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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Brent Flahr on the Wild's weeklong development camp

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: July 13, 2013 - 5:01 PM
The Wild’s annual summer development came to a close this afternoon with a scrimmage in front of 2,600 fans at the X.
 
Andrew Brunette, JB Spisso and Doug Schueller (St. John’s University) severely outcoached Brad Bombardir, Barry Karn, Andy Ness and injured prospect Louis Nanne.
 
Things will be slowly down for the Wild in the next little while. It’ll be filling out Iowa in the next little while with a few depth signings. Restricted free agent Kyle Medvec has re-signed, assistant to the GM Jim Mill said, and Justin Fontaine, Carson McMillan and Tyler Cuma shouldn’t be too far behind.
 
The Wild will look to stand firm, and with so many free agents still out there, maybe look for a bargain here or there (two-way contract and pro tryouts) as the summer goes on.
 
--The NHL looks like it will release the regular-season schedules for all 30 teams Wednesday. I’m hearing the Wild opens the season Oct. 3 at home against … Dustin Brown and the Los Angeles Kings. Brown’s final regular-season game last season was against the Wild at the X … for some reason.
 
--The Wild should also announce its new Iowa Wild coach within the next few weeks. Aeros coach John Torchetti is heading to the Kontinental Hockey League to coach Sergei Fedorov’s team in Moscow.
 
--Fun scrimmage to watch today. The biggest “ohhhh” moment came when Matt Dumba, as is his MO, laid up Erik Haula with a clean open-ice hit to the chest as Haula waltzed into the offensive zone. Haula popped right back up thankfully. Good to see Daniel Gunnarsson, a 2012 fifth-round draft pick, live and in person. He is returning for his final year in Lulea this year, but the 6-foot-5 defenseman has a lot of tools. Big shot, very smart. Should be a good player ultimately in the NHL.
 
Dumba and Haula had good weeks. So did Raphael Bussieres, a 2012 second-rounder, who didn’t take part in today’s scrimmage because assistant GM Brent Flahr said he sustained a minor injury Friday morning.
 
Speaking of Flahr, the assistant GM talked to me today about some of the prospects, their weeks and their future:
 
“The guys we expected to be good have been good. Haula’s an older guy (22) and he’s come in here highly motivated and he’s performed very well, as has been Dumba. You see guys like Gunnarsson show some of things he can do, and he’s made strides physically to get stronger. Still has work to do, but you just look at him, you can see some of the skill set in his 6-5 frame and some of his offensive dimensions.”
 
Will he be physical? “No, I don’t think that’s part of his game, but when you’re 6-5, you can’t teach that and his ability to skate and shoot. Really slides along the offensive blue line well.
 
“There’s a spectrum of age groups here, and when you’re looking at guys like [Adam] Gilmour and [Tyler] Graovac, these guys have skill. They’re going to take time to build their bodies and get stronger, but they’re making strides. Some of the young guys, like [Kurtis] Gabriel is a big, physical guy. [Gustav] Olofsson’s been good in the drills, but he’s not participating in the scrimmage because of wrist surgery.”
 
--On Gabriel, the Wild will make a decision in training camp whether to sign (they can actually sign him at any time) and send him to Iowa or have him return to OHL Owen Sound, where he could be the big fish on campus. It’ll have to do with his Traverse City tournament and training camp and what his role/ice time would be in Iowa as opposed to Owen South: “[Assistant coach Rick Wilson] said the first time he saw him, he skates like [Milan] Lucic almost. He’s a big dude. Just crushes you. He’s really worked hard, great shape. This has been great for him, the power skating and edge work and so forth. He wants to turn pro. But if he goes back to Owen Sound, he’ll probably be a captain and play big minutes. We’ll see.”
 
Brett Bulmer, a 2010 second-rounder, didn’t skate this week because of a lingering injury. He did off-ice work. After spending nine games with the Wild two seasons ago, Bulmer played in Houston last year and had a tough year. First, he struggled, maybe being an eye opener after hoping to be in Minnesota. Then he had a bunch of injuries. Flahr: “And then we had [Jason] Zucker, [Charlie] Coyle, [Mikael] Granlund here, and [Zack] Phillips, and all these guys he’s contending with. We had a deeper team than we did two years ago, so he didn’t get his chance and then he kept battling injuries, first with his knees, and then a concussion. So he could never quite get going, but he’s a very, very young guy. He’s only played a half year of pro hockey. He’s younger than a guy like Erik Haula even. He’s been around our organization a little bit, but he’s still a guy that we have huge plans for. He’s 6-3, he’s up to 218 pounds. He’s top-3 in fitness again. He probably needs more seasoning, but we really want this type of player going forward. Whether it’s the next year or the next year, we’re going to make sure he gets there.”
 
On Phillips, a 2011 first-round pick: “I think Phillips has taken strides physically. He looks stronger. Skating is coming, and you can’t teach what he can do with the puck with his hands and vision. But he’s worked hard here, he’s been a leader, taking care of a lot of the guys and getting places. When we drafted him, we knew it would be a few-, three-, four-year process before getting there. But with his hockey sense, vision and skill, his upside is there.”
 
Flahr talked highly of Johan Gustafsson, who backstopped Sweden to gold at world juniors two years ago with Jonas Brodin and Johan Larsson. He will play in Iowa (third year of pro hockey) this season as the No. 2 to Darcy Kuemper.
 
Grand Rapids High’s Avery Peterson, a 2013 draft pick, had his family and high school hockey team here today. They roared when he scored in the shootout. He’ll play at Sioux City (USHL) next year and is close to choosing his college. Cue Flahr: “I thought first day of camp he looked like a fish out of water. A lot of it’s due to his strength, and probably nerves. But he made significant strides each day. Like he’s really worked hard, and he’s coming out of high school, so to this level of hockey, it’s a huge jump. But he has offensive instincts and an ability to score in some of the 3-on-3’s. But he’ll have to put some time in and get stronger. He’ll be a good skater once he does, but you can tell he’s not as physically strong as some of the others.”
 
Flahr really likes Olofsson, too, the Green Bay (USHL) second-round defenseman who is tentatively going to Colorado College in the fall. Portland of the WHL owns his rights and they’re apparently putting pressure on him to go there instead. No chance the Wild gets involved in that decision Olofsson will have to make. At the draft, Olofsson said his heart was with CC, so we’ll see.
 
Flahr was happy with a lot of the invitees and said the ones that don’t have to report to college will likely be invited back for Traverse City tournament.
 
“Great week,” Flahr said. “We use this camp primarily has a development camp rather than evaluation with a lot of the power skating, stick-handling and putting them outside of their comfort level and trying to work on the skills that they don’t usually get to work on. This is more of a release for them. They’re exhausted right now with all the stuff we’ve put them through.”
 
 

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