As we dive deeper into mitigation efforts for the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems increasingly likely that the AHL season will not return in 2019-20. No regular season, maybe no playoffs, who knows? It’s certainly disappointing given the Milwaukee Admirals’ success to date, but such is life.
On a brighter note, this is a team that is planning to contend next season. While roster turnover in the AHL can be high year-to-year, does the suspension of this season motivate Scott Nichol to bring back as similar a roster as he can? Rachel and I do our best to predict the Admirals’ roster for 2020-21 below.
As of today. Milwaukee has the following players under contract in the AHL or ECHL for next season:
12 Forwards: Tolvanen, Wilkins, Novak, Schneider, Jeannot, Olivier, Magwood, Craggs, Smith, Harper, Roy, Huntebrinker
6 Defenders: Davies, Allard, Donovan, Healey, Santini, Fortunato
1 Goalie: Ingram
Free Agent Forwards
Unrestricted Free Agents
- Rachel: Blackwell has carved himself a role on Nashville’s fourth line, bouncing guys like Austin Watson out of the lineup. Expect a Blackwell deal sooner than later.
- Eric: I think Rachel is right. If Blackwell comes back (as I think he should), I imagine he’ll be in Nashville full-time.
- RK: I was so excited for Daniel Carr when he signed a deal with Nashville. He never stuck with the big club, but he’s been a leader, scoring phenom, and great teammate for the Admirals. I wish there was room for him next season, but I don’t know if he has a role with this team moving forward. It would be advantageous to keep him around, but he might seek fairer seas with another club looking for NHL-level support.
- ED: This one is tough. Carr’s line with Cole Schneider and Tommy Novak was dynamite for the Admirals all season. I would personally love him back, but we have to keep in mind that he faltered with his NHL-level expectations this year. It wouldn’t surprise me either if he looks for an NHL deal elsewhere.
- RK: As much as I love Freddy G, I just don’t see a role for him with the Admirals or the Predators. If he’s re-signed, it would be on a one-year deal.
- ED: It’s impressive how quickly Gaudreau may have worked himself out of the organization. Before Miikka Salomaki was traded, I didn’t see a pathway for both him and Gaudreau to come back this summer. Now, I’m honestly not sure if either make it back. Depending on what happens with Colin Blackwell or Yakov Trenin, I’m not sure David Poile has a huge incentive to use an NHL contract slot on Gaudreau, and he may not accept an AHL-only deal, too.
- RK: Garlent’s numbers with Florida were respectable (17-27-44). He’s not exactly a project, but he might find his role limited with the Ads next season. Could he re-sign as ECHL depth? He’d be a low-risk re-signing.
- ED: Hunter Garlent was really, really good in the latter half of the season for Florida. I really like project prospects like him coming out of Juniors and USports in Canada. He likely won’t score an entry-level contract, but Milwaukee would be wise to re-sign him on an AHL deal.
- RK: Joe Pendenza spent a majority of the season with Florida. He put up very nice numbers (13-17-30), but I’m not sure how much of a role Pendenza could carve out with the Ads next season with the influx of some younger prospects.
- ED: Pendenza was brought back in on an AHL deal last year to fill out the bottom of Milwaukee’s roster, but in short order, he found himself relegated to Florida. I don’t think Pendenza gets another AHL deal from the Admirals—especially with Huntebrinker earning one—but maybe the Everblades keep him on an ECHL deal.
Restricted Free Agents
- RK: After a taste of the NHL, expect Trenin to be re-signed and spend time between both clubs next season. He will make his NHL jump in the 2021-2022 season. All aboard the Trenin Train!
- ED: I’ll diverge a tad from Rachel on this one. Obviously Trenin should be back, but much like Blackwell, I anticipate a full-time roster spot in Nashville. If he splits the season between the two, then all the better for Milwaukee.
- RK: McCarron has size and some really soft hands, but I’m about 50-50 on his re-signing with Nashville. He likely will entertain offers from other clubs, but I’d like to see him back with Milwaukee.
- ED: I’m not very high on McCarron; he was fine for the Admirals and does some things well. They didn’t lose anything by trading Laurent Dauphin and the organization seems to like him. I expect he will be back, especially if Frederick Gaudreau is not.
- RK: I’ve been so disappointed in Anthony Richard’s season. He had a brief call-up with the big club and never seemed to find his footing in the AHL. He’s due for a bounce-back season and it would be a mistake not to re-sign him to a “show me” contract.
- ED: I completely agree with Rachel here. It’s hard to imagine Richard’s 2019-20 season as anything but a fluke. Even if he plateaus as a ‘AAAA’ player, he’s a worthwhile piece for this Admirals club.
