Kristopher Foucault and Darcy Kuemper highlight Minnesota Wild CHL prospects

By Peter Prohaska
Photo: Kristopher Foucault has had a strong start to his 2010-11 campaign despite playing for a struggling Hitmen team. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The Wild have a total of seven junior level prospects, six in the WHL and just one in the OHL. This season has been one marred by injuries for several prospects, but others are off to strong starts.

WHL

Brett Bulmer, RW, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired: 2nd Round (39th Overall) in 2010
April 26th, 1992, Ht: 6’3, Wt: 176 lbs.

With eight goals, six assist, and 44 penalty minutes in 22 games, Brett Bulmer is putting together a strong season, and he and the Rockets are starting to make some noise. A rough October team-wide has Bulmer sitting at a double-digit plus-minus. Bulmer’s underdeveloped two-way game might still be a bit of a problem, but as long as the goals start coming consistently, it won’t be as much of a hindrance.

The reason he looked like a bit of an early pick in last year’s draft was because he seemed to be missing a physical element necessary for a young man of his size. Bulmer’s developed a bit more of an edge to go with his other tools. The Wild were surely looking for a player who could develop into a power forward when they spent the second round pick, and so far Bulmer is on track to cover the bet.

Colton Jobke, D, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired: free agent, 2010
April 20th, 1992, Ht: 6’0, Wt: 170 lbs.

While Jobke has missed a few games in November with a shoulder injury, the assistant captain has been solid for the Rockets this season. Not a big point producer, but a solid defender. While the team struggled in October, Jobke ended at just minus-one. He obviously has the leadership capacity as evidenced by his assistant captaincy, and it just remains to be seen what if any offensive upside he may have as a defenseman. As it is, he has almost matched last season’s 69 game output in just 17 games with one goal and five assists.

Kristopher Foucault, LW, Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 4th Round (103rd Overall) in 2009
December 12th, 1990, Ht: 6’1, Wt: 203 lbs.

Kris Foucault has had a great junior career, especially relative to expectations. With this player, there is always the sense that you could be getting a little more though.

With 12 points for a Calgary team that is floundering, Foucault may have just found himself at another crossroads. The Hitmen traded top scorer Cody Beach (STL) and Mackenzie Royer for left-wingers Nathan MacMaster and Danny Gayle as well as goalie Brandon Glover, so Foucault must again prove where he belongs on the depth chart. With his size and finesse ability, he has to find a way to elevate his game even higher.

Darcy Kuemper, G, Red Deer Rebels
Acquired: 6th Round (161st Overall) in 2009
May 5th, 1990, Ht: 6’4, Wt: 196 lbs

Kuemper sits pretty comfortably atop the WHL with a 1.79 goals against average, 15 wins in 21 starts, three shutouts, and a .933 save percentage, all either leading or tied for tops in the league.

While this may be right in line with expectations for a third-year starter, Kuemper is proving that he has a bright career ahead of him. Last year’s numbers were pretty solid as well. He played in 61 games and registered a 2.73 GAA and .908 save percentage. He wasn’t great in the shootout, but that is sometimes on the shooters, and the Rebels were quite goal-challenged last year. The team is much improved so far, but then, so is their goalie, who is putting on an MVP performance.

Dylen McKinlay, RW, Chilliwack Bruins
Acquired: 7th Round (189th Overall) in 2010
April 20th, 1992, Ht: 5’11, Wt: 170 lbs.

McKinlay was injured by Kelowna Rockets’ defenseman Mitchell Chapman, who received a six game suspension for the kneeing incident. McKinlay has appeared in just eight games this season, registering three assists.

He plays a game based off speed and energy, and scored at a very good clip last year with 42 points (20 goals) in 72 games. Scouts liked McKinlay’s character quite a bit last year, and though he’s not an upper-level skill guy, he can skate, hit, and bring a good effort.

Josh Caron, D, Kamloops Blazers
Acquired: free agent, 2010
February 10th, 1991, Ht: 6’2, Wt: 203 lbs.

The other free agent signing of this fall, Caron suffered a broken clavicle against Chilliwack in October, but should be back by early December.

Caron started pretty slowly last season, but as it went on, his numbers reflect much steadier play from the big blueliner. Although he finished with just six points, he was also on the plus side of the ledger, and consistently so. You won’t get anything too spectacular from Caron, but that’s not the Wild way. He is also a very good fighter with a quick left jab who dropped the gloves 20 times last season. He in total racked up 190 penalty minutes last season, third highest in the league.

OHL

Bjorn Krupp, D, Belleville Bulls
Acquired: free agent, 2009
March 6th, 1991, Ht: 6’3, Wt: 200 lbs.

After a very trying 2009-10 season, Krupp seems to have settled into a leadership role for the Bulls. He has added weight to his big frame and been much less exposed in his own end. The Bulls have the worst offense in the OHL, so his minus-nine doesn’t stick out as badly as his minus-42 did last season. For the entire history of the Wild, the philosophy with defenders has been the bigger the better. Krupp will test the theory that adversity is also a good environment for development. With a decent pedigree (his Dad’s booming slapshot was the strike of midnight for Chuck Fletcher’s Cinderella Panthers in 1996), Krupp has some good indicators for success. He’s a player whose game is best served by simplicity, the bar for improvement is set low, and he’s getting plenty of minutes.