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.
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BE PREPARED -- This is a loooooooooooooooong blog with a LOT of INFO to digest. Just your typical 2,606-word offseason update:
On Wednesday afternoon, I headed down to Xcel Energy Center to watch the first day of development camp. Not shockingly, the four guys who really stood out to me were Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, Kurtis Gabriel and Gustav Olofsson, but it was my first chance to see Alex Tuch, Louie Belpedio and others, and they clearly have talent. Defensemen Dylan Labbe and Carson Soucy also stood out and Adam Gilmour, the Boston College forward, had a real strong day. By the way, former Wild speedster Richard Park is a guest coach during camp.
Here’s the article that ran in Wednesday’s paper on Folin and Dumba and the internal battle they’ll likely have in training camp to make the team. Camp commences Sept. 18 after the Sept. 12-16 prospect tournament in Traverse City, Michigan. I didn’t mention Gabriel as a roster hopeful in the article just because he may start in the minors to get development. But no doubt he could see games next season.
“I’m not putting anything by this kid,” assistant GM Brent Flahr said. “He’s probably one of the most determined kids I’ve ever met. He knows he’s probably going to go down and play, but he’ll cause some havoc in exhibition games. He works so hard and he wants to get there. He’s got things to learn. He knows that, but second half you never know.”
Remember, if you want to see the 42 prospects and invitees in action, the Wild is having two scrimmages that are open to the public: Friday at 2 p.m. at Braemar Ice Arena in Edina and Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
Also Wednesday, I had a chance to chat with coach Mike Yeo about his staff, the team and the travel for the upcoming season. I also had a chance to talk for a while with General Manager Chuck Fletcher to get a roster update. Among the topics: An update on the five unsigned restricted free agents; Fletcher’s desire to potentially extend the contracts of some of the team’s youngsters who have expiring deals next summer; his desire to perhaps still add a defenseman, maybe through the trade market; The goalie situation.
Here’s a synopsis:
1. If you didn’t see the previous blog, Andrew Brunette will be an assistant coach with the Wild next season and will likely join Yeo and assistants Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor on the bench. Together with the trainers, it’ll be a tight squeeze! Bruno will again be in charge of the power play and the hope is that if he’s on the bench and able to tinker things right there as opposed to the press box, it’ll be a big help to a power play that finished 16th the past two seasons.
2. The Wild has five unsigned restricted free agents: Nino Niederreiter, Darcy Kuemper, Justin Fontaine (he has filed for arbitration, so worse comes to worse, he’ll get a one- or two-year deal that way), Jason Zucker and Jon Blum. Typically, this stuff just takes care of itself by the end of this month and it’s not like the Wild’s cap-strapped by any stretch of the imagination.
Fletcher said the team has just recently started the process toward eventually re-signing each one. As I mentioned before, Zucker is a Group I restricted free agents, so he really doesn’t have many rights. My guess is he eventually signs a one-year deal.
I asked specifically about Kuemper and Niederreiter, and not only because they’re the two most significant. The Wild had a real tough negotiation with Kuemper’s agent when it first signed him to an entry-level contract, and I’ve got to imagine this won’t be a simple negotiation either. Kuemper saved the Wild’s hide last season, so I’m not sure the comparables are going to be easy on a new deal. And Niederreiter’s agent obviously doesn’t mess around. Just look at his exit from the Islanders. But Niederreiter also knows he has found a home in Minnesota and his Europe-based agent did meet with Fletcher last year in Anaheim just to begin the relationship.
As for Kuemper, Fletcher said the Wild’s had one conversation with the goalie’s agent “and I think the conversation went well. We’ll probably hopefully talk again sometime this week. We really haven’t gotten that involved with any of them at this point. It comes to focus now. UFA-season (unrestricted free agent) is basically over. Now you get into the RFA’s. It’s just been a little slower developing on the RFA front. I’m not worried about any of them. We’ll work on them. They all take different amounts of time, but they’re all restricted. We just have to get fair deals. If it takes all summer, that’s fine. If it takes a week or two, that’s fine.”
As for Niederreiter, I asked how the Wild decides whether it wants to sign him to a long-term deal or a short-term bridge deal, which seems to me to make the most sense. Niederreiter hasn’t broken out yet. He looks like he could be on the brink, but he hasn’t. So a bridge deal would be good for both sides. If Niederreiter signs a two-year deal and erupts the next two years, he could hit a homer in two summers. If he doesn’t, the Wild saves itself the mistake of overpaying him now.
