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Admirals Talk with Paul Fenton

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators sat down with Preds Assistant GM Paul Fenton to get an update on the Milwaukee Admirals playoff run. Milwaukee leads the series three games to two heading into Monday night's Game 6. (click here for Fenton's comments earlier in the week on the start of Milwaukee's playoff run) You just got back after spending a couple of days on the road with Milwaukee. Which Admirals players stood out to you?
Paul Fenton: Teemu Laakso played very well, as did Roman Josi. They’ve been playing as a pair and have been our best pair for a long time down there. Since Jon Blum was called up to the NHL, the two of them have really taken up a lot of the minutes that the Admirals miss with Jon. I would say they’re playing upwards of 25 minutes a night; they complement each other really well. Roman has that offensive flair where he can jump into the play and make things happen and Teemu is a really strong hard nosed defenseman.

Gabriel Bourque, in my opinion, has continued to be our best forward in Milwaukee. From the beginning of the year on he continues to climb and climb. He’s going to be a guy that is going to fit right in with the style we play here in Nashville with his tenacity. He has a never-say-die work ethic and he’s got a lot better skills than people think. (ed note: Fenton talked more specifically about Bourque's season in his comments earlier in the week) With all the other high profile defensive prospects in the Preds system, does Laakso fly under the radar?
Fenton: Maybe to some fans, but not to the coaches and not to us. The way that he plays night in and night out with an aggressive style, hard to play against. He’s really appreciated by the organization and I think he has a bright future with us.

I think people maybe forget how young he still is. He's still just 23-years old; he had a couple of years where he was banged up a little bit and that kind of put him a little bit back in his development, but the last two years he’s been very healthy and been able to develop as well as we expected him. You talked about how well Bourque is playing, what about his linemate Chris Mueller?
Fenton: Chris Muller has been really good, too. Bourque and Mueller are playing with Ryan Thang and the three of them have carried Milwaukee through the playoffs. The coaches moved Thang in Game 4 to the second line to give the team more balance up front, but that line was really good. Chris has been very consistent; every time it seems like he’s enveloped in a corner, he finds a way to escape and create an opportunity to score. His two-way game is much appreciated. Taylor Beck scored his first pro goal in Game 4 of this AHL playoff series. He turned heads in Training Camp. How is he adjusting to the pro game?
Fenton: Some times it takes these kids a little bit of an adjustment to learn to play against men. He hasn’t stood-out with the Admirals as much as he did during our rookie games before Training Camp and then into Training Camp. When he was in Training Camp things weren’t ramped up as much as they are this time of year in the AHL with the playoffs. He has to learn to take his power game to another level. But it was a big goal for him the other night in Game 4 of the series; when he’s playing strong he’s going to be a difference maker. And that’s part of the reason we wanted to bring him in to Milwaukee now; give him a chance to learn what it’s going to take to be a successful pro. He could do it against kids in Junior, but now taking it to the next step is going to be where we’ll challenge him. Ryan Flynn was another prospect who opened some eyes in Training Camp. How has his first pro season gone?
Fenton: Ryan has consistently got better over the course of the season. He’s learned to use his big body. I’d still like him to be a little more aggressive and use that size to his advantage. When he learns how to do that, you’ll see more success out of him. The organization brought goaltender Atte Engren over from Finland late in the season. How has he made the adjustment to the North American game?
Fenton: He certainly is a highly regarded prospect. He came over and has only played a handful of games for the Admirals, but we wanted to get him over, get him acclimated to North America and see how he would adjust, especially going in to next year. We didn’t know he’d be called upon as quickly as he has been with Mark Dekanich going down (with an injury). Atte’s shown some very good promise. Like with all these young kids, it’s a real eye-opener, a real education immediately and I think it will pay dividends down the road. Last month, you mentioned an interest in also bringing Mattias Ekholm, Joonas Rask, and Jani Lajunen over to North America for the AHL playoff run. Is that still an option or will you more likely wait until next season for those three?
Fenton: Ekholm is slated to play for the Swedish national team. He was Sweden’s best defenseman in both national team tournaments they played in the season and they have him penciled to be playing for their World Championship team, so because he’s going to their camp over there we don’t have the rights to bring him over. The same thing with Lajunen and Rask for Team Finland. They are all going to National Team camps for the World Championships. If they pan out in those camps, they’ll stay with the teams; if they don’t make the teams and we’re still playing in Milwaukee, we’ll look to bring them over. Austin Watson recently got hurt while playing for Milwaukee. How is he doing?
Fenton: He has an upper-body injury, but he’s starting to get back to activities; riding the bike and beginning to lift. We’re hoping within a week he’ll be able to return to the lineup for the Admirals. It’s still been a fabulous learning experience for him. He had a really strong second half in Juniors and he was playing well for us in Milwaukee when this injury occurred, so we’re excited to see him return.

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