Minnesota has a total of eight prospects playing in North American junior leagues. Among them is the team’s top prospect Tyler Cuma, who is struggling to get back to form this season with the Ottawa 67’s. Several prospects, including 2009 draftees Matt Hackett and Erik Haula, are having outstanding seasons. Others such as goaltender Darcy Kuemper are finding the start to their 2009-10 season more difficult.
Marco Scandella, D – Val d’Or Foreurs
Acquired: 2nd round (55th overall), 2008
February 23rd, 1990, 6’2 190Lbs
After spending some time at Wild training camp, Scandella did not have much to look forward to upon being sent back to the QMJHL for one more season. Val d’Or seemed be destined for the bottom of the standings, which is almost where they find themselves now. The Val d’Or captain has however made the best of the situation. From a development standpoint, Scandella has been utilized in a great deal on the penalty kill as well as on the power play. He is on pace to set a personal bests in all scoring categories. A testament to how well he has played this season is his plus/minus. He is currently +8 on a bad hockey club. Scandella recently was forced to skip both the QMJHL Super Series games due to an illness.
Tyler Cuma, D – Ottawa 67’s
Acquired: 1st round (23rd overall), 2008
January 19, 1990, 6’1 180lbs
Minnesota’s top prospect started off the season on the right foot. At Minnesota’s training camp, Cuma played very well despite losing most of the previous season to a knee injury. He didn’t seem to be rusty at all and managed to get steadily better as camp went on. He was eventually a late cut and returned to the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. Upon his return the 19-year-old was named the team’s captain.
Cuma’s first several games of the season went well. He was plus in his first four games and had a two-point night against the Spitfires on Oct. 2. Since early October though, things have gone straight down hill. Cuma played over a month of minus hockey and only managed two assists during that time (total 16 games). He also sat four games as a result of a suspension. He has looked lost and unsure of himself on the ice at times, something very uncharacteristic for the first-round pick. In fairness, he is not the only Ottawa 67 underachieving this season.
Despite his lackluster season, Cuma was named to the OHL’s Subway Super Series squad. Cuma will also most certainly be invited to Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp in December. Last season, he went into the selection camp as a near lock to make the team until he discovered his season-ending knee injury. This year given his poor season so far, Cuma finds himself in a dog fight for a roster spot with Team Canada.
Matt Hackett, G – Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 3rd round ( 77th Overall), 2009
March, 07, 1990, 6’2 170lbs
Going into the 2009 NHL Entry draft, the Wild had a clear lack of goaltending in their system. GM Chuck Fletcher went a long way to solving this problem by picking up Plymouth’s Matt Hackett in the third round.
Hackett got an early start to the 2009-10 hockey season when he participated in Team Canada’s national junior team summer camp. He was one of four goaltenders invited to camp and the only one from the OHL. Thus far this season, of the four goalies at the camp only Kings prospect Martin Jones has out performed Hackett. He stands a fair chance of being one of the two netminders on Team Canada come December.
Hackett’s OHL season so far has been a busy one. The 19-year-old has played in 19 games for the Whalers been bombarded with an average of nearly 40 shots per start. Of the top 10 goaltenders in the OHL, Hackett has by far faced the most shots among them. Fittingly, he leads the league with a save percentage of .928. His play this season is a major reason why the Plymouth Whalers sit in the top ten in the OHL standings. For his efforts, Hackett was named the CHL Goalie of the week for the week ending Oct. 25. He was also named to the OHL Super Series team along with Cuma.
Bjorn Krupp, D – Belleville Bulls
Acquired: Free agent, 2009
March 06, 1991, 6’2 189lbs
After a successful stint at the Wild training camp, Krupp returned to the OHL’s Belleville Bulls this season armed with a newly-signed NHL entry-level contract. The Bulls currently sit one point out of the league basement after 24 games played. In those 24 games Krupp finds himself at a dismal -17, worst on the team. Although not expected to contribute much scoring, his total of zero goals and only five assists is still low. Both Krupp and Belleville have a lot of digging to do to get out of the early hole they are in this season.
Darcy Kuemper, G – Red Deer Rebels
Acquired: 6th Round (161st overall), 2009
May 5, 1990, 6-4 195Lbs
Kuemper entered the 2008-09 season with little to lose. He was pegged to be the team’s backup and thus had far less responsibility than designated starter Morgan Clark. Kuemper came out of nowhere and quickly won the No. 1 job away from the Vancouver prospect. This season, the full weight of the Red Deer Rebels rests on Kuemper’s shoulders as he is the clear starting goalie for the squad.
With a weak team in front of him, the native of Saskatoon has looked very ordinary. His 6-11 record, .882 save percentage and 3.78 GAA tells the tale. Unlike Hackett. Kuemper simply hasn’t been able to step up and win the Rebels any games on his own. Unless something gives, the Rebels along with Kuemper are going to find the rest of the season very long.
Kristopher Foucault, LW – Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 4th round (103rd overall), 2009 by MIN
December 12th, 1990, 6-0 202lbs
After breaking onto the WHL scene last season and being drafted by the Wild in the fourth round, a lot was expected of Kristopher Foucault this season. The young forward has looked good through his 24 games with Calgary, although he hasn’t really kept up with his scoring pass of last season’s playoffs. Right now, the Calgary Hitmen are one of the deepest teams in the CHL. As a result, Foucault isn’t seeing as much ice time as he may deserve, especially on the power play. Nevertheless, having the opportunity to play on a winning hockey team and getting the opportunity to play deep into the playoffs can only help his development.
Anthony Hamburg, C – Omaha Lancers
Acquired: 7th round (193rd overall), 2009
August 30, 1991, 6’1 190lbs
Hamburg is in the middle of a season long learning process with the Lancers. Not known for being an overly physical or defensive-minded player, Hamburg finds himself this season on a team that prides itself on being hard-working and solid at both ends of the ice. Hamburg has fared better than expected this season but has struggled to find the kind of ice time he has been accustom to thus far in his career. In 14 games with the club, he has six points. Both of his goals have come on the power play.
Erik Haula, LW — Omaha Lancers
Acquired: 7th round, (182nd overall), 2009
March 23, 1991, 5’11 170lbs
Last summer’s seventh-round pick is having a remarkable season with the Omaha Lancers. Haula currently sits third in league scoring with 20 points and second in plus/minus behind only Matt White, also of the Lancers. On Nov. 6, Haula broke out for six points against Waterloo. His strong efforts every night and his uncanny scoring touch have helped the Lancers to the top of the USHL standings this season.