SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN – Five years after being the first of three second-round picks taken by the Wild in the 2010 draft, there are many reasons Brett Bulmer has been passed on the Wild depth chart.
First and foremost, assistant GM Brent Flahr said, “His injury list has been brutal. He’s not only missed a lot of hockey during the year, he’s missed a couple summers of training, too, which has set him back. It’s a clean slate. People forget he just turned 23. We have to get him back to where he was.”
“Where he was” would be junior hockey, when he had 34 goals and 62 points for Kelowna in 2011-12. He has scored only 19 goals and had 24 assists in 153 games of minor league play.
Bulmer came to training camp with a fresh attitude. Saturday against the Oilers, he played his third preseason game. Even though he may not survive Sunday’s expected hefty round of cuts, he got back onto the team’s radar.
“He does a lot of things that are really intriguing for us, for the type of player we could be looking for in terms of puck control, big body, can bring a physical, almost a nasty side to him sometimes,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Bulmer’s goal was to get back into the Wild’s good graces after a refreshing summer in which he won a gold medal playing for Canada’s inline hockey team at the world championships in Finland. He had 12 points in six games and called it a “trip of a lifetime.”
“It was actually really good for me coming into this year,” Bulmer said. “It’s something I needed because it was such a positive week.”
Bulmer said the last several years were challenging. He played nine games for the Wild before being returned to the Western Hockey League in 2011. His development since stalled.
“Times are tough sometimes, but I tried to work through it and this is a fresh slate now,” Bulmer said. “I want to get back to where I anger the opposition and be tough to play against. That’s what will get me here.”
Added Flahr, “He’s a big body. He needs to play with energy and speed. He’s a 6-3 right winger that has some jam and can skate. He is too young and has too much ability to just give up on him. But he has been bypassed by guys. So he has to pick it up.”
Kuemper stands out
Playing in his hometown of Saskatoon and behind an unmanned Wild team, Darcy Kuemper stopped 27 of 29 shots in the Wild’s 3-0 loss to the Oilers.
Kuemper made a number of stellar saves and held June’s No. 1 overall pick, Connor McDavid, to a single assist, earned when he stole a puck from Matt Dumba before an Anton Slepyshev goal.
The Wild dressed a lineup with only Marco Scandella and Erik Haula as players who played the entire season last year with the Wild, and five players certain to make the opening night roster.
A team takes shape
Saturday was the final chance for most players to make an impression. The Wild plans to play most of its NHL lineup Sunday against Winnipeg and Thursday against Buffalo.
“I think that’s real important special teams-wise and just for whether it’s chemistry or helping you get to your game,” Yeo said. “We want it to look as close to our group for opening night as we’re going to have.”
One player who will get to play Sunday is center Tyler Graovac, who still has a chance to make the Wild.
The Wild will also look to see if there are any appealing names on waivers this final week as teams try to send players to the minors. But Yeo felt a lot of Iowa-bound players showed this training camp they can play games for the Wild this season.
“There’s been some guys that have helped themselves,” Yeo said.
Sunday’s Wild-Jets game at 5 p.m. can be seen live on NHL Network.