Allard Shows Signs of Big Future
By Jason Karnosky
Admirals defenseman Frédéric Allard knew he was heading to a good place when his name was called at the 2016 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft in Buffalo.
When the St. Sauveur, Quebec native was selected in the third-round, 78th overall, by the Nashville Predators, he was heading to a franchise that featured the likes of Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis on its blue line.
With some seasoning in the American Hockey League (AHL), Admirals coach Karl Taylor believes Allard could join that group in Nashville in the not so distant future.
“I like Freddy a lot as a player,” Taylor said. “He has good vision on the ice with the puck and he makes a lot of plays that other guys don’t.”
With Nashville already stacked on defense, Allard knew he would start his professional career in Milwaukee. However, the Admirals were an excellent landing spot thanks to Milwaukee’s enviable track record of developing NHL-ready defensemen. Josi, Ekholm and Ellis of the Predators, as well as stars like Shea Weber of Montreal and Ryan Suter of Minnesota, all spent time developing in Milwaukee prior to long NHL careers.
“Everyone develops at a different speed, and the AHL provides a great chance for players like Freddy to develop and learn more about the professional game,” Ellis said. “I know there are some great players (like Allard) down there in Milwaukee. There is potential all around on the Admirals and those prospects will likely be a big help for us in the future.”
Allard came to the Nashville organization via the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). In his final year with the team Allard led Chicoutimi in assists with 51, and finished third on the team in points with 65 as the Sagueneens made it all the way to the QMJHL’s final four.
During his four seasons in Chicoutimi (2013-17), Allard played in the QMJHL against several of his future French Canadian Admirals teammates. Those players, including Alexandre Carrier and Anthony Richard, helped make the defenseman feel right at home during the 2017-18 season.
“As a rookie it helped a lot having all of the fellow French Canadians playing here,” Allard said. “Last year there were five older guys I had as teammates who had been through a lot. It was nice when I was not sure about something that I could just go and talk to them.”
His French Canadian teammates came away impressed with the then first-year blue liner.
“Freddy is really talented, but not only is he talented, he is also a great person,” current Predators forward Frédérick Gaudreau said. “He’s already really good and he has a brilliant future ahead.”
As a rookie Allard finished 12th on the Admirals in scoring, racking up eight goals and 24 points in 55 AHL games. His first professional goal came in just his fourth game, scoring the second tally in Milwaukee’s 3-0 shutout of Chicago on November 8, 2017. Allard’s first multi-point game came on February 21, 2018 in Milwaukee’s 6-3 loss to Manitoba.
Much like his team Allard got off to a hot start in 2018-19 with 10 points in the Admirals’ first nine games. The 21-year-old picked up two assists in his team’s home opening 5-1 win over Hershey on October 13 and then racked up his first career three-point game a week later as Milwaukee beat the Wolves 5-4 in a shootout.
“Early in the season I was playing mostly with Freddy on the power play, but he’s a really good player and a very smart guy,” former teammate and current Predators forward Rocco Grimaldi said. “I had played against him last year, and he’s gotten better each year, so his development has been really good. I’m excited to see where he is going to be in a few years.”
Allard went a bit cold on the scoresheet as of late, but his defensive game has been picking up. In the last seven contests, all critical wins over division rivals, Allard posted a plus-12 rating.
“Freddy moves well along the blue line, has great hands and plays with his head up,” said Predators forward Austin Watson, who recently played two games with Allard on a conditioning stint before returning to Nashville. “He does all of the little intangible things that you need to do in order to play at the next level. He is a guy that plays the right way and his game is solid. Hopefully for him he has a bright future and he definitely has the tools to play at the next level.”
Part of the maturity in Allard’s game is due to the leadership guiding him in Milwaukee.
“We’ve had some great leaders during my two years here,” Allard said. “This year we’ve got (Matt) Donovan and (captain Jarred) Tinordi, so we are always following them. They’ve been through a lot and they know what to do. They’ve helped us deal with some of the ups and downs during the year.”
Tinordi appreciates what his defensive partner Allard brings to the team, and how he continues to improve this season.
“I’ve been playing with (Freddy) every night for a while now and I’m always impressed by his poise with the puck and his vision in getting pucks out of the defensive zone,” Tinordi said. “He’s come a long way since the start of the year, and is now hanging on to the puck that extra second and making the good play. He’s playing some good hockey right now and he’s been really good for us.”
Though Allard, who currently ranks 11th on the Admirals with 27 points in 63 games, is itching for a first chance to play in the NHL, the defenseman knows that work put in with Milwaukee will prove vital in making his NHL dream come true.
“My job is to keep playing hockey, playing hard every night and keep doing my best to improve as a player,” Allard said. “I have a lot of improvement still to make so I can make the move up to the NHL, but at the end of the day I just need to work hard and give it my all every game.”
For Taylor the key is to get Milwaukee (34-24-14-2, third place in Central Division) into the playoffs, so that all of Nashville’s prospects on the team, as well as the veterans, get a chance to experience postseason hockey.
“Freddy has had a good season for us,” said Taylor, whose team has earned at least one point in 12 straight games. “He needs to keep pushing forward, and we need to get him into the playoffs. We want to give guys like him some playoff experience, and then see if we can make some noise and knock someone off.”