“We’ve told his agent we’re open to either,” Fletcher said. “In some ways, the easiest thing to do is do a two-year deal and that way however he develops you can react and nobody gets too far ahead or too far behind. The problem sometimes with longer-term deals is one side could be wrong. So shorter-term deals are usually easier until you know the career path of the player. But we’re open to any scenario, and we’ve expressed that. We’ll see how it goes, but as long as the numbers make sense, we’re prepared to do anything within reason. Probably anything between two to four years would be the most logical. I think beyond four is incredibly hard to figure out and one year doesn’t seem to make any sense.”
3. After the Wild re-signs its restricted free agents, Fletcher would like to maybe visit extending the contracts of some of next summer’s restricted free agents. Players with expiring contracts after next season include Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella. He said he doesn’t mind negotiating into the season if they have some negotiating momentum, either. “We’ll just see how the market plays out this summer for some other players, address our RFA’s first and then have conversations with some of [next summer’s potential RFA’s] and see who has interest first of all,” Fletcher said.
4. Next season’s roster. The Wild hasn’t yet replaced Clayton Stoner. Fletcher said he’s “comfortable starting the season with what we have now, but if we can get a defenseman that is an upgrade, we’ll definitely look at that. But the [free-agent] market’s a little thin right now, so we’re talking to some teams to see if there might be a [trade] fit there or something that makes sense. But it just seems like everything’s slowed down completely. There was so much activity around the draft and the first few days of free agency and a lot of teams have their prospect camps right now, so there just doesn’t seem to be a lot happening anywhere. But we’ll keep looking at it. We’re not going to do anything just for the sake of doing it. We’re not just going to sign a defenseman to say we signed a defenseman. I like our group. We do have some depth right now, so we can certainly let things play out.”
Fletcher said there are still some free agents available with experience, but it depends on the price point and the term. “If we can do something better in the trade market, we’ll definitely consider that. But the trade market involves giving up an asset, too, so we’ll just be patient here. We have lots of flexibility, which is great, and I think we have some good depth. I’m open to a lot of different ideas, but I think we’re more than OK there. We have the same top-4 that we had last year and we were a great defensive team. Folin could be there and we still have Jon Blum, who played really well when he played and Keith Ballard, when he’s healthy, has been good, and we have no reason to think he won’t be healthy. After that, you want to make sure you have enough depth (Wild has added big, tough Stu Bickel), but Olofsson and Dumba are going to be pretty good players for us. So, do we need a two-way guy, do we need a one-way guy? That’s the question.”
Also, there’s a lot of unsigned players right now, and some of these guys that were in the league last year are going to have to very soon make the decision whether to accept two-way contracts. Why? Because there’s a maximum amount of veterans that can play in the AHL and that is fast filling up, so if these guys don’t quickly accept two-way contracts, they’re going to quickly find themselves in Europe next season.
So, there is a chance that if Fletcher holds firm, he can get a bargain on a two-way (Michael Del Zotto?). As of now, the Iowa Wild can fit one more so-called “veteran” (other than a goalie, I believe).
Again, to see the updated Wild depth chart after the Cody Almond signing, see this blog (Almond signing was finally approved by the NHL last year; the league just had to review Almond’s out clause on his Swiss contract to make sure everything was kosher).
5. The goaltending situation remains the same. Flahr and/or Iowa GM Jim Mill will look to sign one more goalie soon to a two-way deal to play with Johan Gustafsson in Iowa. As for the NHL gigs, according to Fletcher, Niklas Backstrom continues to feel great, Josh Harding is having a good summer and Kuemper is feeling well after his concussions late in the regular season and the one in the playoffs. There’s a good chance the Wild will carry three goalies out of camp and let them battle it out for 1, 2 and 3 in camp. By carrying three goalies on a 23-man roster, the Wild would have to carry one less forward or defenseman. At Kuemper’s age though, if he’s not the No. 1, I can’t imagine the Wild will just let him ride caddy and not play games. Since he can be sent to the minors without waivers, if the Wild’s healthy in goal and he’s not the No. 1, there could be times he spends time in Iowa. As I have written before, this is a pretty inflexible situation. The Wild has three goalies on one-way contracts, so it’s not like it can just simply sign more goalies to one-way deals. That’s why the team wasn’t in on guys like Jonas Hiller and Ryan Miller.
