Predators AHL prospects update

By Gregory Maker

It has been a revolving door in Milwaukee this season with 37 different players playing for the Admirals. However, Coach Claude Noel has led the team to a 21-10-2-1 record, good for second place in the AHL West Division behind only the Houston Aeros. Noel’s third season behind the bench has seen the promotion of prospects Ryan Suter and Scottie Upshall to full-time roles in Milwaukee. But two seasons after winning the Calder Cup, they have a legitimate shot at it again this season. Here is a look at how the six remaining prospects are playing in the Brew City.

Goaltenders

Pekka Rinne
Drafted: 258th, 2004
Height/Weight: 6’5, 207 lbs.

Fresh off a championship with Karpat in the SM-Liiga, Rinne, 23, has taken over the starting job in Milwaukee this season as a rookie. The Kempele, Finland native has posted a 13-8-1 record and is fifth among rookie goaltenders who have played at least 10 games in the AHL this season with a 2.51 GAA. He has a .908 save percentage and currently leads AHL rookies in wins.

Rinne made his NHL debut on Dec. 16 in Nashville against division rival Chicago. Rinne gave up three goals and stopped 32 shots earning his first NHL victory, 5-3. He was returned to the Admirals two days later. With a groin injury to back up Chris Mason, Rinne may see some time in Nashville as a backup again. He is likely to stay in Milwaukee, but has been more impressive than partner Brian Finley, also a Nashville contract.

Defensemen

Shea Weber
Drafted: 49th, 2003
Height/Weight: 6’3, 213 lbs.

A highly touted prospect out of the WHL, Weber is living up to his reputation in his rookie season in Milwaukee. After a successful junior career with the Kelowna Rockets, one that included a Memorial Cup Championship in 2003-04 and a WHL playoff MVP in 2004-05, Weber has kept up his numbers and his toughness in the AHL. Weber leads all Milwaukee defensemen with 22 points and 10 goals, seven of which have come on the power play, and one short-handed. Weber plays a tough game but has remained disciplined under Noel’s proven system of success. The Sicamus, British Columbia native has only taken 29 penalty minutes in 33 games, low for a player who twice in juniors topped the 100-minute mark.

Weber, 20, does not look uncomfortable on the ice. He fits in well with Milwaukee who knew they would lose both Suter and Dan Hamhuis, two of their top defensemen from a year ago to the NHL. Weber is big enough to control the front of the net and is not afraid to join a rush if need be. Weber currently leads all AHL rookie defensemen in scoring. The one aspect of his game he must improve is defense. Although eager to contribute, the rookie must concentrate more on position instead of looking for the big hit. He has an even plus/minus rating.

Kevin Klein
Drafted: 37th, 2003
Height/Weight: 6’1, 200 lbs.

Klein, 21, one of GM David Poile’s six defensemen selected at the 2003 NHL entry draft has shown improvement over a good rookie campaign. In less than half the games played from last season, Klein has already passed his point production with 21 in 31 games for the Admirals. He leads Milwaukee defensemen in assists with 17. The Kitchener, Ontario native, paired mostly with last season’s defensive partner Greg Zanon, is a very valuable player for Milwaukee. Klein is one of the most disciplined players in the AHL with only four penalty minutes. He has gotten significant power play time in which he has scored three goals, as well as an increased role on the penalty kill, adding a short-handed tally as well.

Klein was called up by the Predators on Dec. 3 earning his NHL debut against the Philadelphia Flyers in a 4-3 shootout win. Klein did not record a point, but took 24 shifts logging 13:56 of ice time. He was paired mostly with Milwaukee teammate Zanon who had also been recently called up. Klein should see a full time role in Nashville next season.

Forwards

Timofei Shishkanov
Drafted: 33rd 2001
Height/Weight: 6’1, 213 lbs.

Shishkanov is looking very comfortable and confident with his style of play in his third season with Milwaukee. He is becoming more aggressive with his body, although he still does not hit much and is starting to shoot the puck more. Shishkanov has taken 26 penalty minutes compared to only 31 a year ago in 70 games. In the past two seasons, Shishkanov was often times hesitant with the puck. The Moscow, Russia native is developing into a solid goal scorer. He is third on the Admirals in scoring with 25 points including 13 goals in 34 games. Seven of those goals have come on the power play, a role that he plays very often. Shishkanov is rounding out his game. Defensively he has been stellar, especially for a sniper, and is +3.

The 22-year-old is one of six Admirals who remain from the 2004 Calder Cup Championship team. He is headed for his third straight 20-goal season in the AHL and should pass his point total from last season when he struggled in the talent rich-league. Shishkanov will make it to Nashville, the question is when. He has the size to compete and is developing into one of the top players in the AHL. Shishkanov, who played two games for Nashville in 2003-04, has not been called up since then.

Libor Pivko
Drafted: 89th, 2000
Height/Weight: 6’2, 195 lbs.

Essential to the Admirals success has been Libor Pivko. In his third season in North America, the 25-year-old Czech has set a career high in points with 32 in only 25 games. Pivko is behind only Darren Haydar, also Nashville property, for the team lead in points. He does lead Milwaukee in assists with 26, also a career high. Pivko is the power play quarterback for Milwaukee as well as their defensive specialist. He has helped both the Milwaukee power play and penalty kill to seventh best in the AHL and is +5.

Pivko sees the game well and makes good decisions with the puck. He missed 26 games last season with a knee injury. Pivko has the best shot to be the next Nashville call-up.

Brandon Segal
Drafted: 102nd, 2002
Height/Weight: 6’2, 210 lbs.

After a demotion to Rockford of the UHL last season, Segal is playing much better spending all his time with Milwaukee this season. He has equaled last season’s point output at 15 in 34 games. It took him 59 AHL games last season to reach that mark. The North Delta, British Columbia native has 9 goals, two off his career high set in 2003-04. Four of those goals have come on the power play and one was scored short-handed. Segal has been aggressive, taking 60 penalty minutes thus far. Segal is not afraid to take a hit in the corners or stand up for his teammates. He is a decent grinder and has taken on more responsibility in the role with the promotions of Upshall and Jerred Smithson to Nashville.

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