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AHL, ECHL Musical Chairs for Some Players

Every season in the American Hockey League, rosters ebb and flow to levels far greater than their National Hockey League affiliates.

Clubs like the Milwaukee Admirals see their top end talent move up to fill up holes on NHL teams, while at the other half of the spectrum, players from the ECHL step in to fill the vacated slots in the AHL. Therefore, there are always many moving parts in both directions for AHL franchises, and players have to be ready, willing and able to transfer at a moment’s notice—and that’s just during a normal regular season.

The 2012-2013 AHL campaign can hardly be characterized as routine considering it began with a lockout in the NHL. Many players turned to the AHL as a place to hone their games while they waited for a return to the show.

In order to open up the necessary roster spots, prospects who normally would have been employed in the AHL were sent down to the ECHL.

“It was kind of unfair for the guys just coming out of college or junior that would have been here that weren’t getting that opportunity (to play right away in the AHL),” Admirals forward Chris Mueller said. “The lockout had a whole trickledown effect, but guys are now getting an opportunity here that weren’t earlier in the season.”

When the lockout finally ended on the morning of January 6, the whole dynamic of the AHL season changed. NHL teams began recalling their top-end talent, opening up the floodgates on a similar rush of movement upward from the ECHL.

“Not only did AHL teams have guys coming up from Cincinnati, but it also bumped players already in our lineup up on the pecking order,” Milwaukee coach Dean Evason said.

Two current Admirals, Anthony Bitetto and Cam Reid (and until this week’s trade Taylor Aronson), spent time in the ECHL during the fall before becoming significant components of the Admirals’ roster. Meanwhile, another three skaters, Josh Shalla, Jack MacLellan and Charles Olivier-Roussel, suited up in games for Milwaukee this season, but currently reside with the Cyclones.

“Everyone has played here for the most part, some more than others,” Evason said. “We think we’ve allowed everyone the chance to play. But regardless of who we lose to future call ups from Nashville, some guys will be able to elevate their games to higher positions.”

For defensemen Bitetto and Aronson, it was a cold reality starting the year in Cincinnati.

“Getting sent down was frustrating, but there was nothing we could do,” Aronson said. “We just had to realize that it’s part of the job.”

After graduating from Northeastern University last spring, Bitetto dressed in one playoff game with Milwaukee. At the beginning of this season the Oceanside, New York native played the role of league hopper, sandwiching in five AHL games in two different stints with Milwaukee, while dressing in 23 games for the Cyclones, picking up three points and 16 minutes in penalties.

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