6. I mentioned this last month, but while it’s not yet finalized, the Wild will likely return to Duluth for a third straight preseason. Typically, the Wild heads there after its final exhibition game for a few days of practice and team-bonding, and the schedule certainly works again. The Wild hosts St. Louis in the preseason finale Oct. 4 and opens the regular season Oct. 9 against Colorado. The players seem to enjoy the refreshing getaway right before jumping into the grind and the team is treated real well by the folks at UMD. Yeo and the brass will meet in the next few days to maybe finalize that and map out the Wild’s travel schedule. There are some in-season oddities. For instance, between Game 2 in Denver and Game 3 in Anaheim, there are five off-days, which may be excruciating for everyone involved so soon after a full training camp. The team will obviously come home after Denver, but Yeo and his staff will try to figure out how best to use those five days so soon after camp. My guess is the team heads out to California a few days early, which is perfectly fine with the beat writer. My Las Vegas and/or Maui suggestion so far hasn’t been accepted by the Wild hierarchy.
7. I’m glad for Dany Heatley that he was able to latch onto Anaheim. He gets a lot of flak leaguewide, but from my personal experience, it was great covering him the past three years. He treated me great and always with humor and respect – even on those occasions where I probably ticked him off with things I wrote.
8. Steve Ott, whom the Wild at least talked with a few weeks ago, signed a two-year deal with St. Louis today. The Ott to Minnesota interest really never made sense to me. I just didn’t see the role unless Kyle Brodziak was traded (which is still a possibility). But if you look at the depth chart, why would Ott sign in Minnesota if it was all but certain he would be a fourth liner here? It just never made a whole lot of sense unless Ott was completely desperate for a job. Looks like St. Louis re-signed Ott because hard-hitting, very good forward Vladimir Sobotka is reportedly ready to bail for the KHL.
9. Pierre-Marc Bouchard reportedly signed to play next season in Switzerland.
10. Wild winger Stephane Veilleux, who won’t make it to his buddy Mikko Koivu’s wedding because his wife is readying to give birth to their second child, is scheduled to defend his Smashfest Ping-Pong title in Toronto later this month. Here is the press release from the NHLPA:
Smashfest: Dominic Moore & Many NHL Players to Participate
In Charity Ping-Pong Event on July 24th in Toronto
Third annual fundraiser hosted by Dominic Moore to feature NHL players showcasing their Ping-Pong talents while raising money for concussion research and the Katie Moore Foundation
TORONTO (July 9, 2014) – NHL player Dominic Moore, forward for the New York Rangers, is proud to announce the third annual Smashfest – a fan-inspired event designed to showcase NHL players’ ping-pong skills while raising money and awareness for two important causes: concussions and traumatic brain injuries; and rare cancer research and advocacy.
Tickets for the 2014 event are on sale to the public at www.Smashfest.ca.
“Ping-pong is the theme of the night, but it's really just a party. Smashfest brings NHL players and guests together in a festive, fun atmosphere while supporting two important causes – research for concussions and rare forms of cancer,” said Dominic Moore, Smashfest host and New York Rangers forward.
WHAT: Smashfest: Charity Ping-Pong Challenge
WHERE: Steam Whistle Brewery, Toronto
WHEN: Thursday, July 24th, 6:30 PM ET
WHO: Dominic Moore (Host), and current / former NHL players including Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard, Alex Burrows, Mike Cammalleri, Logan Couture, Michael Del Zotto, Justin Falk, T.J. Galiardi, Mike Johnson, Curtis Joseph, Kevin Klein, Chris Kreider, Nick Kypreos, Steve Mason, Shawn Matthias, Jeff O’Neill, Teddy Purcell, Zac Rinaldo, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, Cam Talbot, Chris Tanev, Stephane Veilleux, Kevin Weekes and Ryan Whitney are scheduled to participate, along with more "ping-pong free agents" to be named later!
Through this one-of-a-kind event, fans attending Smashfest will have the opportunity to square off at the ping-pong table against NHL players; the chance to meet and interact with some of their favourite hockey players and other celebrities; and will be able to bid on one-of-a-kind silent auction items and prizes, while helping raise money for charity.
I'm in the middle of writing a meaty Wild blog with a lot of info and updates, but I figured I would get this up now.
I tossed this briefly into Thursday’s newspaper, but former popular Wild forward Andrew Brunette has officially been named an assistant coach along with Rick Wilson, Darryl Sydor and Darby Hendrickson.
In the past two years, Brunette has held the role of hockey operations advisor, a role that saw him work with GM Chuck Fletcher, work with the coaches and even scout. Last year, he predominately worked with the coaches, particularly on the power play. Next season, Brunette will work solely with the coaches. He’ll be in charge of the power play, and in fact, will likely join head coach Mike Yeo, Wilson and Sydor on the bench as a third assistant.
Previously, Brunette was an eye in the sky with Hendrickson, but Yeo feels having Brunette on the bench during games will provide further value, particularly on the power play. The Wild’s power play ranked 16th in the NHL last season, converting 17.9 percent of the time. That’s exactly where the Wild finished in 2012-13 when Brunette wasn’t running the power play.
