With all the rookies and new faces on the 2010-11 Milwaukee Admirals, one seems to stand out from the crowd.
The Bradley Center spotlight shines a little brighter on Milwaukee forward Blake Geoffrion, the first former University of Wisconsin athlete to play on the Admirals since Madison native Ryan Suter
played 63 games for the team back in 2004-05 and the first Tennessee native to be drafted, coincidentally by his hometown Predators.
“(Blake) is kind of under the microscope a bit, fair or unfair,” Admirals coach Lane Lambert said. “He obviously has great potential, but there is a difference between the pro level and the college level, no question. Blake is going to have to dedicate himself now that hockey is a full-time job.”
Despite the added pressure he might be feeling, Geoffrion is trying to take his first professional year in stride. So far there have been plenty of things to work on, from picking up his feet to match the pace of AHL play, to making quicker and smarter decisions with the puck.
“Right now I am just trying to get my feet wet and see how things work here off the ice and on it and kind of go from there,” Geoffrion said. “But it is going to take some time to feel out the whole professional experience.”
One person qualified to talk about Geoffrion’s talents and potential as a player is his former college coach at Wisconsin, Mike Eaves. Under Eaves’ tutelage, Geoffrion blossomed from six point player his freshman year to a 28-goal and 50-point star during his senior year.
“Blake came into Wisconsin as a certain type of man and player and left as another, so that was the type of growth you really like to see,” Eaves said. “But Blake at the next level is a little more mature than many other rookies he is competing with, so I think if he’s given a chance to find his niche, he can be very successful.”
As one of Wisconsin’s three captains, Geoffrion led the Badgers to the NCAA National Championship Game last season. Though Wisconsin would go on to fall to Boston College in the Finals, the day before the game Geoffrion was awarded the Hobey Baker Award at the nation’s top college player, the first ever Badger to garner that distinction.
As the 2010-11 Milwaukee Admirals were announced on opening night at Bradley Center, the largest ovation was saved for Geoffrion. Admirals’ fans could not be happier to see Blake lacing up the skates in the Milwaukee, even if it is only for a short period of time.
“I am so glad that he is here playing here in Milwaukee,” Admirals supporter Matt Kotowicz said. “But I think he is going to move up to Nashville pretty quick too.”
The opening night salute was welcomed by the Brentwood native, who has enjoyed the Badger state as his second home.
“Wisconsin has some of the best fans around, especially with how they support the Badgers,” Geoffrion said. “I hope that can transition over to the Admirals here.”
Since taking over management of the club, Milwaukee Admirals President Jon Greenberg tried unsuccessfully to try to get Nashville to stock its farm system with some former Badgers talent beyond just Suter. With Geoffrion joining the Admirals for a short stint during the Calder Cup Playoffs last season, Greenberg’s wish was finally granted.
“It is great to have Blake here,” Greenberg said. “I have been asking to have a Badger on my team for five years . . . But to have him here is going to be a lot of fun, and hopefully he will help bring some big crowds over here from Madison.”
Though Geoffrion feels at home playing in Wisconsin, he is rooming with someone less accommodated by the state’s faithful – Admirals forward Ryan Flynn
. Flynn was a four-year college rival of Geoffrion’s at the University of Minnesota where the two players battled it out on the ice on countless occasions.
Despite the potential clash between an ex-Gopher and ex-Badger, Flynn and Geoffrion have enjoyed each other’s company, even if some ribbing occurs from time to time.
“The funny thing is I make (Ryan) wear a Wisconsin jersey around the house,” Geoffrion joked. “But actually I know Flynny really well because we played in the U.S. National Team Development Program together, so overall it is not a big deal.”
Geoffrion started slow offensively, going pointless in his first four games of 2010-11, but got on the board on Monday with a pair of assists at Chicago. Lambert, however, is committed to helping Geoffrion develop into player who will be successful at the next level, not just one who collects points.
“Being a power forward, that’s got to be Blake’s game and it’s what he has done in the past to be successful,” Lambert said. “But getting him to that next step is not going to happen overnight. There will be a curve for him, but we will work with him to get him rolling.”
Geoffrion is soaking up all the guidance Lambert can provide.
“(Lambert) is a great coach and he’s just trying get me to turnover to the pro game as fast as possible and to help me see how different things work,” Geoffrion said. “But he understands that it is going to take a little time for me to catch on to everything, but hopefully it can be sooner rather than later.”
When Geoffrion does figure everything out, watch out Nashville fans because the first-ever Predators draft pick from Tennessee will be coming to the Music City ready to stay.