- RK: Yes please. Pitlick impressed in his first professional season. He’s found that finishing touch he had as a Golden Gopher with the Admirals. I’d like to see Pitlick get a chance or two in the Nashville lineup next season.
- ED: The organization probably couldn’t have hoped for a better rookie season from Pitlick, who became the first Admirals rookie to hit 20 goals since Viktor Arvidsson. He’ll be back.
Free Agent Defenders
Unrestricted Free Agents
- RK: Atwal played in 14 games for the Admirals and contributed...nothing. I don’t see much room for him with guys like David Farrance and Josh Healey in the pipeline.
- ED: Rachel said this more eloquently, but Atwal is fairly non-essential. He’s a good ECHL-level defender, but his AHL time will only be limited to call-up duties. It’s tough to say whether he gets an AHL deal or an ECHL one, but the organization seems to prefer options like Healey and, hopefully, Brandon Fortunato.
- RK: I’ve not been too impressed by Smith’s body of work since turning pro. He’ll probably walk and look for a minor-league deal elsewhere.
- ED: I think Smith is a fine ECHL-level defender, too. I would probably prefer him over Atwal, but I’m not sure the organization does. With Scott Savage likely gone, it’s possible he comes back on another AHL deal.
- RK: Savage played in two games for the Admirals and has been loaned to the Maine Mariners for a majority of the season. It’s not likely he’s back with the organization.
- ED: I agree with Rachel: don’t anticipate Savage back on an AHL deal this year.
Restricted Free Agents
- RK: Alex Carrier has been knocking on the NHL’s door for a while. His only obstacle has been the glut of defenders in the Nashville system. Since Jarred Tinordi is with the Preds, Carrier seems to be the next logical man up as a potential seventh d-man.
- ED: This blue line situation in Nashville is causing quite the headache. Here’s what we know: Nashville will have three to four roster spots open and Milwaukee will have three to five. Let’s assume Jarred Tinordi stays in Nashville. Does Steven Santini earn a roster spot? If not, does Carrier? Let’s assume one of them does, then Milwaukee has just Davies, Donovan, Allard, Healey and Fortunato signed. This will be a consequential year for Carrier, but I expect him back on a short-term bridge deal.
- RK: No thanks.
- ED: There’s no reason for him to be in the lineup. I fear they may bring him back depending on what happens with Jarred Tinordi or Steven Santini, but let’s collectively hope not.
Free Agent Goalies
Unrestricted Free Agents
- RK: I’d expect the Admirals to keep Grosenick around for one more season at the very least. If any overseas goaltender is seeking to make a jump to North American ice, they might do their best starting off in the ECHL. Nashville’s lack of an ECHL affiliation was a huge issue for former overseas prospects struggling with the transition to North American ice.
- ED: I’d like to see Grosenick back, too, and I expect he will be. He and Ingram were excellent at rotating starts and even if Nashville wanted to bring Niclas Westerholm or Milan Kloucek to North America, it would be wise to send them to Florida.
- RK: I’m not sure what kind of role Johnson will have with the Admirals or the Everblades next season. I’d expect Appleby to return over Johnson.
- ED: Rachel hinted at this, but Johnson’s season was hampered by injury. If Nashville wants to bring a goalie from overseas, he may be gone. Otherwise, it’s worthwhile to bring him back on an AHL deal.
- RK: As mentioned above, I’d expect Ken Appleby to return as ECHL depth. He might get to mentor a young goalie prospect making the transition to the smaller rinks of North America.
- ED: Rachel said it best. If Grosenick is gone, Appleby isn’t a terrible option to back up Ingram in Milwaukee, too.
So, after all of that, you probably have a less clear picture of where Milwaukee’s roster sits going into next season. Based on Rachel’s and my conclusions, here’s a rough projection:
|Eeli Tolvanen||Rem Pitlick||Anthony Richard|
|Cole Schneider||Tommy Novak||Patrick Harper|
|Mathieu Olivier||Michael McCarron||Tanner Jeannot|
|Cole Smith||Josh Wilkins||Lukas Craggs|
|Hunter Garlent||Hugo Roy||Zach Magwood|
|Alexandre Carrier||Josh Healey|
|Frederic Allard||Matt Donovan|
|Steven Santini||Jeremy Davies|
|Brandon Fortunato||Arvin Atwal|
Obviously there are still some holes to fill there, including on the blue line if Carrier or Santini are in Nashville, in net in the ECHL, and maybe by adding another forward (i.e. Daniel Carr). Regardless, this seems to be a good skeleton of what the 2020-21 Admirals could ice.