Milwaukee Admirals 2010-11 preview

By Connor Jennings

Milwaukee finished fourth in the West Division with a strong 41-30-9 record. However, like the parent club in Nashville, they exited out of the playoffs in the first round.

Once again, the Admirals have a very talented roster, but could suffer from constant changes throughout the season, as the Predators try to work out their roster. Still, Milwaukee has a deep well to draw from if such a situation arises.

Forwards

The Admirals will require new faces to step up for them this season, since they lost their top five scoring forwards from last season. Mike Santorelli was traded, Peter Olvecky and Hugh Jessiman have gone elsewhere, and Colin Wilson and Cal O’Reilly are in Nashville, leaving little in the way of proven scorers for Milwaukee.

The team will need to be led by their more experienced scorers, Matt Halischuk and Andreas Thuresson, while hoping for breakout years from talented players like Mark Santorelli and Nick Spaling. Halischuk had an impressive preseason with the Predators, putting up points in both games he played with Nashville.

However, if Milwaukee is to make an impact this season, it will be powered by the rookies. They have a load of talented rookies on their roster, with players like Gabriel Bourque, Ryan Flynn, Blake Geoffrion, Ryan Thang, and Linus Klasen getting their first full AHL season this year. Particularly impressive in the rookie camp was Geoffrion, posting four points in three games, including a three point performance over Florida. These players will provide the Admirals with an extremely talented roster, though whether that translates into on ice success depends on how quickly they can translate their talent to an AHL level.

While generally speaking, the Admirals forward corps will remain in a state of flux, their offensive output should remain relatively stable this season as the majority of the new faces on the team are too young to see any time in the NHL. However, some of the veteran players Jamie Lundmark, could spend a chunk of the season in the NHL.

The offense is a high risk, high reward scenario this season for the Admirals, with very talented, very inexperienced players. However, it is a good risk to take for the team, considering Milwaukee is very solid in their defense and goaltending.

Defense

On the blue line the Admirals have a much more stable contingent of players, at least in terms of experience. They return talented defenders such as Teemu Laakso, Alexander Sulzer, and the ever talented Jon Blum. Added to this core is a stable of experienced AHL players, Scott Ford, Grant Lewis, Scott Lehman, Brett Palin, and Aaron Johnson. In addition to the ability to play defense, this group of defenders can put the puck in the net, especially with the addition of the young offensive powerhouse Ryan Ellis, who put up forward type numbers in the OHL.

Though some of the players, like Laakso and Sulzer, may be called into Nashville at some point during the year, this group will be extremely different than the forwards. While the forwards are a boom or bust type group, the defensemen are all but guaranteed to play solid defense, while having potential to blow up offensively.

The team will lean heavily on the extremely talented Jon Blum to shutdown the opposition’s top player, while providing an offensive punch. Blum, along with other young defenders, should provide a large amount of scoring, and help pick up the offense if they get stuck in a rut. As with the team in Nashville, the defense will be the strong suit of the Admirals.


Goaltending

With Anders Lindback winning the right to back up Pekka Rinne, the Admirals will have familiar faces between the pipes this season. Mark Dekanich and Chet Pickard return to split time starting for Milwaukee.

Dekanich is coming off of a 27-16-4 season for the Admirals, but he will be again challenged by the highly touted Pickard, who was just 14-16-3 in his rookie season in Milwaukee. Pickard will likely improve this season, and we’ll see if Dekanich will be able to hold him off for another season. If Lindback struggles with his NHL backup role, there is a possibility Dekanich could see some spot duties in the NHL.


Coaching

Lane Lambert will return as head coach of the Admirals this season. HE has amassed 202 points and two playoff berths in his two seasons as head coach.

Ian Herbers joins Milwaukee as assistant coach after spending the last two seasons as head coach of the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL. Herbers had a 73-60-8-3 record with the Chiefs, guiding them to one playoff berth.


Prospects

Nashville had a slew of extremely successful prospects in camp this year. Gabriel Bourque, Ryan Flynn, Roman Josi, Taylor Beck, and Colin Wilson were the best of the standout prospects this camp.

At this point, everyone is already aware that Colin Wilson is very, very good. He already seems like a confident veteran in camp, with as much skill as any other player in Nashville. He and Blake Geoffrion formed a dangerous combo, seemingly scoring at will together. Geoffrion will head to Milwaukee for now, but Wilson has shown he is well on his way to being a star.

Taylor Beck might need a little work in the defensive zone, but he flashed incredible offensive ability in camp this year. He has a fantastic offensive arsenal, and is a solid goal-scorer. He has all the skills, size, and ability to play in the NHL, and he already knows how to use it effectively. However, he was a long shot to make the team, and will head to the OHL this season, since he is still too young to play in the AHL.

Josi was among the best defensemen at camp, and was really beginning to turn heads and gain some attention. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist, and missed the preseason. He will play in Milwaukee, but may eventually make his NHL debut this year.

Flynn dominated in camp, but disappointed in preseason play. After a disappointing senior season, he showed exactly what he could do in camp. He effectively used his size to essentially wreak havoc on the ice. But that didn’t translate in preseason play. He was unexceptional during gameplay, and will work on that in Milwaukee this season.

Nobody has told Gabriel Bourque he’s undersized for a hockey player, at least he hasn’t played like it so far. He if fast, fearless, and plays on both ends of the ice. He showed he could kill penalties, create turnovers, and even dish out big hits with his 5’9 frame. Bourque has burst his way onto the prospect scene, and continued that during the preseason.

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