Wild's Wellman: California talent strikes goals

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 6, 2011 - 12:01 PM

Casey Wellman saw his stock slip as the Wild rebuilt its farm system, but now the former San Jose Junior Shark is making an impact.

hide

Wild forward Casey Wellman, chasing the puck against New Jersey last Friday, has two goals and an assist in two games since being recalled from Houston of the AHL. “His quickness has been a big positive, and he’s all over the puck and he’s going to the net,” linemate Matt Cullen said.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

SAN JOSE, CALIF. - On March 16, 2010, Casey Wellman chose the Wild over two dozen other suitors.

The college free agent, a sniper at UMass, immediately catapulted to the top of the Wild's lonely prospect list.

That was two months before the Wild drafted Mikael Granlund, Brett Bulmer, Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker. That was a year before Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips were drafted, a year before the Wild traded for Charlie Coyle.

So Wellman soon was the forgotten man. With the prospect pool deepening, Wellman had been all but written off ... until resurfacing recently with big goals in the past two Wild victories.

His confidence, after a tremendous start to his season with the minor league Houston Aeros, is soaring. And that's good timing, since the Brentwood, Calif., native will be back home Tuesday night. He grew up in the San Jose Junior Sharks system, and will play inside the Shark Tank for the first time against his favorite team as a kid.

"I used to go on the ice during intermissions of Sharks games and play," said Wellman, 24, whose favorite Sharks player was former Wild teammate Owen Nolan. "Those were really fun. You'd score a goal, and when you hear your name on the intercom as a 7-year-old, that was awesome."

Even more awesome? Wellman's parents will watch him play in person for the first time since he signed with the Wild.

Brad, a former major league infielder, and Jodi Wellman came to Minnesota the day after Casey signed in 2010, but he didn't play that first game and his parents had to return home after spending the previous 10 days in Massachusetts. Last year his parents flew to Houston but, as bad luck would have it, Wellman was injured and didn't play.

Family time

"It's going to be pretty exciting," said Wellman, who expects to also play in front of his brother, sister-in-law, nephew, grandmother and a handful of cousins. "I haven't seen my family in a long time, and my parents sacrificed a ton for me to get to this level."

He was away from California because of the Aeros' long drive to the Calder Cup Finals, a run that included several clutch goals from Wellman, who had a Game 7 breakaway with 1:21 left to beat Milwaukee. He returned to California for only a month before showing up in Minnesota in July because he decided that if he was going to invest himself into becoming a better player, he needed to spend the summer working out with Wild teammates.

Wellman didn't make the Wild out of training camp, but the hard work paid off. He was seventh in the American Hockey League with 11 goals when recalled Nov. 27.

"As much as you don't want to be down in Houston -- you want to be up here -- it was good for me last year to go down and play for [now Wild coach] Mike Yeo," Wellman said. "He really helped me develop my game with battles and being harder on the puck, and Torch [new Aeros coach John Torchetti] has continued that."

Like most collegians learning the pro game, it took Wellman awhile to learn that only cream-of-the-crop goal scorers such as Dany Heatley can routinely beat goalies with shots from the tops of the circles or off the rush. Most goals in the NHL come from near the blue paint, and that's where Wellman scored with the Aeros.

And where his only two NHL goals have come from.

Improving at Houston

"His quickness has been a big positive, and he's all over the puck and he's going to the net," Wild linemate Matt Cullen said. "He stops at the front, too. A lot of guys peel off, but he's not afraid to get in the dirty areas."

Yeo worked hard last season with Wellman, stressing being better without the puck and being stronger carrying the puck, to eliminate turnovers. He is utilizing his speed better, both when he has the puck and when he needs to support his linemates.

But two good games don't make an NHL career.

"Most players have to hone their craft in the minors, so it's still a process for him," Aeros General Manager Jim Mill said. "You don't have two or three good games and score a couple goals and just 'make it.' It's fluid, just like when he was reassigned this year -- he wasn't earmarked as an American Leaguer either."

So, Wellman is not officially a full-time NHLer. He's a day-to-day NHLer, and one of those days will be when the born-and-bred Californian returns to his home rink.

Wellman is one of four active California-born players in the NHL, and one of 27 in league history. Maybe he can be a trailblazer for young Sharks fans, showing a former San Jose Junior Shark can play in the big show.

"I love California," Wellman said. "I'm proud I'm from here and playing hockey. Hockey is definitely getting bigger and bigger, and hopefully people here are excited for me."

  • related content

  • Boogaard's brain ravaged by blows

    Monday December 5, 2011

    Scientists were shocked by the extent of damage to former Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died in May at age 28.

  • Homecoming for the Wild

    Tuesday December 6, 2011

    The new NHL format means that starting next season, Minnesota will leave the Northwest and rejoin such regional foes as Chicago and Detroit.

  • wild casey wellman Up next: 9:30 tonight at San Jose • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)
  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close