2019-20 Milwaukee Admirals Preview: The Defense
The blue line has been re-tooled with prized talent and more depth.
With a new season of Nashville Predators hockey comes another year of regular Milwaukee Admirals coverage by Rachel and me (Eric). The Admirals kick their season off on Sunday, October 6 when they travel to Des Moines to take on the Wild.
Before we get there, Rachel and I are previewing the Admirals upcoming season by position. Yesterday, we started with the goalies which you can read at the link below:
2019-20 Milwaukee Admirals Preview: The Goalies
Today we’re moving out from the net and taking a stab at the blue line first. As a reminder: we’re notching our thoughts on each player’s 2018-19 season, what we anticipate in 2019-20, contract situations, and a projected depth chart. For each of these position previews, we’ll be using the data viz work of our own Bryan Bastin (@ProjPatSummitt); that visualization can be explored further here.
2018-19 Numbers & Thoughts on 2019-20
Frédéric Allard – 21 – Milwaukee Admirals [AHL]
ED: Allard is almost exactly where he needs to be in his development. His upper-body injury last season doesn’t help matters, and in a perfect world he would be playing more in Nashville this season, but here we are.
He was Milwaukee’s best regular defender by far in 2018-19, and his offensive production wasn’t far behind Alexandre Carrier’s despite missing nearly a dozen games. A full campaign from Allard should continue to establish as one of the best U22 defenders in the American League and prime him for a spot in Nashville next season, where just three defenders are currently under contract.
RK: Frédéric Allard is one of my favorite Milwaukee players. In his second professional season, he posted 29 points (four goals, 25 assists) in 65 games. He’s a top-four defender who will benefit from having largely the same cast of characters around him in the coming season. Allard is my defender to watch this season. I feel like it’s going to be a big one for #58.
Alexandre Carrier – 22 – Milwaukee Admirals [AHL]
RK: Carrier led the Admirals with a whopping 32 assists last season. He also scored 5 goals of his own. Often skating with Jarred Tinordi, Carrier played big minutes for a wobbly Milwaukee squad last season. I don’t know if he will ever crack the lineup in Nashville, but he’s remained a quality defender at the AHL level.
ED: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m low on Carrier. His counting stats suggest otherwise, and he certainly improved from his disastrous 2017-18 campaign, but I think he’s plateaued. Injury to Frédéric Allard gave Carrier more ice time and more scoring chances in the second half of the season.
His 2.4 goals-against per 60 minutes were second-worst on the team, and his skating is just too questionable. In a contract year, Carrier will need to be more than just a quality defender.
Jérémy Davies – 22 – Northeastern University [NCAA]
RK: Davies, acquired in the P.K. Subban trade, will be skating in his first professional season. He’s a puck-moving defender who should be an interesting addition to the Milwaukee blue line. I’m not sure where he best fits yet, but he does increase the talent level of the Admirals’ defense.
ED: Rachel brings up a good point about Davies’s spot in the lineup. He’ll obviously start, but I imagine the coaching staff may not be too inclined to break up the Tinordi–Allard and Carrier–Donovan pairings—we’ll see.
Regardless, Davies will bring his offensive talent to the man advantage, too. I would drool over a Davies–Fortunato pairing but something tells me those two will be separated on the depth chart.
Matt Donovan – 29 – Milwaukee Admirals [AHL]
RK: I’d expect Donovan to pick up exactly where he left off last season. The veteran blueliner performed well with 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) as a top-pair option. Donovan skated in two games with the Predators and skated big minutes in an evolving Admirals lineup. He will likely take on a leadership role once again.
ED: Rachel is pretty on point with this. However, Donovan showed some concern towards the end of 2018-19. His offensive production slowed down and it was a defensive adjustment skating with Alexandre Carrier through the season’s second half.
Anticipate top power play minutes and another match up with Carrier to start the season; the 30- to 40-point range seems attainable once more.
Brandon Fortunato – 23 – Quinnipiac University [NCAA]
ED: Hopefully you all have been paying enough attention to know that Fortunato tops my ‘players to watch’ list this season. He’s every bit the puck mover Jérémy Davies is, but he’s returning from serious injury.
I think sheltered minutes are likely in order for the Quinnipiac alumnus who scorched the score sheet for the Bobcats last year to start the season, but his skating ability, surprising shutdown defense and—hopefully—extensive power play time make him one to watch should Steven Santini be called up to Nashville.
