In a relatively short time, Cody Glass has been a historic draft pick, played for an American Hockey League title, scored in his National Hockey League debut, spent nine months off the ice after knee surgery, been traded and rebuilt his game in the minors .
Beginning this weekend, the Milwaukee Admirals center hopes to use the momentum he has built throughout the season to help the Admirals get to the place he was just three years ago – but also a lifetime ago – and then one step further.
“It’s a little bit crazy for a 22-year-old to have the most playoff experience on the team,” said Glass, who was with the Chicago Wolves when they lost to Charlotte in the title round in 2019, the last time the AHL had a proper postseason.
“But when it comes down to it, going to the Calder Cup Finals, that experience, going through adversity and stuff like that, I feel like it helps a lot. And if I can share that with other people, that can go a long way for our team.”
The Admirals open their best-of-five Central Division semifinal series against the division rival Manitoba Moose with games at 7 pm Friday and 6 pm Saturday at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
The Admirals finished third in the division, behind Manitoba, and went 5-5-2 in the season series.
“We’ve had a couple of good stretches, and I think right now we’re playing really good hockey,” veteran defenseman Matt Donovan said. “Especially the last game, that was a playoff type game against Rockford and we knew we needed to win that one to get third place and we got the job done. We played playoff style hockey.”
“If you watch the NHL, guys are fighting that wouldn’t normally fight, big hits, everyone’s finishing their hits, everyone’s skating a million miles an hour,” Donovan said.
“I think we’re ready for it. It’s the type of game we play, and if we do that, if we amp it up a little bit, I think we’re going to be good.”
The Admirals won the AHL regular-season championship the last time they played for one, in the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season. Then Milwaukee was idle last season because of COVID restrictions in the city.
The roster has turned over substantially, with promotions to and transactions from the parent Nashville Predators.
Donovan is one of three players on the current Admirals roster who was with the team for the playoffs in ’19. He and left wing Cole Schneider played all five games in a first-round loss to Iowa. Center Tommy Novak played in one.
“It’s something as a staff we’re aware of,” coach Karl Taylor said of the lack of AHL playoff experience, “so maybe our hands are on the wheel a little bit tighter than normal to assist and guide our leadership group and to help them through some different scenarios that might happen.
“You get a couple of bad calls against you, you get calls for you. You can’t get on the roller coaster. That’s a clear sign of inexperience. … When you start focusing on refs or what’s occurring, everything speeds up and the train can’t hit the brakes quick enough.”
Glass has been on a rollercoaster for his entire career, but the ride got smoother as this season went on.
A touted prospect in the junior ranks, Glass was the first pick of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights (sixth) in the 2017 draft. He made his NHL debut in 2019-20 and played 39 games before suffering a knee injury. Then his progress stalled him, and he was dealt to the Predators last summer.
After starting this season in Nashville, Glass was sent to Milwaukee to get more time on the ice, regain the flow to his game and rebuild the confidence that made him a top-10 pick.
“If he would have stayed in the NHL this year at the start of the year, maybe he’s getting six to nine minutes in game play, whereas here he’s getting 16 to 20 minutes of game play,” Taylor said.
“The focus is on getting a guy like Cody, when he comes back in that situation, to rise up but put him in spots to be successful. He’s killing penalties for us. I’m not sure he would have had that opportunity to do that in Nashville.”
Glass spent four straight months with the Admirals between call-ups and in 66 AHL games has scored 14 goals and collected 48 assists for 62 points with a plus-15 rating. The assist and point totals are team highs. That production became particularly important in mid-March after high-scoring right wing Rocco Grimaldi went down with an injury.
“Obviously it sucked being sent down because everybody wants to play in the NHL, but I feel like just talking to management, talking to the coaching staff up there, they were doing all the right things for me for the future,” Glass said. “Obviously I want to be playing in the NHL for 12, 15 years, so if it takes a little longer at the start, that’s fine by me.
“My game is hockey IQ, hockey sense. Kind of finding players. It’s those little plays that come with lots of touches, lots of ice time. I felt like I finally started getting that back, and that’s when hockey was fun again.”
And there’s no hockey fun quite like playoff fun.