As we get closer to training camp or in camp, I’ll sit down with Yeo and Brunette to discuss the power play further, but Yeo said at the draft that the coaches are spending a portion of this offseason working on the power play and discussing everything from personnel to concepts to the way it’s run.
Obviously, the hope too is that Thomas Vanek’s addition will help. Vanek has scored the third-most power-play goals (113) in the NHL since the start of the 2005-06 season. Of course, ex-Wild/now-Duck Dany Heatley ranks fourth at 112. Ahead of Vanek in that time? Alex Ovechkin at 151 and Teemu Selanne at 115.
In Wild history, Brunette ranks third in goals (119), fourth in assists (202) and points (321) and second in power-plays goals (55).
I talked to Brunette a little about this at the draft, but I wasn't able to get him Wednesday. He, along with a number of Wild peeps, was heading to Finland to attend Wild captain Mikko Koivu's wedding. My invitation must have gotten lost in the mail!
As I mentioned, I'll post another blog soon with a little bit of this and a lot of that.
As blogged about Monday, the Wild has signed center Cody Almond to a one-year, $550,000 contract. It will likely be announced at some point today.
It's a one-way deal, meaning the soon-to-be 25-year-old center has a real good shot at making next season's roster.
Almond, a fifth-round pick by the Wild in 2007, scored two goals for the Wild in 25 games over parts of three seasons before playing the past two seasons in Geneva, Switzerland. Last year, he broke out offensively, scoring 18 goals and 34 points in 44 games with 75 penalty minutes.
The Wild still owned Almond's NHL rights because he didn't sign as a restricted free agent in 2012, so if he wanted to again chase his NHL dream, he had to start off by returning to the Wild.
Almond is a 6-foot-2, 217-pound, left-shot center who can play wing. He hits, plays with an edge, skates well and is solid defensively. Coach Mike Yeo knows him well from their time together with the Houston Aeros. Basically, he provides depth and returns to the NHL a more mature, finished product.
Last month, Almond had signed a five-year deal to stay with Geneve Servette. Obviously, that changed.
Here is Monday's blog on Almond if you want to read a couple previous articles I wrote on Almond. Real nice kid.
I would think the restricted free agent signings start trickling in. But the Wild is still in the market for a big defenseman who can clear the front of the net and add a little physicality. If you look at the free agents available, they're not exactly stellar. So my sense is GM Chuck Fletcher is trying to make a trade.
Maybe it happens soon, maybe it doesn't. There's no real rush with training camp still more than two months away (Sept. 18).
UPDATED WILD DEPTH CHART
Here’s a look at how the Wild is shaping up to look like next season. This will change throughout the summer as the Wild add and delete players.
Remember, at some point, the Wild’s expected to acquire a physical defenseman to replace Clayton Stoner.
The depth chart is my opinion. Obviously, lines change, roles change, etc. There are interchangeable parts, and as I mentioned, I’d expect at least another defenseman.
In parentheses, each player’s cap hits with some assistance from the web site, www.capgeek.com. The restricted free agents will get signed eventually.
Left wing Center Right wing
Zach Parise ($7.5+M) Mikael Granlund (900K) Jason Pominville (5.6M)
Thomas Vanek ($6.5M) Mikko Koivu (6.75M) Charlie Coyle (900K)
Matt Cooke (2.5M) Erik Haula (900K) Nino Niederreiter (RFA)
Jason Zucker (RFA) Kyle Brodziak (2.83 M) Justin Fontaine (RFA)
Cody Almond (550K)
Vying for spots: Zucker, Almond, Stephane Veilleux (587,500), Brett Sutter ($600K), Michael Keranen (792,500), Joel Rechlicz (600K), Brett Bulmer (780K), Kurtis Gabriel (667K), Tyler Graovac (747,500), Zack Phillips ($863,333), Brady Brassart ($836,667), Raphael Bussieres ($759,167), Zack Mitchell (615K), Curt Gogol ($551,667).
Left Defense Right Defense
Ryan Suter (7.5+M) Jared Spurgeon (2.66M)
Marco Scandella (1.025M) Jonas Brodin (1.4+M)
Keith Ballard (1.5M) Christian Folin (925K)
Jon Blum (RFA)
Vying for spots: Folin, Blum, Stu Bickel (600K), Matt Dumba (894,167), Gustav Olofsson (795K), Guillaime Gelinas ($596,667), Colton Jobke ($551,667).
Niklas Backstrom (3.42M)
Josh Harding (1.9M)
Darcy Kuemper (RFA)
* Kuemper can be sent to the minors without waivers even if he receives a one-way deal.
