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Preds Prospect Update: Mar. 8

by Doug Brumley / Nashville Predators
While technically on the outside of the playoff race looking in at the moment, the Milwaukee Admirals are well within striking distance of several teams ranked above them in the tightly packed American Hockey League Western Conference standings.

The Admirals are currently slotted in 11th place but stand just six points out of third spot after Wednesday night's action. They lost 5-2 in Chicago to the Wolves Wednesday, after beating them 6-0 in Milwaukee last Saturday.

Prior to Wednesday night's game, Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton, who directs the operations of the Preds’ minor league affiliate in Milwaukee, offered an updated look at some of the top prospects playing for the Admirals.

On Chris Mueller (5-foot-10, 180-pound center; age 26): “Mueller is having a terrific year stat-wise. He’s got 25 goals. He continues to be a guy we’re going to count on here [in Nashville]. We’ve made some additions so he hasn’t really gotten the opportunity as much this year, but our coaches have a lot of confidence in him. He should be one of the guys, if we do need a player down the stretch, that we’re really going to reach back and get.” Milwaukee is 8-4-2 in its last 14 games. How’s Mueller been playing during that stretch? “Really, really well,” Fenton said. “On the scoreboard every night, creating chances. But I guess our whole thing with him is he’s got to play on both sides of the red line. And he has been doing that.”

On Kyle Wilson (6-foot, 201-pound forward; age 27): “I think Kyle Wilson has been a really good addition for us. Again, he’s another guy who has added to our offense. He’s a threat every time he’s on the ice. And he’s been very versatile. He’s played both center and wing, and been able to play with a variety of players throughout the year. He brings veteran presence and leadership and he’s been able to add a lot of power-play points for us. That’s been a big thing down the stretch here, that we’ve been able to win some games because of our special teams.”

On Taylor Beck (6-foot-2, 203-pound left wing; age 20):Taylor Beck has gotten better progressively. He’s just got to get more consistency to his game. A first-year guy, it makes it a little hard for him to play every night, if you will, but I think learning that as a pro is the most important lesson that he’s got.”

On Juuso Puustinen (6-foot-2, 187-pound right wing; age 23):Juuso Puustinen has been scoring goals for us. He started out probably a lot hotter in the first third of the season, hit a little slump and has since picked his play considerably. He’s been very good.”

On Jani Lajunen (6-foot-1, 190-pound center, age 21): “To quote our guys, ‘He’s a horse out there.’ He’s just a big, powerful guy that’s hard to handle. And even though he doesn’t have the production to show on the scoresheet, he’s been one of our most proficient guys both ways, with attention to detail. He played on the World Championship-winning (Finnish) team last year so for him to be able to do that, that tells us what type of player that we have.”

On Michael Latta (6-foot, 209-pound center; age 20): “Latta was very good for the first half of the season then broke his arm. He’s just coming back from the injury. He could have played [Wednesday] but they still want to give him a couple more days to add to his flexibility.”

On Victor Bartley (6-foot, 203-pound defenseman; age 24):Victor Bartley has been a real good surprise, a real good addition for us. We signed [him] as a free agent. He’s got 8 goals right now and he adds the offense and the skating ability—it separates him from a lot of our guys.”

On Jonathon Blum (6-foot-1, 190-pound defenseman, age 23): “Jon Blum is just getting his game back in order, but he’s been much better as of late.”

Updates beyond Milwaukee
On Miikka Salomaki (5-foot-11, 198-pound right wing; age 18): “Salomaki had a couple of goals Tuesday night. I actually just watched the film on him. For an 18-year-old kid, he’s playing in the Finnish Elite League and he’s one of their leaders. He’s putting up points. He had an injury at the World Juniors so it’s taking him a while to get his timing back. He’s going to be a terrific prospect for us.”

On Austin Watson (6-foot-4, 193-pound left wing; age 20):Austin Watson, since his trade from Peterborough to London (in the Ontario Hockey League), has just been a catalyst for the team. He’s almost scoring two points a game and leading by example there. He’s been really good.”

On Josh Shalla (6-foot-1, 202-pound left wing; age 20):
Josh Shalla has scored tons of goals this year (for Saginaw of the OHL) like we expected that he would and he’s been very good as well.”

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