Predators AHL prospects midseason update

By Gregory Maker

Goaltenders

Brian Finley – With the departure of veteran goaltender Wade Flaherty to the Manitoba Moose, 23-year-old Finley has taken over as the top goaltender for the Milwaukee Admirals. The third-year pro has played in 35 of the team’s 44 games thus far, compared to a total of 43 games last season. He is currently 22-10-2, one win shy of last season’s total and is second in the AHL in wins behind Rochester’s Ryan Miller. His GAA is now 2.20compared to 2.34 last season. Finley has posted four shutouts, doubling his total from last season. Finley has developed into a solid No. 1 goaltender for Milwaukee, although he still lets in too many soft goals to be considered a finished product.

Defense

Ryan Suter – Suter, taken seventh overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, is the most promising prospect in the Nashville system. Due to an early season shoulder injury, and time spent on Team USA at the 2005 World Junior Championships, the now 20-year-old Suter has appeared in only 27 of the team’s 43 games this season recording 9 points (1 goal, 8 assists) and is a solid +7. The 6’1 183-pound University of Wisconsin product appears confident on the blue line and has been matched with veteran defensemen Brad Tiley and 22-year-old Dan Hamhuis.

Andrew Hutchinson – The fourth-year pro is playing confidently this season, following his last season’s Calder Cup Championship and 18 games in the NHL with Nashville. Hutchinson is a solid 6’2 198-pounder hoping to stick on an already big Predators defense. Hutchinson leads all Admirals defensemen with 32 points (9 goals, 23 assists), second in the AHL among defensemen. He has passed last season’s total of 24 points in 46 games. Hutchinson has four power play goals on a unit that is the league’s third-best. He leads all Admirals’ defensemen with a +8 rating, and is tied for second on the team, behind only Vernon Fiddler. Hutchinson has been named to the AHL All-Star game for PlanetUSA this season.

Kevin Klein – Klein, Nashville’s second draft pick (37th overall) in 2003, has been impressive in the time he has spent in Milwaukee. In 29 games, the rookie has compiled 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) while only taking six penalty minutes. Klein was sent down to Rockford of the UHL where he played three games. The retirement of Admirals veteran Mike Matteuci brought Klein back to Milwaukee shortly afterwards. Klein is a +4, and is beginning to get more playing time.

Forwards

Simon Gamache – Gamache is currently third in the AHL in scoring with 56 points (19 goals, 37 assists) behind only Binghamton’s Jason Spezza, and Manchester’s Michael Cammalleri, earning him a spot on Team Canada in the upcoming AHL All-Star game. Spezza and Cammalleri have a combined 170 games of NHL experience to Gamache’s 11. The 24-year-old leads the Admirals in goals, assists, points, power play goals, and shots, and is tied for second on the team in plus/minus. Gamache’s downfall is his size. At only 5’9 it will be hard for him to break into the NHL. Gamache relies mostly on skill and avoiding other players’ checks. He is only one point shy of his total scoring of last season in the AHL spent with Chicago and Milwaukee. Gamache is a good fit for the Admirals, but will have a hard time breaking into the Predators line-up.

Scott Upshall – Upshall is turning into the player Nashville hoped to get when they selected him sixth overall in 2002. He’s fast, aggressive, and smart on the ice. In 28 games for Milwaukee this season, Upshall has recorded 18 points (6 goals 12 assists). The 21-year-old shows grit and determination and is not afraid to stand up for his teammates. Over the last two seasons, he has played a combined 15 games for the Predators. Upshall is still suffering from a knee injury that has limited his playing time over the last few seasons. He in not quite ready for the NHL full-time yet, but should develop into a solid player in the next few years if his knee holds up.

Timofei Shishkanov – After coming off a stellar rookie season, the second-year pro is on pace to equal his 43-point output from last season. He is fifth on the team in goals with 11, and has a total of 24 points through 35 games. At 6’1 213 pounds, Shishkanov is a good physical presence, but he is a defensive liability at times. He is one of only four Admirals with a negative plus/minus rating at -1. Shishkanov has the potential to be a good goal scorer if he were to shoot the puck more. His shooting percentage is 13.6 on only 81 shots this season.

Brandon Segal – Segal’s production is down from last season with the Admirals. In 44 games in 2003-04, Segal recorded 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists). Through 38 games this season, Segal has only 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists). Segal at 6’2 210 pounds is a physical presence for the Admirals and is not afraid to stand up for his teammates. He is a true grinder and is willing to take punishment in the corners to get the puck. Segal is not close to NHL ready, and will have to step up his game in the second half of the season to be successful.

Libor Pivko – The Czech Republic native, in his second season of North American hockey, has recorded 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in 29 games. Pivko is more of a defensive forward than a goal scorer and currently has a +6 rating. Pivko, who played one game with Nashville last season, should spend time with the club again when it starts back up. He is an excellent penalty killer, scoring two of the Admirals seven short-handed goals this season. A knee injury kept him out for most of January and he is reportedly expected back after the Admirals road trip ending on February 1. If Pivko can recover, his defensive game will help the Admirals at another strong Calder Cup playoff run.

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