Next up in our AHL report cards from the 2021 season are defenders. Most of Nashville’s minor-league prospects spent part or all of the season with the team in Nashville, but there were still some standout performances and newcomers ahead of the team returning to play in Milwaukee.
Frédéric Allard | 23 | Chicago Wolves [AHL]; Villacher SV [ICEHL]; Nashville Predators [NHL]
After spending the first half of the season in Austria, Allard shined for the Wolves in a top-pair role in 2021. Alongside earning his first NHL game, Allard skated in 25 games for Chicago and picked up 18 points, including nine primary ones scored at even-strength. Possession-wise, Allard was solid with a 52.0% Corsi at even-strength, and he excelled at shutting down high-danger shots, allowing just 2.68 per 60 minutes of even-strength play.
RK: My only knock on Allard is that his bad games were really quite visible. However, he’s counted on in special-teams situations, and he eats big minutes. There’s not much to add on Allard these days. He’s got great vision on the ice, a solid first pass, and adequate speed for the AHL level. I’d like to see Allard get some in-depth work with Nashville’s coaches to really ramp up his in-game processing speed and his responsiveness to NHL pace.
ED: If I’m Allard, I’d have to be frustrated that Nashville’s depth at defense continues to grow. Alexandre Carrier has now made the jump and in come Jeremy Davies and David Farrance ahead of Allard in priority order. Last season, he did nearly everything he was asked to, and he’ll have another chance to star this season as a top-two defender for the Admirals.
Alexandre Carrier | 24 | Chicago Wolves [AHL]; Nashville Predators [NHL]
This was finally the year that Alexandre Carrier earned himself a full-time role in Nashville—six seasons after being drafted. His three games with Chicago were largely uneventful, and as someone who doubted how his skating would hold up in the NHL, I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far.
RK: Carrier provided a great partner for Mattias Ekholm and somehow went from fringe NHLer to top-four D within a few weeks.
ED: To Rachel’s observation, Carrier’s ascension flew by, but that’s what can happen when you put young players in a place to succeed. His matriculation to the NHL is likely complete, but we’ll see how much ice time he earns in the upcoming season.
Jeremy Davies | 24 | Chicago Wolves [AHL]; Nashville Predators [NHL]
Davies was a big beneficiary of Nashville’s injury woes last season as he appeared in just nine games for Chicago (scoring nine points). In his 16 games with Nashville, Davies totaled one assist while earning critical pro experience.
RK: Davies SHOULD get a chance to challenge for a 5/6th defender role with Nashville this season, but he could end up like Anthony Bitetto and hang out in the press box all season. He would be better served skating with the Admirals, but we’ll have to wait and see.
ED: To Rachel’s point, I imagine Davies will start the season in Milwaukee, but he’ll be relied on as the Admirals’ workhorse.
Marc Del Gaizo | 21 | UMass [NCAA]; Chicago Wolves [AHL]
Spending most of his year helping lead the UMass Minutemen to a national championship, Del Gaizo only joined Chicago for nine games at the end of the season. He was given a long leash during that time with ice time in all situations and recorded five assists, including two primary ones at even-strength.
RK: Del Gaizo put up a very nice five assists, showcasing his smooth passing and a keen eye for open shooters. With the amount of talent between Nashville and Carolina, Del Gaizo found himself a bit down the depth chart, and that’s fine. Del Gaizo ran into some bumps in his transition, but nothing should be of concern to us...He will get a chance to play regular minutes this season in Milwaukee.
ED: After an arduous NCAA season, I didn’t have many expectations for Del Gaizo, but he flashed some impressive skill, and his skating speed was less of an issue than I anticipated. He’ll likely play alongside a veteran like Matt Donovan or a steady defender like Frederic Allard next season, giving him a chance to grow into a regular AHL role.
Josh Healey | 27 | Chicago Wolves [AHL]
Healey was a depth piece for the Admirals in 2019-20 but quickly became an integral part of the Wolves’ defense this season. The heavy-hitting defender appeared in 33 games for Chicago, scoring two goals and six assists. He ate heavy minutes but struggled as a possession player, recording a 48.97% Corsi at even-strength. At one point, with only Healey and Allard available in the AHL, Nashville rewarded the former with a one-year contract for the balance of last season.
RK: I quickly became a Healey fan this season. He doesn’t contribute too much in terms of points, but you notice when Healey is on the ice. He is not physically impressive (just 6’2”), but he defends well using his body and makes very solid breakout plays to advance the puck up ice. Healey isn’t afraid of making hits, and he does so often, finding himself in the penalty box regularly.
ED: It’s clear the organization values the leadership and physical presence that Healey brings at the AHL level. He won’t ever be an NHL regular, and he’s not the flashiest but not someone that hurts to have on your bottom pair in Milwaukee. Healey will return next season on a one-year AHL contract.
Tyler Lewington | 26 | Chicago Wolves [AHL]; Nashville Predators [NHL]
Lewington skated in just three games for the Chicago Wolves last season, spending the rest of the year recovering from injury and on Nashville’s taxi squad. He left those three games without a point but picked up two minor penalties.
Next season, the Admirals’ defense will look a lot different. Nashville has a log jam on defense that doesn’t even include Davies or David Farrance, so that is an unfortunate predicament. The blue line in Milwaukee will likely be led by Jeremy Davies and Frederic Allard. Matt Donovan is returning from a season in the SHL; He’ll add to the roster’s veteran presence with newcomer Matt Tennyson. The top-six will be rounded out with Marc Del Gaizo, David Farrance, and Josh Healey plus depth signing Jake McLaughlin.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com or manually tracked.