Conference final berth for Ads best among AHL’s Midwest connections

By Jim den Hollander 


The American Hockey League is the top feeder league to the NHL and features several Midenwest connections.  

There are seven teams including affiliates for all five Midwest-based NHL teams along with the Milwaukee Admirals, the top farm team to the Nashville Predators.

The Ads play in the Central and finished second in regular season play last season with a record of 41-21-5-2 for 89 points, just three shy of the division winning Texas Stars.  

Five of the six teams play in the Central Division including the Admirals, the Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild); Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago Blackhawks); Chicago Wolves (Carolina Hurricane) and Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings). 

The other Midwest-based teams includethe Cleveland Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets) who in recent seasons moved to the North Division and the Springfield (MA) Thunderbirds, out of the Midwest, but representing the St. Louis Blues in the Atlantic Division.

Following is a quick look at each team in the order they finished last season with a few notes. 

MIlwaukee Admirals  

The Ads traded the lead with both the Stars and the Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets) over much of the season but it was the Stars capturing the spot in the end. In the post season, the Admirals got hot, getting by the Moose and then the Stars in a pair of five-game series. The Ads saw the clock strike midnight on its season in the Western Conference championship, falling in six games to Coachella Valley Firebirds in six games.  

Cole Schneider (‘90/Williamsville, NY) led the team offensively collecting 25 goals and 51 points in 70 regular season games. John Leonard (‘98/Amherst, MA) was next with 17 goals and 44 points.  

Schneider was named as the Admirals’ IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year Award and a nominee for the Dominic Dupre Memorial Award. 

In goal, Yaroslav Askarov (‘02/Omsk, Russia), a first round (11th Overall) selection by the Predators in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft handled a bulk of the work in the crease appearing in 48 games and posting a record of 26-16-5-3. Askarov had a .911 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 2.69. 

Iowa Wild 

 The Wild wrapped up a 34-27-6-5 season with 79 points, good enough for fourth place in the Central Division but fell in two games in a Best of 3 opening round playoff series against the fifth place Rockford Ice Hogs. 

Veteran forward Nic Petan (‘95/Delta, BC) led the Wild offensively with 23 goals and 62 points in 53 games while Marco Rossi (‘01/Feldkirch, Austria) scored 16 goals and racked up 51 points.  

In goal, the Wild saw the work shared by Jesper Wallstedt (‘02/Vasteras, Sweden) and Zane McIntyre (‘92/Thief River Falls, MN). Wallstedt played in 38 games posting a record of 18-15-5 with a .908 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 2.68, collecting a shutut along the way. McIntyre appeared in 34 games with a record of 16-12-5. His Save Percentage was .899 and he posted a 2.87 Goals Against Average with three shutouts. 

Dakota Mermis (94, Alton, IL) left shooting defenseman was nominated by the Wild as their AHL Man of the Year representative. Mermis collected five goals and 26 points in 63 regular season games, and this is his fourth nomination for the prestigious honor and this time around he was presented with the trophy presented and selected by the league president for service to the local community. 

Rockford Ice Hogs 

The Hogs rallied in the second half of the season and reached the playoffs as the fifth place finisher with a 35-28-5-4 record for 79 points. After getting by the Wild with a 2-0 edge in their Best of Three first round series, the IceHogs were sent to the sidelines in three straight by the division champion Texas Stars. 

Rocco Grimaldi (‘93/Rossmoor, CA) led the IceHogs in scoring with 33 goals and 73 points in 70 games, 14 ahead of David Gust (‘94/Orland Park, IL) who notched 26 goals and 59 points in 65 games . 

In goal, Arvid Soderblom (‘99/Goteborg, Sweden) appeared in 33 games and posted a 15-12-5 record with a .905 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 2.92. 

Garrett Mitchell (‘91/Regina, SK) was the IceHogs nominee for AHL Man of the Year. 

Chicago Wolves  

The Wolves struggled early in the 2022-23 season but came within a point of playing in the post season with a final regular season mark of 35-29-5-3. 

Malte Stromwall (‘94/Lulea, Sweden) led the team offensively this season with 18 goals and 51 points and Vasily Ponomarev (‘02/Moscow, Russia) was next with 24 goals and 46 points. 

In goal, Zachary Sawchenko went to the net 41 times for the Wolves with a 17-18-3-1 regular season record. Sawchenko posted an .895 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 3.10. Also contributing was Pyotr Kochetkov who played 21 games with a record of 17-6-3-2. His Save Percentage was .903 and his Goals Against Average was 2.63. 

Max Lajoie (‘97/Quebec City, QC) was the team’s nominee for the AHL Man of the Year Award. 

Grand Rapids Griffins  

The Griffs are one of the AHL’s most storied franchises but 2022-23 was a rough season for the mostly young team with a record of 28-36-4-4 for 64 points and last in the Central Division. 

Veteran Taro Hirose (‘96/Calgary, AB) led the team offensively with 16 goals and 41 points in 71 games, closely followed by Joel L’Esperance (‘95/Brighton, MI) and Danny O’Regan (‘94/Berlin, Germany) with 49 points apiece. 

In goal, Alex Nedeljkovic (‘96/Parma, OH) played in 26 games with a record of 13-9-3-1, a .912 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 2.71. 

Another goaltender Victor Brattstrom (‘97/Goteborg, Sweden) appeared in 18 games and was the Griffins’ nominee for AHL Man of the Year 

Cleveland Monsters 

In the North Division, the Monsters also made a bit of a late sseason push but fell shy, it’s 33-32-5-2 record good for 73 points, just three shy of the Laval Rocket who claimed the fifth and final playoff spot for the division. 

It was a tough season overall, but Trey Fix-Wolansky (‘99/Edmonton) had a fine campaign, his 29 goals and 71 points among the top scorers in the league and good enough for a spot on the League’s Second Team All Stars. Wolansky was the only player from a MIdwest-based team to get an honor other than nomination for Man of the Year. 

There was a drop of 32 points back to Justin Richards (‘98/Orlando, FL) who was second with 39 points just one ahead of David Jiricek (‘03/Klatovy, Czech Republic). 

In goal, Jet Greaves (‘01/Cambridge, ON) was one of the league’s busiest, appearing in 43 games for the Monsters with a record of 19-16-5-2. He finished with an .899 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 3.08. 

Dillon Simpson (‘93/Edmonton, AB) was the team’s selection and nominee for AHL Man of the Year. 

Springfield Thunderbirds 

Thunderbirds, in the Atlantic Division wrapped up their season in the Atlantic Division in fourth place with a record of 38-26-3-5.  

The playoff run was short though as the Tbirds were sent to the golf course in two games in the opening round by the Hartford Wolf Pack, farm team of the New York Rangers. 

Veteran pro Martin Frk (‘93/Pelhrimov) led the way offensively for the T-Birds this season with 30 goals and 64 points, three points more than Matthew Highmore (‘96/Halifax, NS). 

In goal, Joel Hofer (‘00/Winnipeg, MB) was the go-to guy, appearing in 47 games with a record of 27-15-5-5, a .921 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 2.50. 

Following the season, Hofer suited up for Team Canada and helped the team to a gold medal finish at World Championships. 

Hofer has a good shot at joining the St. Louis Blues full time in the 2023-24 season. 


Training Camps for the AHL teams generally begin in September, a few days after the NHL Camps begin. The American Hockey League website has yet to release a schedule. It should be released soon. 

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