Nashville’s curious shared-affiliate season is over. The Chicago Wolves—patched up with Milwaukee Admirals’ players and other Predators prospects—finished their 2021 season going 2-1-0 last week. They captured the Central Division title with a 21-9-3 record and a 0.682 points percentage, good for third-best in the AHL behind Hershey and Laval.
It was a weird year that saw more call-ups and fresh faces than we all likely anticipated. But with that, new skills were developed, roles carved out, and more excitement for a 2021-22 season in Milwaukee was built.
During the offseason, we’ll revisit the season for each AHL player in the organization, but for now, here’s how the final week went down.
Explore: Nashville’s AHL/ECHL Prospects
May 12 @ Grand Rapids Griffins
In the game that ultimately clinched them a division title, Chicago looked identical to the team we saw at the start of the season, hanging a touchdown on Grand Rapids. Goals came from Sean Malone, Sheldon Rempal, Max Lajoie, and Frederic Allard plus a hat trick from David Cotton.
Beck Warm saved all 35 shots he faced.
May 14 @ Rockford IceHogs
Much like Nashville in Game 1 against Carolina, Chicago failed to convert on the power-play but stayed perfect on the penalty kill. Despite controlling possession most of the night, the Wolves could only add one goal from Tommy Novak late in the third period.
They also allowed a shorthanded goal—one of four goalie Beck Warm let in on just 24 shots.
May 15 vs. Rockford IceHogs
The Wolves ended their season on a positive note and got their power-play clicking again as they converted twice on five chances. Sean Malone continued to shine as he did all week and added a five-minute fighting major to his fifth goal of the season on the scoresheet.
Players of the Week
Tommy Novak: It’s hard for me to pick players other than Novak because he dishes sweet passes from all over the ice and plays a responsible, controlled game in nearly every situation. Novak seems to have added a bit of a jump in his first few strides, greatly improving his ability to join the rush or backcheck as needed. His two-way game has improved in leaps and bounds over this weird season where he tied Philip Tomasino for the scoring lead with 32 points, including one goal and three assists this week. [RK]
Sean Malone: It’s fitting that Novak and Malone are our final two players of the week for this season. Throughout the year, the Wolves coaching staff has praised these two as their most professional, consistent foundations in the lineup, and they quickly emerged as Chicago’s two most dependable centers. Malone posted two goals and two assists this week. [ED]
Notes and Quotes
- Tucson Roadrunners: The Roadrunners failed to make the Pacific Division playoffs after losing a play-in game to San Jose last night. Josh Wilkins finished the season with three goals and five points in 25 games; Michael Carcone finished the season with 15 goals and 25 points in 35 games.
- It was a weird way to end the season for many Nashville prospects who were injured or scratched down the stretch, including Connor Ingram, Patrick Harper, Lukas Craggs, Cole Smith, and Anthony Richard.
- Chicago’s penalty-killing units excelled again this past week, and they finished the season with an 83.2% success rate—ninth-best in the AHL.
- Yesterday, the Milwaukee Admirals announced they’ve signed defender Josh Healey to an AHL contract for the 2021-22 season. It’s a weird transition for Healey whose gone from an AHL deal to an NHL deal back to an AHL deal in one calendar year.
- Let’s take a look at Milwaukee’s blue line next season. Under contract are Matt Donovan, Marc Del Gaizo, and Josh Healey. Let’s assume Alexandre Carrier is in Nashville full-time, and David Farrance could start the year in the AHL. Frederic Allard, Jeremy Davies, and Ben Harpur are all restricted free agents; Tyler Lewington is an unrestricted free agent.
- Speaking of Allard, you have to wonder if he’s stuck at the AHL level. He hasn’t been given a long look with Nashville, and he’s at the age where he needs to be thrown significant minutes to see if he can handle NHL play. It might be shocking to think now, but would it be that crazy if Nashville doesn’t extend him a qualifying offer this summer?
- Forward Zach Solow has signed an ECHL contract with Florida for the balance of the season. It’s a good opportunity for the small center to get more pro games with his hometown team (he hails from Naples, FL) before heading to Milwaukee on an AHL deal next season. He scored two goals and five points in 13 games with Chicago this season.
- Philip Tomasino was recalled to Nashville yesterday, and the team reported he will begin skating with the non-game group.
- Marc Del Gaizo recorded two more assists on Saturday, and it’s clear he’s processing the game more closely to AHL pace now. He’s not content to park himself on the blue line and is fairly dynamic for such an inexperienced defender.
- Of the Wolves’ top-ten scorers this season, six were players in Nashville’s system. Tanner Jeannot—who played roughly half the games everyone else in the top-ten did—finished fourth in scoring with ten goals and 21 points in 13 games.
- Anthony Richard is another player, like Allard, who may be at a crossroads here—especially with the emergence of players like Jeannot and Mathieu Olivier. Regardless, what a bounce-back season he had. Last year, he managed just 14 goals and 23 points in 60 games (0.23 goals per game, 0.38 points per game); this year, he rebounded to score 11 goals and 18 points in 28 games (0.39 goals per game, 0.64 points per game). Throughout the year, he earned penalty-kill time due to being more engaged physically, and his patented speed was on display every night.
- Philip Tomasino and Tommy Novak finished tied for 12th in AHL scoring this year. Novak finished tenth in points-per-game among skaters that played ten or more and Tomasino finished 17th.
- On Tomasino, his hands are so deceptive—here’s an example. It’s hard to tell, but as he cushions his pass reception, he opens up his blade into a shooting position, knowing the goalie is lunging cross-crease to stop a one-time shot. It’s from that position, however, that he can still easily deliver an accurate pass to Malone, fooling the goalie.
- At times, the learning curve for Luke Evangelista was very obvious this season. But there have been noticeable improvements to his game each night, including his play away from the puck. As the coaching staff preached all year, however, it’s about consistent performances day-in and day-out.
- The performances of players like Tomasino, Ryan Suzuki, Seth Jarvis, and more have generated lots of discussion about amending the NHL-CHL Agreement. I can’t imagine there will be a wholesale shredding of the 20-year old rule, but could an exception be made for first-round picks?