’Heureux, and Fyodor Svechkov. Joakim Kemell should stick in Milwaukee (if he doesn’t make Nashville’s opening night roster), but my guess is Simon Knak heads back to Switzerland as he’s yet to sign an entry-level contract and renewed his deal with HC Davos for three years last fall.
In terms of free agents, Nashville maintains restricted free agent (RFA) rights for Jimmy Huntington, John Leonard, Markus Nurmi, and Isaac Ratcliffe; Nurmi is headed back to Finland next year after re-signing with HC TPS as I reported back in April.
Their unrestricted free agents are Anthony Angello, Tommy Apap, Todd Burgess, Austin Rueschhoff, Zach Sanford, Tim Schaller, and Cole Schneider. I imagine Nichol will only bring a few of them back—namely Schneider if he doesn’t choose to retire—and sign a veteran free agent or two to round out the roster.
2023-24 Roster Prediction (15): Afanasyev, Burke, Kemell, Kondelik, L’Heureux, Mutter, Schaefer, Svechkov, Schneider, Rueschhoff, Ratcliffe, Huntington, Leonard, and three free agents.
While the forward group will have several new faces, the blueline is shaping up to be quite similar to this year’s corps. Nashville has all six regular defenders from 2022-23—Marc Del Gaizo, Kevin Gravel, Jordan Gross, Roland McKeown, Spencer Stastney, and Adam Wilsby—under contract for next season. Depending on how Nashville handles Cal Foote or (later on) Tyson Barrie, Gravel or Stastney could see some significant NHL time, but these pairs likely look much the same.
Behind those six, Milwaukee will add Luke Prokop and Jack Matier from junior hockey; both could see regular minutes in the ECHL with Nashville’s new affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators.
Don’t expect free agent Xavier Bouchard to return, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Scott Nichol tries to bring back Keaton Thompson. He was a solid depth option this year that played some big minutes when called on.
The other question here is Jake Livingstone. He doesn’t have much leverage as a 10.2(c) RFA, so I anticipate Nashville will get him signed and see how his training camp goes.
2023-24 Roster Prediction (9): Del Gaizo, Gross, Matier, McKeown, Prokop, Stastney, Thompson, Wilsby, and Livingstone.
The goalie picture may be the most interesting of this whole calculation. Yaroslav Askarov is penciled in as the Admirals’ starter next year, but his backup Devin Cooley will test the free-agent market—per Nashville Hockey Now; Cooley switching agents earlier this year and some social media intrigue has hinted at that decision.
Tomáš Vomáčka, who spent the year getting shelled behind one of the worst teams in the ECHL and finished with a -34.020 goals-saved above average (GSAA), is an RFA but will be headed home to Czechia for next season (also reported by Nashville Hockey Now).
The Admirals have yet to announce the deal, but back in March, I noted that the team has signed goalie Gustavs Davis Grigals to an AHL contract for the 2023-24 season. The 24-year-old finished last season with a 0.924 save percentage in 24 games with UMass-Lowell. I anticipate Scott Nichol will look to add a free-agent goaltender to challenge for the backup role and give Davis Grigals time in Atlanta… unless, of course, the market isn’t kind to Devin Cooley and he wants to return.
2023-24 Roster Prediction (3): Askarov, Davis Grigals, and one free agent.