Vying for spots: Johan Gustafsson (665K).
Total cap hit roughly: $54,837,758.
Available cap space: $13.46 million roughly (I based this on a $68.3 million salary-cap ceiling; NHL salary cap next season is $69 million, but the Wild will be charged a bonus overage of a little less than $700,000). Note, the $13.46 million excludes re-signing restricted free agents. Also, always take the available cap space number and subtract a few million because GM Chuck Fletcher will always try to leave space for injury callups and in-season acquisitions.
First and foremost, Bryan Murray, the longtime NHL coach and GM for Washington, Detroit, Florida, Anaheim and Ottawa, needs your well wishes and prayers. Bryan was diagnosed with cancer prior to the draft and will begin treatment this week. He's one of the great, funny guys in this sport, has given a ton to it and has been beyond instrumental to my career, teaching me the ins and outs of the game on and off the ice very early in my career when I covered the Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. I used to actually ghost-write his column that would appear weekly in our paper, and man, it was a learning experience.
Bryan's long been a mentor to his nephew, Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray, and of course Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr.
Fletcher was Bryan's assistant GM in Florida and Anaheim and Bryan pulled Flahr out of the ticket sales office in Florida, making him a scout, then bringing him to Anaheim before taking him to Ottawa as director of hockey ops.
I wish Bryan all the best. He'll battle through this like the tough cookie he is. My best to his wife, children, brothers, sisters, extended family and long list of pals.
Onward, if you didn't see the previous blog on Cody Almond's upcoming return to the Wild and possibly next year's team, check that out.
But the Wild's development camp roster and schedule was announced this morning.
Camp will take place Wednesday (July 9) to Monday (July 14) and will feature two scrimmages that are free and open to the public. The first scrimmage is Friday (July 11) at 2 p.m. at Braemar Arena in Edina and the second scrimmage is Monday (July 14) at 6:30 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
In addition to practices conducted by Iowa coach Kurt Kleinendorst and Director of Player Development Brad Bombardir, local skating instructors Barry Karn and Andy Ness will work with the players on skating, there will be other skill work, lots of off-ice training, nutrition instruction and fun activities outside the rink.
Some roster hopefuls for next season that will take part in the camp include Christian Folin, Matt Dumba, Michael Keranen, Kurtis Gabriel and Gustav Olofsson. Some top draft picks include Alex Tuch, Louie Belpedio, Mario Lucia, Zack Phillips and Raphael Bussieres. Some junior free-agent pickups that will take part are Guillaume Gelinas, Brady Brassart and Zach Mitchell. The only prospect I see missing is Pontus Sjalin, who was drafted last month. He was injured while training over the weekend. It's not said to be serious, but he would not be able to participate this week. Tyler Graovac has been to too many prospect camps. With the CBA now, a player is only eligible to come to three development camps (however, a player can request to come to additional ones).
Some interesting tryouts:
Tyler Sheehy (no relation to agent Neil Sheehy) – Burnsville kid that put up quality numbers this year in Waterloo (USHL).
Alex Iafallo – Future college free agent to watch. Solid freshman year for Duluth.
Reid Gardiner – Was highly ranked early in the season by Central Scouting but was not drafted.
Zach Palmquist – D-man from South Saint Paul that played in Minnesota State last year.
Hunter Warner – Eden Prairie kid that played in the USHL last year. Big tough kid but raw.
Gopher Vinni Lettieri (Lou Nanne's grandson) will also be in the house, as will Gophers backup goalie Michael Shibrowski.
