Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
Also find Russo on Facebook.
Email Michael to talk about hockey.
The Wild is close to signing 24-year-old University of Vermont junior goaltender Brody Hoffman to an entry-level contract, sources say.
The deal, which will be one year long due to his age, is not yet finalized.
The contract will start next season and he will likely not report to Iowa this season on an amateur tryout. University of New Hampshire forward Grayson Downing signed an ATO along with his entry-level deal last Tuesday.
Hoffman, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 205 pounds, went 13-6-2 in 22 games this past season. He ranked 18th in the NCAA with a 2.06 goals-against average and tied for 29th with a .922 save percentage. He was 34-33-9 in three years there with a 2.45 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
The native of Wilkie, Saskatchewan, was recently the NCAA First Star of the Week in part for helping the Catamounts upset Boston College in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.
The Wild is trying to influx more goalie prospects into the organization.
Darcy Kuemper can not play minor-league games without going through waivers.
Iowa goalie Johan Gustafsson, 23, who once backstopped Sweden to a gold medal at the world junior championships, is a restricted free agent this summer and has yet to play an NHL game. He is 8-20-1 this season with a 3.41 goals-against average and .895 save percentage. Last year as a first-year North American pro, he went 12-20-4 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.
Fellow Iowa veteran goalie John Curry is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Draft picks Stephen Michalek, Alexandre Belanger and Kaapo Kahkonen are currently unsigned.
I plan to do a live chat on startribune.com next week, BUT as I just sat down to write my Sunday Insider, I decided to change up the plans and conduct another Russo's Rants Q and A for this Sunday's paper.
I typically write my Sunday columns on Fridays. TODAY IS FRIDAY!!!!
Late notice, I know, so get to work. Here's your shot to ask a question that may be answered in my Sunday column.
Here's the deal though: They have to be quick, easy-to-answer questions because space is at a premium in the newspaper and I'd like to include as many of your questions as possible.
So fire away, and understand that for space reasons, I may have to edit (trim) your question.
Try not to repeat questions asked by others and please don't use this space to comment on reader questions. This way I can easily snip out the questions I'll answer in my Sunday Insider.
You have until early this afternoon.
The Wild is again delving into the college free-agent market.
The team signed University of New Hampshire forward Grayson Downing to a two-year, entry-level contract starting in the fall. Downing also signed an amateur tryout and will play in Iowa for the rest of the season.
Downing, 22, scored 36 points in 38 games his senior season and tied for 13th in the nation with 21 goals (coincidentally tied with Mario Lucia, whom I wrote about in Tuesday's paper. Downing also had five power-play goals and four game-winning goals.
He led the Wildcats in goals and ranked second in scoring. His goal total tied for third in Hockey East. A native of Abbotsford, British Columbia, the 6-foot Downing had 56 goals and 56 assists in 144 games at New Hampshire.
It's likely too soon for him to compete for a roster spot next season, but after trading so many draft picks the past few years and with so many of its top prospects playing in college, the Wild's trying to add some depth and skill to Iowa next season.
The Wild also plans to pursue a few other college, junior and European free agents. The Wild has been successful on some of these signings: Jared Spurgeon (junior), Christian Folin, Justin Fontaine and Nate Prosser to name four. Obviously, many don't pan out. The reason why a lot of them are free agents and were never drafted is because they're late-bloomers.
The Wild spent a lot of practice time working on power plays at Xcel this morning. That unit, going into Tuesday night’s game at Nashville, is an NHL-worst on the road (10.2 percent) and hasn’t scored in the past nine road games (despite going 7-1-1). The Wild’s PP is 28th in the league and 3-for-35 in the past 15 games overall.
Chris Miller reporting today, just recalled from Orlando of the National Vacation League. Russo is in Nashville early, apparently to try out for backing vocals on the Patsy Cline revue, so I spent some quality time here in St. Paul wondering who was in charge of handing out coffee. Turns out, it’s bring your own. Who knew?
First, an injury report. Nate Prosser took a hip check in Saturday’s victory at St. Louis and is week-to-week. Coach Mike Yeo says it’s typically a four-week injury (lower body). Christian Folin will replace Prosser on D.
