Here's a quote from Milwaukee Admirals Head Coach Ian Herbers, talking about one of his players.
"He's been fantastic for us all year. If you look at overall, he's been our best forward from day one. He's been just good, steady, you can rely on him. He's just a good, solid player -- a very smart and detailed game, comes to battle and competes every night."
It's a ringing endorsement for a guy that isn't even on an NHL contract at the moment: Center Mark Van Guilder.
After the jump, an explanation of why he should be on your radar screen.Even on this Milwaukee team that has some very highly touted prospects, it's tough to disagree with Coach Herbers on the season that Van Guilder has quietly been having with the Admirals.
Whether it's on the PK, playing smart while protecting a lead, or grinding it out in the corners, he does all of the little things that don't usually show up in box scores. And recently, he has also been doing the things that DO show up in box scores -- like netting back-to-back two-goal games for the Admirals this week
He doesn't let the positive feedback go to his head. He self-deprecates a bit, and certainly is one of those players that doesn't take anything for granted. When asked what the coaches in Nashville told him to work on in Milwaukee, he begins by modestly saying, "There's a long list...where do I start?"
He continues,"Skating, for one. Trying to lengthen my strides, stuff like that. Being better offensively, down low being stronger. Stuff I still need to work on."
In Friday night's match against the Toronto Marlies, Van Guilder displayed his improvement in both of those areas. While killing a penalty, he intercepted a pass at the Admiral blue line and went in on a short-handed breakaway all alone. The defensemen couldn't even catch up to interfere with the shot. His other goal came as Ryan Flynn found him driving to the net, and he finished a bang-bang play. This is a scene that we've seen a lot from both of them lately, as they have developed some great chemistry playing on the same line all season.
A four-year player for Notre Dame, Van Guilder is now skating in his fourth season for Milwaukee. A frequent traveler between Cincinnati and Milwaukee his first two years, he became an important piece for the Admirals last season, leading the way on the penalty kill and being their best man on face-offs. He has also scored some big goals, including the series clincher in double overtime against the Texas Stars last April.
Van Guilder fits the mold of the prototypical Nashville Predator 3rd or 4th liner, a forward who is dependable, works hard, and has a high hockey IQ. He's a guy that is sound with or without the puck. And much the way that Chris Mueller played his way into an NHL contract last December, Van Guilder may see a similar fate if he keeps playing the way he has been.