2014 MINNESOTA WILD DEVELOPMENT CAMP NUMERICAL ROSTER
FORWARDS (26) HT WT SHOOTS BORN BIRTHPLACE 2013-14 TEAM LGE GP G A PTS PIM ACQ
34 Chase Lang 6-1 182 Right 9/13/96 Nanaimo, British Columbia Calgary WHL 68 10 15 25 52 EN/14
36 Michael Keranen 6-1 176 Left 1/4/90 Stockholm, Sweden Ilves Tampere Finland 52 17 35 52 47 FA/14
40 Tyler Sheehy 5-10 185 Right 11/20/95 Burnsville, Minnesota Waterloo USHL 49 21 28 49 4 INVITEE
41 Alex Iafallo 6-0 176 Left 12/21/93 Eden, New York U. Minn. Duluth NCHC 36 11 11 22 10 INVITEE
43 Mario Lucia 6-3 195 Left 8/25/93 Fairbanks, Alaska Notre Dame CCHA 40 16 15 31 12 EN/11
47 Zack Mitchell 6-0 184 Right 1/7/93 Caledon, Ontario Guelph OHL 67 31 52 83 40 FA/14
48 Christoph Bertschy 5-10 189 Right 4/5/94 Friburg, Switzerland SC Bern Swiss 37 6 8 14 10 EN/12
49 Raphael Bussieres 6-1 198 Left 11/5/93 Longueuil, Quebec Iowa AHL 61 5 14 19 51 EN/12
50 Vinni Lettieri 5-9 170 Right 2/6/95 Excelsior, Minnesota U. Minnesota Big 10 37 2 6 8 8 INVITEE
51 Reid Gardiner 5-11 185 Right 1/19/96 Humboldt, Saskatchewan Prince Albert WHL 70 22 22 44 39 INVITEE
52 Alex Tuch 6-3.5 218 Right 5/10/96 Baldwinsville, New York USNTDP USHL 26 13 19 32 36 EN/14
57 Adam Gilmour 6-4 192 Right 1/29/94 Albany, New York Boston College HE 39 7 12 19 10 EN/12
59 Eric Scheid 5-9 163 Left 5/5/92 Coon Rapids, Minnesota Penn State Big 10 36 11 9 20 10 INVITEE
61 Zack Phillips 6-0 194 Right 10/28/92 Fredericton, New Brunswick Iowa AHL 76 12 21 33 16 EN/11
62 Avery Peterson 6-3 200 Left 6/20/95 Grand Rapids, Minnesota Grand Rapids H.S. 27 37 30 67 8 EN/13
63 Kurtis Gabriel 6-4 214 Right 4/20/93 New Market, Ontario Owen Sound OHL 60 16 35 51 99 EN/13
65 Andrew Ryan 6-3 202 Left 1/15/94 St. John’s Newfoundland Halifax QMJHL 56 27 28 55 52 INVITEE
70 Adam Phillips 6-0 195 Right 8/11/90 Farmington Hills, Michigan UMass- Amherst HE 34 6 9 15 8 INVITEE
71 Brooks Bertsch 5-11 185 Right 5/10/90 Dubuque, Iowa St. Cloud State NCHC 36 3 3 6 8 INVITEE
73 Tanner Kero 5-11 175 Left 7/24/92 Hancock, Michigan Michigan Tech WCHA 40 15 10 25 16 INVITEE
76 Jessey Astles 6-2 205 Left 6/4/93 Coquitlam, British Columbia Tri-City WHL 50 11 9 20 67 INVITEE
78 Reid Duke 6-0 189 Right 1/28/96 Calgary, Alberta Lethbridge WHL 62 15 25 40 91 EN/14
79 Grant Opperman 6-0 185 Right 11/15/93 Wayzata, Minnesota Dartmouth ECAC 31 8 11 19 26 INVITEE
82 Olivier Archambault 6-0 190 Left 2/16/93 Le Gardeur, Quebec Quebec QMJHL 38 19 27 46 37 INVITEE
83 Brady Brassart 6-2 196 Right 6/15/93 Vernon, British Columbia Calgary WHL 70 35 50 85 94 FA/14
96 Pavel Jenys 6-2 198 Left 4/2/96 Brno, Czech Republic Brno Czech 29 2 0 2 4 EN/14
DEFENSEMEN (12) HT WT SHOOTS BORN BIRTHPLACE 2013-14 TEAM LGE GP G A PTS PIM ACQ
5 Christian Folin 6-3 210 Right 2/9/91 Gothenburg, Sweden UMass-Lowell HE 41 6 14 20 31 FA/14
38 Dallas Valentine 6-3 195 Right 5/28/96 Lousana, Alberta Moose Jaw WHL 69 3 11 14 44 INVITEE
42 Alex Gudbranson 6-2 204 Right 9/3/94 Orleans, Ontario Sault Ste. Marie OHL 66 7 8 15 76 INVITEE
44 Gustav Olofsson 6-4 191 Left 12/1/94 Boras, Sweden Colorado College NCHC 30 4 4 8 20 EN/13
55 Matt Dumba 6-0 183 Right 7/25/94 Regina, Saskatchewan Minnesota NHL 13 1 1 2 2 EN/12
Portland WHL 26 8 16 24 37
58 Dylan Labbe 6-2 194 Left 1/19/95 St. George, Quebec Shawinigan QMJHL 63 9 18 27 20 EN/13
60 Carson Soucy 6-5 200 Left 7/27/94 Viking, Alberta U. Minn. Duluth NCHC 34 0 6 6 60 EN/13
72 Hunter Warner 6-2 202 Right 9/21/95 Eden Prairie, Minnesota Waterloo/Fargo USHL 50 2 10 12 127 INVITEE
75 Zach Palmquist 5-11 175 Left 12/9/90 South St. Paul, Minnesota Minn. State Mankato WCHC 41 4 19 23 36 INVITEE
77 Guillaume Gelinas 5-10 185 Left 6/14/93 Quebec City, Quebec Val d’Or QMJHL 67 23 69 92 81 FA/14
80 Louie Belpedio 5-10 190 Right 5/14/96 Skokie, Illinois USNTDP USHL 53 7 13 20 24 EN/14
81 Tanner Faith 6-3 211 Right 10/5/95 Terrace, British Columbia Kootenay WHL 10 0 1 1 9 EN/14
GOALTENDERS (4) HT WT CATCHES BORN BIRTHPLACE 2013-14 TEAM LGE GPI W-L-OT SO GAA SV% ACQ
