Tag: Milwaukee Admirals

Filip Forsberg

Looking to make the leap: Filip Forsberg

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If there’s one player in the Nashville Predators organization who might benefit immediately from Peter Laviolette coaching the team, it’s forward Filip Forsberg.

At 19 years old, Forsberg is heading into technically his third pro season. Two seasons ago, he played five games for the Predators after they acquired him in a trade with the Washington Capitals. Last season, he spent the bulk of his time in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals. There he played 47 games and had 15 goals with 34 assists.

While he played in 13 games with the Predators last season scoring one goal with five points, he averaged just over 11 minutes of ice time per game. Injuries helped slow him down a bit, but we didn’t really seen what Forsberg could do while under Barry Trotz, but Laviolette could provide the change he needs.

Forsberg will have the opportunity to show what made the Caps pick him 11th overall in the 2012 Draft, but it won’t be easy. Competition in Predators training camp at center should be fierce with a mix of veterans and youth.

The Preds added Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, and Derek Roy in free agency and made the middle of the ice a bit crowded in Music City. Throw in fellow Swede Calle Jarnkrok, who they acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in the David Legwand trade, and the competition just amongst the new guys will be stiff. Never mind Matt Cullen, Paul Gaustad, and eventually Mike Fisher (out 4-6 months with a torn Achilles) who are already established there.

Having more than a few centers wasn’t an issue for Laviolette in Philadelphia, so it’s possible Forsberg might find a way to push his way onto the big club’s roster on the wing.  That said, Forsberg is the youngest player out of the group. Jarnkrok is 22 while the trio of Jokinen, Ribeiro, and Roy have loads of NHL experience.

With how things are set up, it seems like Forsberg is almost destined to return to Milwaukee and continue his development there. That puts it on him to show what he can do in September and prove potential can win out over age and experience.

Washington assistant Evason named head coach of Nashville’s AHL affiliate

dean evason
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The longest-tenured coach on Washington’s staff is officially gone.

Dean Evason, a Capitals assistant since 2005, has been hired by the Nashville Predators to coach their AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

The hire comes just days after Caps GM George McPhee speculated that Evason and fellow assistant Jim Johnson were unlikely to return to Washington for the 2012-13 season.

It remains unclear why the Caps wanted to sever ties with both assistants, though in Evason’s case it might’ve been an opportunity issue. He obviously was out of consideration for the Capitals head coaching gig and, since he’s never held a head coaching position at the professional level, might have figured being the boss at the AHL level was better than being someone’s right-hand man (again) at the NHL level.

As far as stepping stones go, Milwaukee is a good one.

Two ex-coaches since 2003 — Claude Noel and Kirk Muller — are now head coaches at the NHL level with Winnipeg and Carolina, respectively.

It’s no surprise the Nashville organization targeted Evanson to be the next Admirals head coach. Preds GM David Poile drafted Evason in 1982 when Poile was the Caps GM and Evason a scoring sensation with the Kamloops Junior Oilers.

Evason also has a tight relationship with Preds assistant GM Paul Fenton, the man primarily responsible for the hire. The two were teammates together in Hartford during the mid-80s.

Could Ryan Ellis skip the usual AHL time and earn a roster spot with the Predators?

2011 IIHF World U20 Championship - Day One
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When it comes to team building in the NHL, it might be appropriate to think of different teams’ approaches in terms of how restaurants prepare meals. Some franchises take the fast food approach, pumping out rebuilding processes and changing personnel with blinding speed. Every once in a while, that works out pretty well if the money and talent is there.

The Nashville Predators aren’t one of those franchises, though. Instead, they prepare the slow-cook process. Part of that comes with being patient with their long-standing GM David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz. Trotz buys into that notion when it comes to prospects as well, urging them to “marinate” in the minors, foreign leagues, junior level or at college.

