by Jason Karnosky | AHL On The Beat
Yakov Trenin is off to a blazing start with the Milwaukee Admirals.
One of the Nashville Predators’ top draft prospects developing in the American Hockey League, Trenin made headlines by racing out of the gates with five points in his first three games this season.
“(Yakov) is a big, strong player who has learned to use his assets to his advantage,” Admirals coach Karl Taylor said of Trenin, who was selected 55th overall in the 2015 National Hockey League Draft.
However, there is so much more to the tremendous Trenin story than just a fast start to this season. The 6-foot-2, 201-pound forward is just 22 years old. He is also Milwaukee’s only Russian-born player and one of just 33 Russians playing in the AHL. But unlike many of his compatriots Trenin is already plenty comfortable with playing the North American style of game.
For the past five seasons the Chelyabinsk native played away from home, including three years with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and then the last two with Milwaukee.
“When I came over to play juniors in Canada, I wanted to get closer to playing in the NHL so that scouts could see me before I entered the draft,” Trenin said. “With Gatineau I was taught a lot of things, like the small details and to do things like not turning pucks over, and that time was very good for my game.”
As an added bonus Trenin carries something in his back pocket that many of his AHL teammates and opponents wish they had. This summer Trenin earned his college degree, pulling off the impressive feat of completing his accreditation in Russia, despite the full-time job of playing hockey overseas each of the past five years.
The dedication and hard work it took Trenin to earn a degree shows itself on the ice. After being taken 32nd overall in the Canadian Hockey League import draft, Trenin made a huge impact on a Gatineau squad that included future Admirals teammate Alexandre Carrier.
“It was very cool to get to play with Alexandre Carrier with Gatineau,” said Trenin, who finished second on the team in scoring with 67 points as a 17-year-old QMJHL rookie. “He was a great player there, and here he really helps a lot, like if you need anything. He’s a good guy off the ice, and on the ice he’s a great player. It’s nice when you go to a new organization to already know someone.”
The following summer the Predators drafted Trenin in the second round. He played two more seasons with the Olympiques and by 2016-17 he had a 30-goal campaign. At that point Trenin was more than ready to move on to the professional ranks.
However, Trenin’s first full season in Milwaukee proved trying. After scoring a goal in Admirals’ first game of 2017-18, Trenin had his first multi-goal game in Milwaukee’s 5-2 win at Rockford three weeks later. Unfortunately, a collarbone injury in November sidelined Trenin for two months. By the time he returned to action the rookie forward struggled to gain traction and earn significant playing time with the Admirals; he finished the campaign with just five goals and 16 points.
“My first year with Milwaukee, I kind of had different expectations of coming here,” Trenin said. “I disagreed a lot with the coaches and I couldn’t get on the same page with them. But I had good summer after that and didn’t have to deal with any injuries. By my second season I started to get more ice time and I played better.”
The 2018-19 season proved to be Trenin’s coming-out party as a professional. The second-year pro finished the season with 14 goals and 33 points. Trenin’s breakout moment offensively came on Jan. 22, 2019, against San Antonio, when he scored a pair of goals and picked up two assists in Milwaukee’s 7-3 win over the Rampage.
“(Yakov’s) really turned into a key player for us,” Admirals captain Jarred Tinordi said. “(Last year) I think he kind of figured out how he needed to play to create chances. He used his big body to be physical and take more pucks to the net.”
Trenin was one of the players that Milwaukee’s coaches counted on for offense late in the season as the Admirals closed with a remarkable 11-0-3-0 finishing stretch. Trenin had a crucial two-goal performance in his team’s 5-0 win over Grand Rapids in the second-to-last game of the season, helping Milwaukee secure home-ice for the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“I think our staff made a concerted effort to help him build up trust with us,” Taylor said. “We invested in him as a player, and I think he’s grown and matured as a player, and as a person. He finished the year really well last year and then had a great training camp. He got off to a great start this year.”
Trenin came out scorching hot to start 2019-20. In his first three games, the power forward scored four goals, including a pair of tallies in Milwaukee’s 4-2 home-opening win over Laval. The impressive start earned Trenin his first promotion to the NHL with Nashville, where he earned 12:35 of ice time, took one penalty and recorded one hit in the Predators’ 3-2 shootout loss to Florida.
“The first period up with Nashville I was really nervous because all of my time I had been training for this moment, and this was my dream coming true,” Trenin said. “Then in the second and third period I felt better and more comfortable. I just enjoyed every second of being there, on the ice and off the ice. It was amazing and a really cool experience.”
Trenin’s teammates couldn’t have been happier for him to get his first NHL opportunity.
“Yakov’s deserved that call up, 100 percent, as the start he’s had to the year has been awesome,” Tinordi said. “He’s been physical, offensive, and he’s playing a really good power forward, NHL-style of game, down here for us. I was really happy to see him get that opportunity.”
Back in Milwaukee, and playing on a squad with big aspirations for the 2019-20 season, Trenin hopes to continue his formula of individual and team success in order to earn a return trip the Music City soon.