Defenseman Tyler Cuma, four years after the Wild drafted him in the first round in 2008, will make his long-anticipated NHL debut tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.
He'll be the 46th Wild player this season, 15th rookie and ninth to make his debut. He'll be the first No. 65 in Wild history. Cuma nearly made his debut at Phoenix last month, but he missed his flight due to very little time between landing from Vancouver and his flight to Phoenix. The problem was he had to leave the terminal to get his bag and re-checkin.
Yesterday, he got the call at 2:30 p.m. to catch a 5 o'clock flight. But he had to get his gear from the practice facility -- an hour from the airport. He got to the airport around 4 and "thankfully it wasn't busy and I walked right through."
"I was flying down the highway making sure I didn't miss this flight this time around," Cuma said. "With the last couple years the way things have gone for myself, fortunately so far this year I've had a full season down in the AHL. I've played a lot of games in a lot of situations to get me ready for this. I've been waiting for this call for a long time."
Here's that unedited notebook lead from the time:
By MICHAEL RUSSO
GLENDALE, ARIZ. – Tyler Cuma’s long-awaited NHL debut … will have to wait.
The 2008 first-round pick went from nervous excitement to sheer disappointment Thursday when his chance to make his NHL debut at Phoenix was thwarted by missing a plane.
After playing with the Houston Aeros in Abbotsford, British Columbia, on Wednesday night, Cuma flew from Vancouver to Houston on Thursday morning. But in Arizona, defenseman Jared Spurgeon woke up in the wee hours of the morning with the flu.
So when Cuma landed in Houston shortly before 2 p.m., he got the call to get his gear from United baggage claim and rush to US Airways for a 3 p.m. flight to Phoenix.
“I never made it to check-in,” Cuma said. “It just wasn’t enough time to get from A to B. Tough luck, really.”
Cuma, 22, was drafted 23rd overall in 2008. He has watched 2008 second-round pick Marco Scandella skyrocket by him up the depth chart because of an exorbitant amount of injuries. Three of them were to his left knee – the last coming during the Aeros’ game against Peoria at Xcel Energy Center a year ago when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
“I know the last couple of years I’ve been pretty much written off with all the injuries that I’ve had, but I’ve been really pleased this year,” Cuma said. “I’ve gotten a lot of opportunity to play and my knee hasn’t hurt whatsoever. I’ve been happy the way I’ve been playing lately.
“To finally get called up, unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it, but it gives me confidence that my game is where it needs to be. Hopefully I’ll get a game or two up there soon.”
Clayton Stoner is out with an upper body injury and probably won't play the season finale.
As Cuma alluded to in the above story, he's considered a bust because we haven't seen him yet and Marco Scandella, the second-round pick in the same draft, has catapulted past him in terms of development. But Cuma has suffered myriad injuries in his career, including a torn ACL last year, so this will give him a big taste going into a big summer.
Here is Mike Yeo's quote on Cuma PRIOR to the Phoenix game:
“I thought that coming back into training camp that he didn’t have the same jump and the skating, it looked like he lost a bit of a step, which is completely normal,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo, who coached Cuma last year in Houston. “It takes time to get it back, and from what I understand, he’s been doing a good job of that and playing really well down there.
“Last year for us, he came in as a young kid and really had to change his game a little bit. He was able to get away with a lot of things in junior that he wasn’t able to in pro, and he had a great attitude for us and really started to become an effective, really strong two-way defenseman.”
The Wild had an optional skate this morning. Mikko Koivu, who didn't practice yesterday, did skate, so he will play.
Josh Harding, a free agent this summer, will start. Could this be his last start of his Wild career?
Kyle Brodziak will wear the Dany Heatley style visor tonight, the one that looks like a welding shield. His entire left side of his face has swelled up.