The 2012-2013 Milwaukee Admirals will hit the ice tonight in Grand Rapids, Michigan against the Griffins for opening night in the American Hockey League. The farm clubs for Nashville and Detroit will square off at 6pm Central Time in the first face-off of the season for the AHL. The Admirals have a very young team, and a brand new Head Coach in Dean Evason but look to be competitive in the AHL Western Conference Midwest Division. The division will include the Chicago Wolves (Vancouver), Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis), Rockford IceHogs (Chicago) and the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Despite being a relatively young team, the Admirals do bring back some firepower on both offense and defense. Chris Mueller returns to the Admirals after posting 32 goals and 28 assists in 73 games last year. He will be joined on the top line with Gabriel Bourque and Juuso Puustinen. Leading the defensive corps for the Admirals will be netminder Jeremy Smith who returns after a strong showing last year with a 31-19-3-2 record and a goals against average of just 2.17 which was fourth best in the AHL. The 31 wins was second in the league.
The Admirals have an influx of European talent in the lineup this year. There will be 5 guys making their North American debut this year as Daniel Bang, Patrick Cehlin, Mattias Ekholm, Joonas Jarvinen and Magnus Hellberg have all played in European elite leagues. On the Fang Faction podcast this week, Admirals announcer Aaron Sims mentioned Cehlin is a bit of a pest, and is difficult to play against, seems like he will be a lot like Nashville Predators forward Patric Hornqvist. Ekholm, who almost made the Predators out of training camp last season, will be paired on the blue line with Jon Blum, while Jarvinen has been playing along side Scott Valentine.
Defenseman Mike Moore, who played last year with the Worcester Sharks, brings veteran leadership to the defensive group, and was named captain of the team by Head Coach Dean Evason yesterday. Moore has been paired on defense with returning stand out Victor Bartley. Mueller and Mark Van Guilder will be assistant captains.
As for other lines from training camp, Van Guilder has been paired up with Kevin Henderson and Austin Watson in what Aaron Sims described as a very hard working, grinding line. It appears the #peskyads will be just as pesky this year. Bang has been added to the line of Michael Latta and Taylor Beck, who look to create some of the magic from their days playing juniors together. The final forward line shows Jack MacLellan playing along side Europeans Jani Lajunen and Cehlin.