DES MOINES, Iowa - The final home game of the season in a final three weeks that might come wrap up to a bit of relief. The Wild have had a tough go of it in the waning days of the 2017-18 season: a nine game losing streak, loss of some of their better defenders, and some injuries keeping key players out of the line-up. However, the Wild, despite not making the postseason, have an opportunity to end their home slate of games with a victory over the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville).
Admittedly, it seems like an eternity ago that the Wild were opening up their regular season against the same Admirals, but hopefully this time around Derek Lalonde’s squad will have some more success against a well-disciplined team under the management of Dean Evason.
Milwaukee was on the verge of a playoff berth of their own, though they have been trending in the right direction, going 6-3-1 towards the end of the season - attempting to work their way back into the playoff picture. Iowa is on the opposite end of that spectrum, having gone 1-7-2 in their last ten games - a division worst.
Still, there are some aspects to get excited about despite Iowa missing out on the postseason yet again - something Lalonde sees more of as an economic issue on the AHL level. However, in a development structure, the scouting staff continues to put forth the work and show an affinity for pulling “prospects” out of thin air.
Hopefully Gerry Fitzgerald and Mark Auk can continue to make strides.
Milwaukee - Points
- Emil Pettersson (C) - 46 pts (13G/33A)
- Bobby Butler (RW) - 45 pts (24G/21A)
- Frederick Gaudreau (RW) - 43 pts (22G/21A)
- Trevor Smith (C) - 43 pts (17G/26A)
- Harry Zolnierczyk (LW) - 42 pts (21G/21A)
The Nashville Predators have built themselves a winning culture down in Tennessee and a large part of that have been trades and scouting. Two of their young up-and-comers, Pettersson and Gaudreau - ages 23 and 24, respectively - have put together 40 point seasons with the hopes of cracking a very deep Predators roster one day.
Both are under contract for next season - Gaudreau through 2019-20, and the only one of the two with NHL experience (29 games). Pettersson is in his first professional season in North America.
Just on the outside of this list is 21 year old Anthony Richard, who will need a huge effort to crack 40 points with 36 (19G/17A) currently under his belt - one goal shy of a 20 goal season in his second full season of “big boy hockey” in the A.
The Ads’ top performing rookie has a similar production total as Iowa’s Brennan Menell from the blueline. Frederic Allard is a former 3rd rounder from the 2016 draft and playing in his first season in the A after four years with the Chicoutimi Sanguenees of the QMJHL. The left-handed defenseman has 23 pts (8G/15A) in 53 games this season. He has four points (3G/1A) in his last five games.
Iowa - Points
- Cal O’Reilly (C) - 61 pts (14G/47A)
- Sam Anas (RW) - 60 pts (26G/34A)
- Justin Kloos (C) - 48 pts (19G/29A)
- Kyle Rau (LW) - 47 pts (22G/25A)
- Pat Cannone (C) - 37 pts (16G/21A)
Recently, in an attempt to beef up the offense with the lack of a back end, Lalonde has taken Sammy from the line of Gerry Mayhew and Justin Kloos and brought him up to the top line with O’Reilly at center. It has also increased the scoring race between the two - the winner will hold the record for most points in a single season after game 76.
Anas already holds the record for goals in a single season, and hopefully that will only grow in the next two games.
Kloos still sits just one goal shy of 20, a feat that would mark three separate Iowa Wild players cracking twenty for the first time in team history. Rau scored two goals in the defeat at the hands of Rockford on Tuesday night, but his play continues to impress down here in Iowa.
He’s set to become a UFA this summer and sits just three points shy of 50 - a mark that had not been met by a member of the Iowa Wild in it’s previous four seasons, but has the potential to be broken by four different players this year.
Of the guys on limited contracts playing down here, Vanya Lodnia has been the most impressive, though Mason Shaw showed some promise in his only game played at the AHL level. With a knee injury, you look for timidness, but he was far from letting his size define his game and he spent some time at F1 like Lodnia had.
Milwaukee - Goalies
- Anders Lindbäck (31-20-5) - 2.82 GAA/.908 SV%
- Troy Grosenick (9-11-4) - 2.91 GAA/.905 SV%
Lindbäck has been the workhorse for the majority of the season, as exemplified by his 56 appearances through 74 games play this year. He’s had his ups and downs, and is currently on a bit of a rough patch in his last five starts with the Admirals going 2-2-1 with him in net and the Gävle, Swe. native giving up no less than three goals in each of those starts.
Grosenick is to the Ads as Michalek has been to the Wild this season. He’s in his fifth full professional season and joins the Nashville organization after being traded along with Brandon Bollig from the San Jose Sharks for a 6th round pick in the upcoming draft back on Feb. 25th. A native of Brookfield, Wisc., he’s returned home and made five starts for Milwaukee to the tune of a 2.62 GAA/.916 SV%
Iowa - Goalies
- Niklas Svedberg (18-18-7) - 2.87 GAA/.905 SV%
- Steve Michalek (12-7-6) - 3.13 GAA/.906 SV%
- C.J. Motte (2-2-3) - 2.52 GAA/.915 SV%
The story hasn’t changed too much in the last few weeks, and like with the Admirals, our Swedish netminder has taken the majority of the reps when he’s not been out with injury. Sveddy has made 43 of 74 starts for the Wild this season. Without a suitable blueline ahead of him, you can’t place too much blame on Svedberg for how the season has imploded. At times he’s been a rock, but the bend often leads to a break.
Michalek was diagnosed with an illness on his way up Milwaukee, which required Iowa to make an emergency call to their emergency favorite: C.J. Motte. Sources (so fancy) said that they didn’t know the nature of the illness, do anything else is simply speculation. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Motte on the bench sporting his very fashionable hunter orange pads - appropriate for his time with the Quad City Mallards in the Coast this season.
If you’re a fan, just sit back and enjoy the show. It’s $2 beer night and you can get two-for-ones at Johnny’s downtown afterwards. I haven’t seen the line-ups yet, but watching Lodnia or Shaw and how they work the open spaces is worth keeping an eye on. It also just goes to show what kind of talent will be coming out of the OHL and WHL in the upcoming draft.
As for the team, it’s the same as it’s been since the season went more or less belly up. It’s the time of the season to see who is here to impress the organization and who is just ready for the end and some Fortnite/the Links (though I did see Fortnite crashed the other night). Last Tuesday, the pressbox was full of scouts and the development staff was in full form, so you’d hope the players would take advantage of the audience.
Get on out here! Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 CST from Wells Fargo Arena is downtown Des Moines.