Recapping the start of the Milwaukee Admirals' season with quotes from Daniel Lavender
The Milwaukee Admirals have gotten off to a rough start this season going 2-4-1 during their first seven games. Despite the shear mass of skill down in Milwaukee with the likes of Kevin Fiala, Steve Moses, and many others, Admirals Roundtable's Daniel Lavender says this team can't win on talent alone.
"I feel what everyone is seeing with the Milwaukee Admirals right now is the difference between having a team with talented players and having a team that plays like a team. It's all well and good having such a stacked talent pool such as the Nashville Predators can provide to the likes of the Admirals - and even the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL - but those players need to gel and play as a team."
"I don't think the Admirals, despite all their talent, have had a single game in the month of October where they've been able to wire together a performance that has me saying this is a solid team...Talent is there from an individual standpoint. The team hasn't come together as a unit yet."
Two players who have stuck out in a positive way are newcomers to the North American game in Juuse Saros and Vladislav Kamenev.
The short timeframe in which Saros has been able to come across the pond from Finland and find success has been quite impressive.
"Considering the amount of hype surrounding Juuse Saros leading up to this North American debut season, I was certain he would turn up and be about what you'd get in Magnus Hellberg or Marek Mazanec or even less in his first season with the Admirals," says Lavender. "I've been really blown away by him. His instincts in net and how quickly he is able to move is really impressive. I think his size difference to so many of the prototypical Predators goaltenders that we're accustomed to seeing is what has really honed in his ability to read a game as quickly as he does."
Kamenev has taken a large role on the team as a top nine center (the top three lines receive roughly equal ice time), a member of the first unit on the power play, and someone head coach Dean Evason can roll out in the final minutes of the game if the Admirals are trailing. In a recent postgame interview Evason notes Kamenev takes in information like a sponge, is very willing to learn, and has a great attitude. Kamenev already has four goals in six games but he still has some room to improve in terms of being more of an offensive catalyst; something that will be talked about later in this piece.
Daniel Lavender also said Felix Girard has impressed him this season. Girard is a defensive-oriented center with great faceoff skills and physical play. He is tied for the third most shots on net on the team and has provided a stabalizing presence for the struggling Admirals.
An Admiral who has had a bit of a hangover in his play since being cut in camp has been the Predators' 2014 first round pick, Kevin Fiala. Expecting to make the big club after all his hard work in the summer, it is understandable that such a young player would see a drop in play after being cut in training camp.
"The most underwhelming prospect in Milwaukee to start this season is easily Kevin Fiala. I don't know if it had something to do with some bad performances in Nashville preseason or him getting cut and sent to the Admirals to begin his season in the AHL and not the NHL, but Fiala has not looked anything close to the player he was last season. He seems as if he's lost in his own world on the ice... he just looks slow and has lacked any explosiveness to his game."
According to Nashville Predators' Head of Player Development Scott Nichol, Fiala has been playing better as of late and even with the poor play the young Swiss forward has 29 shots in 7 games so look for him to get back on track going forward.
Another player struggling is Jonathan Diaby who has had trouble adjusting to the fast-paced game. He started the season with the Admirals but has yet again been sent down to the Cincinnati Cyclones. Diaby is turning 21 this November so he still has plenty of time but it would be nice to see him stick in the AHL sooner rather than later.
Reports From Milwaukee
There was an an interesting interview with Scott Nichol by Aaron Sims on the Milwaukee Admirals' pregame in which Fiala's and Kamenev's development were discussed. Nichol said Fiala and Kamenev are polar opposites in terms of what they need to work on in order to make it to the next level. Nichol noted Fiala obviously has a ton of skill that manifests itself on a regular basis in-game but he needs to focus on the details (board play, turnovers, etc,) his play away from the puck, and keeping his feet moving. As Lavender said, those faults have been very evident thus far.
Conversely, Nichol noted Kamenev—coming over from the KHL where he played against some of the top competition in the world—is very detail-oriented and defensively reliable but he needs to be less conservative and use his skill to be more of a productive player. I noticed particularly at last years' World Juniors that he often passed the puck to his teammates whenever he was about to be pressured instead of trying to hold onto it to make a play. If he can learn when to hold onto the puck and when to defer to his teammates that could go a long way in him being a productive centerman.
Max Gortz and Pontus Aberg were suspended for a game this month for violating team policy; the exact offense was not disclosed. It's great that Gortz has been able to take on a new culture and playing style with a friend and fellow Swede in Aberg, but obviously a suspension for the two is not what you want to see. Hopefully the can get themselves straightened out and avoid trouble like this in the future.
Nashville's trio of 2015 draft picks from the QMJHL seeing varying levels of success since training camp:
Like Kevin Fiala, Alexandre Carrier and Yakov Trenin entered their season with lackadaisical play after the Predators' camp. In an interview with Le Droit, Gatineau Olympiques head coach Benoit Groulx noted that Carrier and Trenin were lacking in their play, but also said that it was to be expected with players coming back from NHL camps. Carrier has been doing well as far as productivity goes with 14 points in 15 games but has not done a great job defensively. Trenin has had a really rough go at it and has only put up 2 goals and 3 assists in 11 games. With him battling for so long in the Predators' camp this is not too surprising. Look for him to get back on track as the season goes on.
On a positive note, Carrier did have a great tournament at the beginning of the month for Canada's U20 team in some exhibition games and will likely be rostered with the team in the World Junior Championship come December. He will also be playing for the QMJHL team against Trenin and Russia during the annual Subway Super Series (a U20 tournament between Canadian Hockey League all star teams and a Russian all star team)
Anthony Richard left the Nashville Predators' Rookie Camp with a lot of positives and some things to work on. In a feature from Rogers Sportsnet, Richard was pretty honest about his own game:
"I had a good camp and I managed to impress the management. I am very happy! The Preds have [looked] for my [offense] and reliability and that's what I tried to prove. I have confidence in [myself]... I received good advice. Last year I had 91 points, but I finished with a negative sheet...more and less. I want to improve this facet of my game and become [reliable] in the defensive zone." (Translated via Google Translate.)
It would seem that his confidence has carried over into the season, as Richards' performance for the Val D'or Foreurs thus far has been fantastic. He's 5th in the QMJHL in goals with 13 and 10th in points with 27 in 18 games played and was also invited to play for the QMJHL in the Super Series.
Jimmy Vesey's looking to build off last season's success
Jimmy Vesey is looking to have an impactful season in 2015-2016 for the Harvard Crimson. It's no surprise to see him as a favorite or the Hobey Baker Award for the top college hockey player. Vesey wants to improve on Harvard's fantastic season in 2014-2015 and take the team deep into the playoffs. Also noted in the article, Vesey has become a very good two-way player. Watching him in the World Championships this past spring, he has very good attention to detail in the defensive zone and wins battles.
Vesey already has 2 goals and 3 assists in the two games he has played and is only getting better since last season. Highlighted below are two of the top prospects' more noteworthy plays (his first two goals and one of his assists):
The speed, the creativity, the finish... beautiful. That goal was absolutely jaw dropping.
Vesey has always been noted as a goal scorer but that assist shows some of his playmaking ability, as well. If the Predators are still having trouble finding third line scoring going into the playoffs, adding a player of Vesey's caliber on the left side should be a huge boost.