The Search for Leadership in Milwaukee

The best story to come out of last year’s Milwaukee Admirals season was the first career NHL call up for Mark Van Guilder. He had played in 307 career AHL games prior to his debut for the Nashville Predators. It was only one game with 8:27 of ice time but it was just that: one game in the NHL.

As the Admirals 2014-15 season starts in three weeks time they currently lack another one of those types of players and veteran leaders on the roster. That player’s name is Scott Ford. The Admirals AHL all-time games played record holder and previous team captain.

At the age of 34-years old Ford has played in a career total of 642 games between the AHL and ECHL. He was never able to achieve what Van Guilder accomplished last season: one game in the NHL. He remains a free agent at this current time. And, it appears, the Admirals and Ford will be going different ways this season. The most likely reason as to why comes down to the logistics of the Predators AHL affiliate right now.

There is the potential for twelve fresh faces in Milwaukee this season. Johan Alm, Jonathan-Ismael Diaby, Garrett Noonan, Jimmu Oligny, Jaynen Rissling, Mikko Vainonen, Viktor Arvidsson, Frederick Gaudreau, Felix Girard, Brendan Leipsic, Joe Pendenza, and Pontus Aberg all look like they will potentially suit up as Admirals for their first full season of AHL hockey. They will be counterbalanced by veterans such as Joe Piskula, Triston Grant, and the aforementioned Van Guilder.

What will test the Admirals the most this season is the lack of professional playing experience. Behind those veteran names above, the man with the most AHL games played on the Admirals roster would be 22-year old Austin Watson with 153 games played. 22-years old and considered one of the most experienced players on the expected roster. That’s the current state of things for Milwaukee.

With such a young team it is fun to consider who the two most important leaders of the 2014-15 Admirals team could be: Colton Sissons and Miikka Salomaki. Both players served as a perfect example of how to perform as rookies at the AHL level last season and each come from different backgrounds that reflect a lot of what is entering Milwaukee this year.

Sissons joined the Admirals after his junior hockey career ended in Kelowna of the WHL and Salomaki made the trip to North America after playing professionally in Finland with Karpat. These two should be just as important for the Admirals off the ice as they will be on the ice. They should go a long way into bridging the gap to many of the first-year players the Admirals will feature this season.

So, a fresh season awaits Milwaukee and there will be no captain named Scott Ford in town. Who takes the reigns and becomes the leader of the team?

If I had to hazard a guess it would be that the team runs with three alternate captains in 2014-15. It wouldn’t surprise me to see names such as Van Guilder, Piskula, or Grant wear an “A” this season. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see the man that wore the “C” for the recent rookie tournament, Sissons, also wearing an “A” on the front of his jersey. He captained the Kelowna Rockets and was bestowed the captaincy for the rookie outfit. I feel Sissons might be getting groomed as a future leader. If not that, he already is one and can be a difference maker to getting the early learning curve speed bumps smoothed out for the Admirals.