30 Kaapo Kahkonen 6-1 209 Left 8/16/96 Helsinki, Finland Espoo Finland Jr. 38 -- -- 2.39 .912 EN/14
84 Alexandre Belanger 6-1 184 Left 8/19/95 Sherbrooke, Quebec Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL 52 28-18-3 1 3.23 .881 EN/13
85 Brandon Whitney 6-5 208 Right 5/11/94 Kentville, Nova Scotia Victoriaville QMJHL 41 13-18-7 4 3.25 .906 INVITEE 86 Michael Shibrowski 6-1 199 Left 11/15/90 Andover, Minnesota U. Minnesota Big 10 5 2-1-0 1 2.34 .912 INVITEE
The Wild's on the verge of bringing back a familiar face.
Cody Almond, a fifth-round pick by the Wild in 2007, played the past two seasons in Geneva of the Swiss Hockey League.
But Almond is expected to re-sign with the Wild in the next few days, I have confirmed. The news was first reported by the Tribune deGeneve. Almond's decision to again chase his dream of becoming an NHL regular comes a few weeks after he signed a five-year contract to remain with his Swiss team.
This move comes two summers after the Wild couldn't reach a contract agreement with Almond, who was then an up-and-down minor leaguer who opted for a big contract in Switzerland.
At the time, it seemed a bit of an impatient move on Almond's part because he was just 22 and about to earn waiver rights, which would have given him a real good chance at making the following season's team.
But Almond is turning 25 later this month and by all accounts has developed into a pretty solid player. Over parts of three seasons, the Calgary native played 25 games for the Wild, scoring two goals in limited minutes on the fourth line. He's a big, left-shot center who can skate, hit, play with an edge and play wing, too. Last year, he broke out offensively with Geneva, scoring 18 goals and 34 points in 44 games with 75 penalty minutes.
For Almond to spurn a five-year deal with Geneva means he will likely be armed with a one-way contract from the Wild. That will give him an inside chance of making the team. Coach Mike Yeo knows him well from his time in Houston. Basically, he provides depth.
I added on a few Cody Almond articles from yesteryear. One is when he traveled almost 9,000 miles to play eight games in 10 nights -- four for Houston, four for Minnesota.
The other was in 2011 when Charles Barkley and Michael Strahan crashed the Wild's rookie dinner in Chicago.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
January 30, 2011 Sunday
MICHAEL RUSSO'S SUNDAY INSIDER;
The kids are all right;
Two sports superstars dropped in on the Wild's "rookie dinner," dispensing some advice with a little hazing mixed in.
BYLINE: MICHAEL RUSSO; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)
SECTION: SPORTS; Pg. 10C
LENGTH: 964 words
No matter what Cody Almond accomplishes in his hockey career, the Wild rookie always will consider singing for Charles Barkley and Michael Strahan "icing on the cake."
Last Sunday at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, Barkley, the former NBA great-turned-TNT commentator, and Strahan, the former New York Giants star defensive end-turned-Fox commentator, were dining at the same restaurant where the Wild was having its rookie dinner.
Wild center John Madden used to live in the same neighborhood as Strahan when Madden played for the Devils and Strahan for the Giants, so next thing you know, "Sir Charles" and the NFL's single-season sacks record-holder entered the room to, as defenseman Nick Schultz said, "hold court for two hours."
Barkley and Strahan told stories, especially about past rookie dinners during their careers. Rookie dinners are a pro sports tradition where the rookies buy the team dinner.
"Suddenly, Charles started getting all these crazy ideas in his head. I was just like, 'Oh man, here we go,'" rookie defenseman Jared Spurgeon said.
Yup, the rookie hazing of Spurgeon, Cody Almond and Clayton Stoner began.
"We gave a speech, told a joke, did three skits and sang a song," Almond said, laughing. "All the boys were howling pretty good and [Barkley and Strahan] were loving it, too," Almond said.
