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Preds Prospect Report: Dec. 14

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
The Milwaukee Admirals have been an integral piece of the Preds organizational development plan. The American Hockey League has been a proven training ground for the organization’s next wave of stars; Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne, Patric Hornqvist, Jordin Tootoo are among the numerous NHLers the Preds have developed through Milwaukee.

Preds Assistant GM Paul Fenton oversees the team’s relationship with Milwaukee and has the inside scoop on the Admirals organization. With the Ads recent coaching change --- Head Coach Kirk Muller was hired away from the team in late November to serve as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes --- the organization had to move quickly to ensure the pipeline from Milwaukee continued to seamlessly develop key NHL-ready contributors.

Ian Herbers, the assistant coach in Milwaukee the past two-plus seasons, ascended to the top coaching spot. Martin Gelinas, the organization’s Director of Player Development, slid in as the assistant coach for the Ads for a week while the Preds interviewed full-time candidates. Stan Drulia was hired to the Ads coaching staff on December 5.

To their credit, the Ads staff has kept the pipeline flowing. Milwaukee has gone 5-1-0 in the six games since Herbers took over.

“Ian certainly has earned this opportunity,” Fenton said. “Kirk Mueller is very fortunate to have gotten an NHL job and it puts Ian in a position to succeed. This summer when we promoted Lane Lambert up from Milwaukee, if we weren't able to get Kirk, Ian was my choice. Ian has been nothing but a great foot soldier at this point. He is a teacher, an evaluator, a great role model and a guy that our players can learn from and lean on.”

Herbers has been a key contributor during Nashville’s summer development camps and preseason rookie camp. It was during those weeks of the summer that he and Gelinas formed a strong working relationship, which helped make the transition the past few weeks easier.

“That was really great for Marty to be able to do that; he took time out of his busy schedule travelling around and visiting our other prospects to set up shop in Milwaukee and help Ian out,” Fenton said. “When Kirk was first hired by Carolina, I asked Marty if he could come in and the first thing he said was that I don’t need a timetable, I’ll come in for as long as you want. Marty is the ultimate team guy. He put his stuff on the backburner, if you will, and really helped us out that week. We were fortunate to be able to hire Stan in as quick of a fashion as we have to get him on board and have him in Milwaukee this week.”

“Stan was a very good offensive player. He played some games in the NHL but he was more a minor league prolific scorer. He actually played with Ian for a number of years in Detroit and some in Tampa, so they already have that relationship. I was recommended Stan from a couple different people before we interviewed him and once we did I just could feel that he had the right characteristics we were looking for to fill our role here and to be a Nashville Predators type of teacher.”

Drulia’s offensive expertise should be a benefit to organization’s young forwards – and will complement Herbers knowledge from the defensive perspective – especially first-year pros Michael Latta and Taylor Beck. Latta and Beck, teammates in Guelph during their junior hockey careers, have earned reputations as top power-forward prospects through their summer work at development camps.

“Both Latta and Beck have played very well compared to the way that we wanted them to play,” Fenton said. “Mike Latta plays with his heart on his sleeve every night. He is the consummate team guy and sandpaper guy. The thing that goes unnoticed sometimes is the skill he as to produce points both even strength and on the power play. He can be a net front presence or he can be our half wall guy because he is capable of making plays. He is the first guy in whenever there is a scrum to be able to protect his teammates. You can see the glue he brings our team together with.”

Taylor Beck has progressively gotten better as the year has gone along. I think at times he would like to be more productive but he has to take care of his detail work first and foremost. This past week when I was down there all week, one night he was our best forward by far but the problem was, the second night he wasn’t the best forward so we need to get consistency in his game. That’s normal for young players and as his consistency improves, he’ll be a strong candidate for a look up at the NHL level.”

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