Injuries hit CHL prospects for Minnesota Wild

By Peter Prohaska
Photo: Kristopher Foucault suffered through an underwhelming season in the WHL. He will however be given every chance to redeem himself at the professional level next season. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

Most of the Wild’s junior prospects fit the utilitarian mold of the Wild’s system, but seemed to suffer injuries at all levels and in all leagues this season. While Darcy Kuemper dominated competition during the regular season in the WHL, he too eventually caught the curse.

WHL

Brett Bulmer, LW, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired: 2nd Round, 39th overall 2010


Somewhat of a surprise pick for the second round, scouts felt that Bulmer’s growth would likely continue. Instead, he had just slight improvement in his scoring numbers, but regressed in other areas. He tallied 18 goals and 49 points to finish out of his team’s top five, and carried a minus-13 that was an anomaly among his teammates. Bulmer gets credit for playing tough minutes in a checking role, but he was also second on the team in penalty minutes. Taken together, it suggests he wasn’t all that effective as a checking wing.

Bulmer still needs to fill out, but cannot afford to lose the speed which is his best asset. He was a little better in the playoffs, scoring four goals and two assists in the team’s ten game run. It would probably be in his best interest to play another year in the WHL.


Dylen McKinlay, RW, Chilliwack Bruins
Acquired: 7th Round, 189th overall 2010

McKinlay sustained a tough knee injury early in the season. The time missed and spent recovering his game hampered his ability to improve on a good season in 2010. Over 55 games he scored only six goals and 20 points. His playing style is dependent on his skating and checking, and so a somewhat poor minus-16 mark and 60 penalty minutes can be chalked up to a bit of a lost step in the early going.

Kristopher Foucault, LW, Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 4th Round, 103rd overall, 2009

Calgary suffered through an atrocious downfall this season, finishing last in the league after a Memorial Cup appearance last season. Foucault held steady as the scoring numbers go and at this late stage, that has to be considered a disappointment. He scored 25 goals and 48 points over 65 games to lead his team. It was clear that Calgary’s offseason losses would have the team in a tough position, but that is when an older player like Foucault can really step it up. Despite not blowing away expectations, the Wild signed him to an amateur try-out contract at the end of Calgary’s season. Foucault does have the good hands and tricky shot that initially enticed the scouting staff, and in an offensively thin organization, he may yet find his chance.


Josh Caron, D, Kamloops Blazers
Acquired: Free Agent, September 2010

The pugnacious southpaw Caron only got into 27 games in 2010-11 due to a broken collarbone. He still racked up 47 minutes in penalties, but wasn’t able fully to play his role as an effective defender. He scored a goal and an assist. The Blazers also failed to qualify for the postseason. Caron joined the Aeros, but has yet to see game play. He doesn’t have a lot in the way of offensive upside, but can be a very dependable, aggressive defender. Caron offers more good blue line depth for the Aeros.

Colton Jobke, D, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired: Free Agent, September 2010

Jobke watched his team’s last game of the season from the press box, serving a one game suspension on a boarding from behind incident. The assistant captain of the Rockets was extracting some measure of revenge, and reasonable observers may differ as to the value of that maneuver. Jobke is a serviceable defender whose offensive contributions are minimal. He did better his regular-season effort from last year with ten points (one goal) in just 51 games, but was held off the scoresheet in the playoffs.


Darcy Kuemper, G, Red Deer Rebels
Acquired: 6th Round, 161st Overall 2009

There’s no getting around the fact that Kuemper and the Rebels completely self-destructed against Medicine Hat in the second round of the playoffs. It’s the memory that will linger and it raises questions that were mere afterthoughts after the regular season. Kuemper may have injured his ankle during the pre-game skate of game one, but he was shelled in consecutive games before being scratched for injury over the next three. Putting those games aside, he was by far the top goaltender in the WHL and quite arguably the CHL this season.

He posted a 1.86 goals against average and .933 save percentage, with 45 wins and 13 shutouts. Although the team’s success surely owes something to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kuemper played an even greater role in its somewhat improbable success this season. Although the eventual awards will be a bitter reminder of what might have been for the Rebels, they do indicate a player who has battled his way to the top of his field for now. The Wild organization has a bit of a fiscal conundrum for next season, but Kuemper will likely challenge for the starter’s role in Houston alongside Dennis Endras.

OHL

Bjorn Krupp, D, Belleville Bulls
Acquired: Free Agent, September 2009

This was another tough-looking season for Krupp, posting eleven points (one goal) and a minus-35 mark over 61 games. The Bulls did not have a plus player this year and even leading scorer Andy Bathgate (PIT) was minus-30.

After the Bulls were swept by Mississauga, scoring only one goal in the series, Krupp went over to Germany to join Köln, where his father Uwe is head coach. The young defenseman was subsequently lent to Duisberg of the Regionalsliga (Third Division) for next season. Krupp was born in the States, but after what had to be a frustrating junior career, perhaps some time in Europe is the best career path for him at this time. Krupp has a good frame, and increasingly played tough minutes in a good league. The Wild have been keeping an eye on Germany already, so Krupp won’t slip entirely off the radar with another year and change on his entry-level deal.