Marco Scandella (oblique) practiced for the first time in a while. He won’t travel to Nashville, but could play by the weekend, he hopes. Ryan Carter (upper body) practiced as well. He has been out since Feb. 9 and is likely to be out another week or so, reading between the lines.
Yeo on Nashville: “Another good test for us. You look at what they’ve done all season long as far as the level of play, the consistency in their game. I know the last game [against the Wild] wasn’t a great outcome for them, but for 40 minutes of that game, they were clearly the better team.”
The Predators have lost eight of 10, a string of futility the Wild started.
Matt Dumba stays on the first power-play unit, adding a strong right-point shot. Ryan Suter is the other point, with Jason Pominville moving up front with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. Thomas Vanek stays on the second unit with Mikael Granlund and Chris Stewart up front, and Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon on the points.
“[Dumba’s] shot’s the biggest thing, he’s a threat over there,” Yeo said. “We do like Pommer in the middle of the ice as well, but we also feel there’s a lot of strength on our other unit as well. The ice time will be equal, and both will be able to get out there and show what they can do.”
More on the intricacies of the power play in tomorrow’s paper.
Devan Dubnyk makes his 29th consecutive start in goal, 28th for the Wild. Said he of the Predators: “Possible first round opponent for us, some any time we have an opportunity to go in and feel good about ourselves, it’s a big step. “
Scandella on his time away from action: “Been watching 'Sons of Anarchy,' weather has been nice in Minnesota, so I’ve been going for walks, getting away from the game mentally. But it was great to get back with the boys.”
No “Sons” for Carter, who has two daughters: “A lot of daddy time, so that’s been the silver lining, hanging out with the girls a little more than usual.”
Unlike Russo, I have no radio appearances or podcasts to promote, just have to get back to the office to pack up for our big move to the Cappella Tower. Maybe there’ll be leftover cake from Sid’s 95th birthday, which he celebrated last night by working.
Greetings. Kent Youngblood here, filling in ffor tonight's game.
Before tonight’s game, in his meeting with the media, Colorado coach Patrick Roy took the opportunity to go off on a rather strange tangent.
Rather than talking about the game, which is very important for his team’s fading playoff hopes, he instead took issue with a story our reporter Michael Russo wrote for today’s Star Tribune. In it Russo pointed out how the rivalry between the two teams is growing more intense.
To illustrate the point, Russo – who was away today on a previously-planned trip out of town – wrote about the end of the game Feb. 28 in Colorado. Late in that game, with the result already decided, Avalanche forward Cody McLeod jumped Wild center Mikael Granlund, then fought with the Wild’s Charlie Coyle. As it turns out, both McLeod and Colorado winger Gabriel Landeskog were ultimately fined for their behavior in that game.
Instead of talking about any of that, Roy took some shots at Russo, saying the article suggested a Wild player should go after McLeod, which of course it did not. But that didn’t stop Roy from calling the article “garbage.” “I hope this guy has good lawyers,” Roy said. “Because if somethingg happened to Cody tonight, if I was his agent, I would be not nervous to give him a nice call.’’
Roy then went on to depict McLeod as some sort of noble warrior who was getting a bad rap. “If he puts Charlie Coyle (on the ice), I have to put somebody on the ice,” he said, referring to that late faceoff Feb. 28.
Right. Like Coyle is some sort of NHL-renowned enforcer.
Russo was having none of it. “Patrick must be mistaking my story with somebody else’s,” he said. “There was no suggestion ‘of someone going after Cody McLeod.’ There is no place where I advocated the Wild to harm anyone. It was an objective look at a rivalry between two good teams with core players who will face each other for years.’’
One wonders if Roy actually read the story. Instead he called McLeod a player that 29 other teams would love to have. “He’s a leader on this team …,:” Roy said. “He is a great role model for our young players. Is he going to compete out there? Yes. But nothing major happened. I mean, I don’t know, I’m looking at their lineup and Granlund seems to be in there tonight, isn’t he?’’
Like that’s the point. I suspect this was just a coach trying to deflect attention and pressure away from his team, which has yet to beat the Wild in a hockey game this season. But we’ll see how this plays out tonight.
If you’re interested here is a link to the story:
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