On Thursday, news broke that the Nashville Predators acquired forwards Laurent Dauphin and Adam Helewka from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Emil Pettersson. Additionally, the Milwaukee Admirals traded forward Jeremy Gregoire to the Tuscon Roadrunners for future considerations.
Gregoire, a 2013 pick of the Montreal Canadiens, signed an AHL contract with Milwaukee over the summer and posted 5 goals and 12 points in 42 games with the Admirals this season. A fourth-line player in the AHL, Gregoire was useful for the Admirals but, ultimately, doesn’t move the needle all that much.
It seemed there was a lot of disappointment yesterday when fans learned of Pettersson’s departure, and that is completely understandable: he was Milwaukee’s leading scorer with 11 goals and 33 points in 49 games this season. It’s tough to see a player go who’s had two very good seasons in Milwaukee, but it’s honestly not too tragic.
Realistically, there’s four true fourth-line players that are potentially to likely have a future in Nashville after this season (Colton Sissons, Miikka Salomäki, Frédérick Gaudreau, and Rocco Grimaldi), and the astute signing of Colin Blackwell to a two-year deal last summer puts more impediments in Pettersson’s path to the NHL. I think he caps out as a 12th, 13th forward or bubble player—he is 25 already—and the return for him was solid.
So, who exactly is joining the Admirals? Let’s break it down.
By The Numbers
The first thing that stands out about the 23-year-old Dauphin is his 35 games of NHL experience, including three goals and four points. Drafted 39th overall by Phoenix in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Dauphin was a high-level scorer in the QMJHL with 186 points in 170 regular season games. His sophomore season as a pro was a success, as he neared a point per game in the AHL and earned 24 games in the NHL.
Dauphin has bounced around since that 2016-17 season, being traded to Chicago and then back to Arizona in two consecutive summers. He’s scoring 0.59 points per game in Tucson this year, which is a notch below Pettersson’s 0.67 in Milwaukee, but he is also is shooting three percent lower and slightly below average.
Dauphin has 15 primary points on the season, contributing directly to 9.7 percent of Tuscon’s goals-for, but in limited icetime (he’s been going back and forth between the Coyotes and Roadrunners). Dauphin has been an absolute monster when it comes to driving offensive play, with a shocking 24.3 relative goals-for percentage at even strength. In fact, he’s fourth in that category among all forwards in the AHL this year, behind Chicago’s Daniel Carr and Gage Quinney and Springfield’s Jayce Hawryluk.
Adam Helewka—who is also 23—wasn’t drafted until his final year of eligibility in 2015, when the Sharks selected him 106th overall. The season prior he exploded for 87 points in 69 games with the Spokane Chiefs alongside Oilers prospect Kailer Yamamoto . The following season, Helewka continued the elite production and was traded to a stacked Red Deer Rebels team that included Haydn Fleury and Jake DeBrusk.
Helewka had an impressive debut for the San Jose Barracuda in 2016-17, scoring over half a point per game as an AHL rookie. After a down sophomore season, Helewka was traded to Arizona for defender Kyle Wood, where he has had a good season, coming in at 38th among AHL wingers with 0.76 points per game.
Helewka is riding a decently high shooting percentage this season—over 18 percent—but he also only averages 1.68 shots per game. His expected goal and assist rates rank as a very good second/first line AHL forward.
Helewka has directly contributed to nearly 15 percent of Tuscon’s offense with 23 primary points on the season, but he hasn’t quite been the driver of play that Dauphin has.
Helewka—right there in the middle—still has a positive goals-for percentage of 55, but his goals-for percentage relative to his teammates is a -9.18. First and foremost, I don’t think he is as much of a possession player as Dauphin, but also Tuscon’s forward group has been very top-heavy this year, with Dauphin, Michael Bunting, Conor Garland, and Mario Kempe playing well above-average hockey in the AHL.
The first thing you’ll notice when you watch Laurent Dauphin is the quickness of his vision. He’s an intelligent player who has the hands to match how he thinks.
Above you see this intelligence on display as Dauphin anticipates the defender sliding to block the passing plane, evades his stick with the puck, and provides a quick, accurate pass across the royal road to set up a beautiful goal.
It’s hard to notice in the above clip, but Dauphin (#15) angles the backhand side of his blade down and back to feed the puck through the oncoming defender’s legs and with enough spin to quickly reach his teammate, who puts it home.
I also wanted to highlight Dauphin’s skating. He is an above-average skater for his size, despite utilizing a choppy step as you can see above when he corrals the puck. This helps him with lateral quickness and stops and starts.
Next up, Helewka.
The above clip isn’t really a demonstration of Helewka’s skillset, but I found it interesting how the Roadrunners often run a power play with two forwards below the goal line and chose to share. Helewka is the one who walks away with the primary assist on the above goal. The downside to this strategy is that they almost always run it back up through the point instead of into the slot and across the royal road.
A dimension that I think Helewka can help Milwaukee in, as a supporting forward, is controlled zone entries. He’s a good skater with an imposing stride who maintains good puck protection and doesn’t park after his first pass, as you can see above. He doesn’t register a primary assist, but still uses good acceleration through the neutral zone to go from resting to matching his teammates’ speed and staying onside, then splits the defense, opening them up to the high slot and providing a screen in front as his teammate puts one home.
Laurent Dauphin is in the one and only year of his post-ELC bridge deal. He carries a cap hit of $787.5K with a matching owed salary in the NHL and a $70K salary in the AHL. He will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.
Adam Helewka is in the final year of his entry-level contract with a cap hit of $705K and an NHL salary of $650K. But he’s also owed $80K as a signing bonus this year and $70K in a potential performance bonus, adding up to $730K with a $70K salary in the AHL. He will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.
The more I’ve sat on it the more I realize how positive this trade is. Scott Nichol acquired two younger prospects with similar rates of production for one that didn’t have a clear path up the depth chart. Dauphin and Helewka are the type of prospects that this organization has passed on in the past—above-average scorers in the QMJHL or late bloomers in the WHL—and other contenders have found success with (see: Alex Barre-Boulet, Syracuse Crunch). Additionally, adding an extra body to Milwaukee could be necessary by the end of the month.