Spurgeon, who made his NHL debut on his 21st birthday Nov. 29, sang Travis McCoy's "Billionaire," where Spurgeon wants to be "on the cover of Forbes magazine, smiling next to Oprah and the Queen."
Guess the teammates' reaction on that one. "It was the first song that popped in my head, and the lyrics are pretty easy," Spurgeon said.
Almond, 21, did a scene from "Step Brothers" where Will Ferrell sings Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About" -- the scene where John C. Reilly tells him, "You've got to know, that's a voice of an angel ... a combination of Fergie and Jesus."
"I got a positive reaction from it," Almond said.
Stoner, Spurgeon said, couldn't think of a song so "he just told some joke."
For Spurgeon, the thrill of meeting Barkley and Strahan just adds one more unforeseen experience during a dream few months.
"At the start of the year, I was never expecting to be at my first NHL rookie party," he said. "It was just great to hang out with the guys, laugh, tell jokes, eat some good food and meet Charles Barkley and Michael Strahan."
Spurgeon shelled out $5,000 for his share of the check. "It was the most expensive meal I've ever paid for and probably ever will," Spurgeon said, laughing. "I'll be eating microwaveable dinners for the next little while to save up some money."
Almond "got off the hook" and didn't have to contribute to the dinner bill because he didn't play during his four-game call-up. He said Barkley and Strahan jabbed each other over Barkley's Taco Bell commercials and Strahan's Subway commercials.
"They're two of the funniest guys I've ever met in my life. Strahan kept calling Bruno [Andrew Brunette] the 'White Oprah,'" Almond said, in hysterics.
The two former athletes also gave Wild players sound advice, telling them to cherish team dinners like that one.
Barkley told the players that they have "hit the lottery" and "have the best jobs in the world and to appreciate what you've got every day, always have fun coming to the rink in the morning and really take advantage of it because your careers are short and when it's over, you're going to miss it every day," Almond said.
Barkley spent much of his career reminding everyone that, "I am not a role model."
But he made quite an impression on Almond. "This is a great year for my development," said Almond, drafted in the fifth round in 2007. "I'm on the same page with all of management and the coaching staff. I'm going to keep developing and learning in the AHL. But next year is my year. Hopefully, next year I'll be there in Minnesota the whole season."
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
November 15, 2010 Monday
Prospect's callup turns into a travel whirlwind 2.36.2 news hed rej hed righerej righerej
BYLINE: MICHAEL RUSSO; STAFF WRITER, STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul)
SECTION: SPORTS; Pg. 12C
LENGTH: 447 words
TAMPA, FLA. - Cody Almond slept in Sunday, waking up in Peoria, Ill., after 12 o'clock -- understandable considering the odyssey he's taken across North America the past 10 days.
On Monday -- providing he's not retrieved by the Wild again -- the Wild prospect will complete an exhausting schedule, flying from Chicago to Houston after playing Sunday in his fourth game in four nights, sixth in seven and eighth in 10.
That's even abnormal for an up-and-down minor-leaguer. The eight games consisted of four games with the Wild, four with the Houston Aeros.
"I'm ready to come up at any time, but it'll sure be nice to go home, get some clean clothes and sleep in my own bed for a change," Almond, 21, said.
Almond has been recalled and reassigned twice since Nov. 4, a whirlwind that's taken him from Houston to Minneapolis to Columbus to Vancouver (Abbotsford) to Minneapolis to Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale to Tampa to Chicago (Peoria) to, Monday morning, Houston.
That's 8,769 air miles.
"I'll tell you what, with the mileage, that might be a record," Aeros GM Jim Mill said. "It's excellent for career."
This season, Almond has played four games with the Wild totaling 24 minutes, 9 seconds, almost what the two-way center played Saturday alone in Peoria. The Wild decided it was best to return Almond to the Aeros after he played only 6 1/2 minutes at left wing Friday at Florida.
"There's positives and negatives to both," Almond said. "A lot of ice time [with Houston] will help me develop, but it also helps being called up just watching the guys and practicing up there and learning from the coaching staff."
Almond's 10 days traveling the continent was with very few clothes. When he found out he was being recalled, he was dropping off his girlfriend at the Houston airport. He didn't have time to return home and pack, so roommate Carson McMillan "threw a bunch of stuff in a bag for me" and rushed it to the airport.
"He's not the smartest packer," Almond said. "He didn't pack me [normal shoes]. All I have is flip-flops and dress shoes, and no coat. It's been a struggle, but I've made it work."
Almond has been wearing the same two suits, "and they've been under in the belly of the plane quite a few times, so I'm not looking too hot."
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