In a stunner, when USA Hockey announces its invitees for world junior selection camp this afternoon, Alex Tuch won't be one of the players invited.
The Wild prospect and 2014 first-round pick was delivered the disappointing news this past weekend. I talked to Tuch a few weeks ago when the Wild was heading to Boston and he talked about how desire to win gold this winter.
I talked to assistant GM Brent Flahr this morning and he said Wild Director of Player Development Brad Bombardir talked to Tuch yesterday to reiterate that this news doesn't change the Wild's opinion of him as a prospect.
The Boston College sophomore forward has had a slow start. He is tied for sixth in scoring with 12 points in 15 games. He has 30 shots and is plus-11 for the Eagles. Last season, he became the team’s first leading scorer as a freshman in 42 years (Richie Smith – 1972-73) with 28 points.
I am told Wild prospect Louis Belpedio, a Miami University defenseman, will be invited by USA Hockey, but unfortunately the Tuch news overshadows this. Tuch injured his knee during summer camp in Lake Placid and played for the U.S. last year at world juniors, so this is a surprising decision that I don't think USA Hockey plans to address.
It's not the end all, be all. Matt Dumba was cut from two Canadian world junior camps and looks like he has a long NHL career ahead of him.
Center Joel Eriksson Ek, the Wild’s 2015 first-round pick, was invited to Sweden’s camp Monday, as was goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, a 2014 fourth-round pick, by Finland. Goalie Ales Stezka, a 2015 fourth-rounder, was invited to the Czech Republic’s camp, while left wing Kirill Kaprizov, a 2015 fifth-rounder who is having an outstanding start to his Kontinental Hockey League career, is expected to play for Russia.
The Wild is skating now in Denver. Again, if you didn't see today's article here, Devan Dubnyk is out for at least tonight's game with a strained groin. Darcy Kuemper, who shut out the Avs in this arena last season in one of the Wild's four shutouts over Colorado in the past seven meetings, gets his fourth start of the season one game after his first win of the season in relief of Dubnyk.
Niklas Backstrom will dress and back up for the first time this season.
No lineup changes expected for the Wild, meaning Mike Reilly sits. Unlikely the Wild would give a rookie defenseman his NHL debut when the team has won three consecutive games, allowing one goal in that stretch with consecutive shutouts.