Trotz is known for making this point very clear: the road to Nashville must go through Milwaukee (The Admirals are the team’s AHL affiliate). NHL.com gives concrete evidence to back up that notion: only three Predators draft picks earned a roster spot without playing in the AHL first. Really, David Legwand (the team’s first-ever first round pick, selected second overall in 1998) barely counts since he only played one game. Anders Lindback comes with a caveat, too, because he gained experience in the Swedish Elite League. The only guy who really bucked the trend was Scott Hartnell and that was all the way back in 2000.

The next player with a half-decent shot at making that uncommon jump is hot defensive prospect Ryan Ellis. He scored 101 points in the OHL during the 2010-11 season, earning its player of the year award in the process. The 11th pick of the 2009 draft draws comparisons to other small but explosive offensive defensemen such as Brian Rafalski and Tobias Enstrom.

With his skill level (and a hole in the lineup left behind by traded blueliner Cody Franson) in mind, the Predators might not be able to keep Ellis in the minors for very long. Assistant GM Paul Fenton admitted as much to John Manasso of NHL.com.

“Odds are saying that he’s going to be in Milwaukee, but I would put nothing past this kid because he does have the ability to make our team,” Fenton said. “Will that be right? We’ll let that play out in training camp and see how close he is.”

It’s wise to have standards, but the Predators shouldn’t allow arbitrary guidelines determine if a player is ready or not. Their rule of thumb seems to work well in the big picture, but they don’t want to stunt his growth, either.

Although he wants to make the team as soon as possible, Ellis also showed awareness of the way the Predators run their system. Ellis thinks that he might follow a similar path to fellow young blueliner Jonathon Blum.

As was the case in the playoffs, Jonathon Blum figures to be one of Nashville’s second-pair defensemen, in all likelihood with veteran Kevin Klein. Blum, 22, was a rookie last season and only skated in 23 regular-season games but ended up playing an average of 3:32 more per game in the playoffs than Franson. In some ways, Blum, another former first-round pick, might be the model for Ellis, as Blum did not make his debut until Feb. 22.

“That’s kind of exactly how Nashville works,” Ellis said. “They kind of give you a year of experience in the minors and when they feel you’re ready, they bring you up. And I think that was a prime example. Blum was ready and he flourished and he became a big part of the team.”

If their mutual excitement is any indication, it seems like it might not be about if Ellis will join the Predators, but when. That being said, Nashville is willing to wait if it becomes clear that he’s not quite ready.

The next audition: Kirk Muller expected to become new head coach of Predators’ AHL affiliate

Kirk Muller

It would be surprising if this experiment lasted for more than one season, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that Kirk Muller will be named the new head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals (the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate team) on Monday. After excelling as an assistant coach for the Montreal Canadiens, Muller seemed like one of the hottest coaching prospects available but seemed to come up in second place several times.

Coaching the Admirals might seem like a consolation price for Muller, but it will also provide a great opportunity for him to prove that he can handle a head coaching job. Let’s face it, too: hiring successful AHL coaches is the hot trend among NHL teams right now so he’s probably on the fast track for a job next year (unless he totally flounders in Wisconsin, perhaps).

The biggest winner in this deal is the Predators organization, even if they probably won’t be able to keep Muller around for much longer than Lane Kiffin coached the Tennessee Volunteers.

If there was one point that Predators head coach Barry Trotz hammered home during interviews at the 2011 NHL Awards, it’s that the Predators’ draft picks must go through Milwaukee before they get to Nashville. The Predators organization values the concept of a well-prepared prospect, so sending them through the ringer at the AHL level with the Milwaukee Admirals is part of their patience-centric plan that also provides Trotz with almost unparalleled job security.*

Now they have an NHL-level coach to prepare their prospects for the jump to the NHL level. It will be interesting to see if anything changes during the 2011-12 season, but on first impact, this seems like a great deal for the Predators franchise and a solid (if disappointing) opportunity for Muller.

* – Only Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff has a longer tenure as an NHL head coach.