RK: Most of the assessment I’ve read (from Eric) about Fortunato makes me really excited to see him suit up for Milwaukee this season. He plays a clean game and demonstrates solid skating and puck moving fundamentals. He’s also a defender to keep an eye on this season.
Josh Healey – 25 – Stockton Heat [AHL]
RK: Healey is essentially defensive depth. In 55 games last season with the Stockton Heat, Healey posted 11 points (1 goal, 10 assists). I haven’t seen enough of his game to predict how he will be with Milwaukee.
ED: Healey was brought in on an AHL contract to replace the work of Vince Pedrie and Adam Plant. I imagine the organization hopes to not use him regularly, as he’s similar to Jarred Tinordi in his defensive prowess.
Healey likely lines up as the seventh or eighth defender this year.
Steven Santini – 24 – New Jersey Devils [NHL]
Note: After clearing waivers, Santini was assigned to Milwaukee on Tuesday afternoon.
I’m not certain how long Santini’s stay in Milwaukee will be and, if I were in charge, it wouldn’t be long. Whether he’s gone by trade or call-up, Santini doesn’t need to be taking valuable minutes from prospects like Allard and Davies. The Boston College product has eight points in 50 career AHL games.
Jarred Tinordi - 27 - Milwaukee Admirals [AHL]
RK: Jarred Tinordi is the definition of an old-fashioned defender; he’s massive and his presence is terrifying. Tinordi can also, on occasion, maneuver pretty well with the puck and fire off some surprising shots. He seems to take one stride for everyone else’s 2-3 strides, but he’s the consummate captain the Admirals need right now.
ED: If I were David Poile, I probably wouldn’t have given Tinordi a two-year extension but here we are. I don’t disagree with Rachel; the captain is a fine option for what could be a much-improved defense corps.
Despite eight goals and 17 primary points, Tinordi was arguably the worst of Milwaukee’s defenders last year, allowing a team-high 2.5 goals-against per 60 minutes. Hopefully an entire season paired with Frédéric Allard might mitigate that.
|Jarred Tinordi||Milwaukee [AHL]||$700K||$700K||RFA||RFA||RFA||RFA|
|Jeremy Davies||Milwaukee [AHL]||$925K||$925K||RFA||RFA||RFA||RFA|
|Brandon Fortunato||Milwaukee [AHL]||$842.5K||$842.5K||RFA||RFA||RFA||RFA|
|Frederic Allard||Milwaukee [AHL]||$714.2K||$714.2K||RFA||RFA||RFA||RFA|
|Alexandre Carrier||Milwaukee [AHL]||$688K||RFA||RFA||RFA||RFA||RFA|
|Matt Donovan||Milwaukee [AHL]||$675K||UFA||UFA||UFA||UFA||UFA|
|Steven Santini||Milwaukee [AHL]||$1.42M||$1.42M||RFA||RFA||RFA||RFA|
|Adam Smith||Milwaukee [AHL]||AHL||UFA||UFA||UFA||UFA||UFA|
|Arvin Atwal||Milwaukee [AHL]||AHL||UFA||UFA||UFA||UFA||UFA|
|Josh Healey||Milwaukee [AHL]||AHL||UFA||UFA||UFA||UFA||UFA|
Much like in Nashville, the organization has a core here that they plan on riding with for some time. The assignment of Santini throws a bit of a wrench into that, and it’s hard to see how Brandon Fortunato (or whoever the odd man out is) gets adequate ice time.
The notable details here are Matt Donovan and Alexandre Carrier heading into their final contract years. Carrier is battling for a post-ELC offer from the organization and Donovan could likely get an extension similar to Tinordi this past year, depending on how things shake out.
It’s possible one of the three extra skaters on AHL contracts could earn an NHL deal, but unlikely for the time being.
Anticipated Depth Chart
1. Frédéric Allard – Steven Santini
2. Matt Donovan – Alexandre Carrier
3. Jérémy Davies – Jarred Tinordi
Extras: Brandon Fortunato, Arvin Atwal, Adam Smith, Josh Healey
[Note: of the four extra skaters, it is likely two or three of them are assigned to Florida of the ECHL after publishing. My guess: Arvin Atwal and Adam Smith.]
All contract information is courtesy of capfriendly.com. All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com, echl.com, and ncaa.com. The 2018-19 model is courtesy of Eric Dunay (@ERock_28) and C.C., and the viz is courtesy of Bryan Bastin (@ProjPatSummitt).