Tyler Graovac, Brett Bulmer, Mike Reilly and Tyson Strachan are fighting for one or two spots on the Wild roster.
But those four not only survived the Wild’s giant round of roster cuts Sunday, coach Mike Yeo said they earned the opportunity to travel to Duluth after Sunday’s exhibition game against Winnipeg for three days of team-building and practice.
The Wild cut 17 players. It placed Ruslan Fedotenko, Zac Dalpe, Brett Sutter and Jared Knight on waivers. If they clear Monday, they will be assigned to the American Hockey League affiliate in Des Moines. The Wild also assigned 13 others to Iowa: Kurtis Gabriel, Gustav Olofsson, Michael Keranen, Zack Mitchell, Zach Palmquist, Christoph Bertschy, Brady Brassart, Matt Carey, Maxime Fortunus, Marc Hagel, Leland Irving, Dylan Labbe and Kevin Lalande.
That trims the roster to 27. It’s really 26 because minor-leaguer Grayson Downing is injured. The maximum roster is 23 by Oct. 6, so if the Wild carries three goalies and such players as Jordan Schroeder, Christian Folin and Nate Prosser make the team as expected, Graovac, Bulmer, Reilly and Strachan are conceivably vying for one spot.
However, right wing Justin Fontaine could miss the start of the season for the second year in a row because of a training-camp injury. And Schroeder only played seven shifts during Sunday’s 8-1 win because of a “lower-body” injury.
Graovac has kept getting better, and Yeo said the plan was for Reilly to go to Duluth all along and “to give him as much an opportunity to be around our group, to learn things and to show what he can do before we come to any kind of decision on him.”
Yeo said Strachan, 30, who has played 184 games for four teams, “earned it.” He has added a physical dimension every exhibition game and “you can tell he’s a pro,” Yeo said.
The biggest notable is Bulmer, the 2010 second-rounder who worked hard to get back into the team’s good graces.
“He’s just taken a step,” Yeo said. “So far he’s looking like he could be a player.”
The Wild isn’t the toughest team up front, and Bulmer adds a high-quality skater with an edge at foward.
“He’s still got to get better. I want to make that very clear,” Yeo said. “I’d like to see a little more pace in his game, but he’s doing a lot of things we would be looking for in that type of role in terms of finishing checks, being strong on the puck and managing the puck the right way. If he continues to do that, then he’s giving himself a great chance.”
Yeo said at least bringing Bulmer to Duluth is “a good pat on the back for him. He’s put in the work this summer.”
Said Bulmer: “It’s day-to-day for me. I’m not going to take anything for granted. Every day I’m going to put in the work and make sure I’m still here.”