Gladiators Got Game: Let’s Meet the New Nashville Predators ECHL Affiliate

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 29: David Poile of the Nashville Predators is honored at the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 29, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 29: David Poile of the Nashville Predators is honored at the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 29, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

We’re familiar with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, but now we’ve got some extra might in the organization, with the Atlanta Gladiators joining the Nashville Predators as its ECHL affiliate.

The Predators have had eight previous secondary minor league affiliates, and it isn’t uncommon for teams to frequently change that affiliation. For instance, the Predators were associated with the Cincinnati Cyclones from 2007 to 2017 (with a stint previously in 01-02). They ended that and moved into one with Norfolk Admirals, and the Buffalo Sabers moved in after their previous ECHL squad, the Elmira Jackals, folded.

The ECHL has been steadily getting better and better since it became an official development league in 2002. Since then they’ve sent 548 players to the show, improving the total the league has sent to 740.

Most recently, the Nashville Predators’ ECHL affiliate was the Florida Everblades going back to 2019-20. During that first season of affiliation, Tanner Jeannot suited up in three games for the Everblades and racked up four goals and an assist.

The following year, current Predators Thomas Novak and Cole Smith saw limited action with the Everblades. So there is a path forward from the ECHL affiliate all the way up to the NHL ranks if new talent is discovered.

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Meet the New ECHL Affiliate of the Nashville Predators

Last season 13 players with ECHL ties made their debuts. As the league has expanded there has been a need for quality talent at all levels and the ECHL has played an important role as the “AA” pro league in North America.

Yes, the August ECHL talk can be a bit of a bore, but having these affiliations benefits the Predators and the Admirals alike.

In terms of player movement and roster flexibility, Predators General Manager Barry Trotz has more weapons and avenues to move players and it allows for the Predators organization to create a training ground for talent and for players who fit into the ethos.

Better yet, it gives the organization a way to train coaches and scouts, allowing them to move up through the ranks and gain valuable experience with day-to-day operations.

Atlanta (also previously known as the Gwinnett Gladiators) has been the home to players like Louis Domingue, Patrick Dwyer, Ryan Garbutt, and ironically Mike Dunham, but after his Predators days.

Current Head Coach Derek Nesbitt was a former Gladiator, fresh off his playing days going into the 22-23 season and now in 23-24 will be manning the big job behind the bench.

This year’s Gladiators squad will be led by Cody Sylvester, who paced the team with 86 points (38 goals and 48 assists) and was also good for 5th in the league.

Hometown kid Mitch Fossier (Alpharetta, Georgia native) will bring some scoring punch fresh off of a successful debut season with the Maine Mariners.

Another returner is Mitch Walinski who played a handful of games with the Gladiators after a successful DIII career at Salve Regina University.

On defense, Dylan Carabia, Zach Yoder, Bray Crowder, and Jacob Graves are all returning with plenty of experience, and Anthony Firriolo got a taste of the league after finishing his season as the captain of Army’s team.

Tyler Harmon is returning to man the net after a short stint at the end of his college career with the University of Vermont and Mercyhurst University.

There’s going to be lots of player movements and we’ll see several of these players suiting up for the Admirals this year, and just maybe one or two will make it all the way to Broadway and put on the Nashville Predators sweater.

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