Nashville Predators Executive Vice President/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has extended its affiliation agreement with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League through the 2006-07 season.
“This partnership has and will continue to pay dividends for the Predators, the Admirals and the fans in both cities,” said Poile. “Milwaukee has been a terrific place for our young players to develop. The Admirals have created a winning tradition and a culture of high expectations, and that can only be beneficial to the development of our young players and ultimately, the Nashville Predators.”
In the seven years that the two clubs have functioned as affiliates, it has become customary for Nashville Predators to pass through Milwaukee en route to the National Hockey League. Seventy-one players have played at least one game for both teams.
The 2004 Calder Cup champion Admirals, featuring eighteen players drafted and/or signed by the Predators, led the AHL in regular-season wins (43) and points (102) en route to the franchise’s first championship. Claude Noel won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s coach of the year, Nashville prospect Timofei Shishkanov was named to the 2004 AHL All-Rookie Team and prospect Darren Haydar led the AHL in playoff scoring with 26 points (11g-15a) in 22 post-season tilts.
“Claude Noel and (assistant coach) Todd Richards have done a remarkable job working with future Nashville Predators, and in doing so, delivered a championship to Milwaukee and to our organization,” said Ray Shero, Nashville’s assistant GM and an alternate governor for the Admirals.
Milwaukee is currently tied atop the AHL’s West Division with a record of 39-18-3-4. This year’s roster features four of Nashville’s first-round draft picks (Brian Finley, Dan Hamhuis, Scottie Upshall and Ryan Suter) and 12 total players drafted by the Predators. Three Nashville prospects (Hamhuis, Simon Gamache and Andrew Hutchinson) were selected to play in the 2005 AHL All-Star Classic, while Noel and Richards manned the bench for the Canadian All-Stars. Meanwhile, three members of the Admirals (Suter, Shishkanov and Upshall) were among five Nashville draft picks featured within the Top 50 NHL prospects in The Hockey News Future Watch issue (March 1, 2005).
Gamache ranks third in the AHL in scoring with 73 points (24g-49a) and also lists among league leaders in assists. Finley ranks among goaltending leaders in goals-against average (2.15), wins (30) and minutes played (2925). Among AHL rookies, Suter is tied for fourth in plus-minus rating (+13), while Hutchinson (10g-32a-42pts) and Hamhuis (11g-30a-41pts) line up third and fourth, respectively, in scoring among AHL backliners.
The Admirals, owned by the Jane Pettit estate, have been Nashville’s primary developmental affiliate since the Predators’ inaugural NHL season in 1998-99. Milwaukee joined the AHL in 2001 after 24 seasons in the International Hockey League.
“By extending this deal with Fran Croak (trustee of the Jane Pettit trust), we know we are in good hands,” added Poile. “Whether with Fran (if the Pettit trust continues to own the club), or with a strong local ownership group committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee.”