Wild AHL prospects update

By Gregory Maker

Houston Aeros mainstays over the last few seasons Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns, Kyle Wanvig and Derek Boogaard are all currently up with the Minnesota Wild. But Houston has the AHL’s fifth-best offense, a department the team suffered greatly in all of last season. The Aeros had only one player with 50 points last season and no one with more than 25 goals.

The Aeros are 19-8-1-1 thus far and looking to be a real contender in the always-competitive West Division. Houston finished fourth in the division last season and lost to eventual conference champion Chicago in five games in the first round of the playoffs.

Goaltenders

Josh Harding
Drafted: 38th, 2002
Height/Weight: 6’1, 185 lbs.

In his second season, Harding has taken over as the starter for the Aeros. Although his numbers have cooled off somewhat, Harding has been asked to carry a heavy load for a depleted Houston team and is a big reason the Aeros are in first place in the West Division. Harding is 14-6-0 with a 2.58 GAA and a .921 save percentage. He missed five games in late October and early November with a “lower body injury”. Partner Seamus Kotyk has played just nine games with a 3.23 GAA and .893 save percentage.

After a rookie campaign with a 21-16-3 record including six straight wins to end the season, Harding played a big role leading the team to a playoff berth. Harding helped the Aeros to seventh overall in team goals against in 2004-05.

Defensemen

Clayton Stoner
Drafted: 79th, 2004
Height/Weight: 6’4, 228 lbs.

The well-built rookie enters the AHL after three seasons with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. So far he has been a success. Stoner, a crease clearing defenseman, can chip in a bit offensively as well. He has 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) in 29 games this season and a +4 rating.

Stoner is taking an aggressive role in Houston and has 42 penalty minutes. He is learning how to use his size to his advantage at the next level. With a faster game in the pros, Stoner, a second team all-star in the WHL last season, needs to find ways to improve his skating to keep up.

Erik Reitz
Drafted: 170th, 2000
Height/Weight: 6’1, 205 lbs.

Reitz returns for a fourth season of AHL action for the Houston Aeros. A sixth round selection by Minnesota in their first ever NHL entry draft, Reitz has 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) in 25 games. Reitz only appeared in 38 games last season after injuring his elbow in a fight against Milwaukee’s Jordin Tootoo last season. Reitz is only one of two players who remain from Houston’s 2003 Calder Cup Championship team. The other, Curtis Murphy won the Calder Cup the following season in Milwaukee.

Reitz, 23, is not afraid to drop the gloves and has 52 penalty minutes. Last season he finished with 91. Reitz has played in 192 career AHL games to date. Reitz is on pace to set a career high in points this season.

Ryan Stokes
Drafted: Not Drafted
Height/Weight: 6’4, 200 lbs

Undrafted, Stokes was signed as a free agent by Minnesota on May 25, 2004. After playing seven games with the club last year, he enters his first full season in the AHL. Stokes, another big defenseman in the Minnesota defensive pipeline, played most of last season for the Pensacola Ice Pilots of the ECHL. Stokes is an enforcer and has taken 70 penalty minutes in 25 games and has not recorded a point. He has a -1 plus/minus rating.

Forwards

Roman Voloshenko, LW
Drafted: 42nd, 2004
Height/Weight: 6’1, 189 lbs.

The 19-year-old has taken flight for the Aeros in his rookie campaign. Voloshenko is good for a point per game with 27 in 26 games including a team-leading 17 goals playing on a line with veterans Erik Westrum and Kirby Law. He is first in goals among AHL rookies and third in rookie scoring. Voloshenko, who scored a hat trick in his first career pro game, has 10 power play goals. Voloshenko is 14th overall in AHL scoring.

Voloshenko spent last season with the Soviet Wings. As an 18-year-old he recorded 29 points (16 goals, 13 assists) in 38 games. Voloshenko has a quick and accurate wrist shot which has helped power Houston and fill the void left by the departure of a number of last year’s key players. Look for him to get some NHL time this season if the Wild continue to struggle.

Patrick O’Sullivan, C
Drafted: 56th, 2003
Height/Weight: 6’0, 180 lbs.

Patrick O’Sullivan is coming off a very successful junior career with the Mississauga Ice Dogs. The highly touted rookie is living up to his reputation in the AHL. The 20-year-old former second round pick is sixth among rookies with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 27 games. O’Sullivan had his first career pro hat trick on Nov. 30 against the Cleveland Barons. He is tied for third on the team with a +3 rating.

Matt Foy, RW
Drafted: 175th, 2002
Height/Weight: 6’2, 219

Foy played 19 games with the Wild this season, but is now back in Houston. In five games with the Aeros, he has one assist and 19 penalty minutes. This is his third year pro and third year with the Aeros. Last season he had 25 points in 69 games.

Peter Olvecky, LW
Drafted: 78th, 2004
Height/Weight: 6’2, 185 lbs.

The 20-year-old winger is making a decent transition to North America. Olvecky has 9 points (6 goals, 3 assists) in 26 games this season. Olvecky is a grinder who plays responsibly. He is a +3 and has delivered 4 power play goals for the league’s seventh best power play. Olvecky has 26 penalty minutes this season. He also has one short-handed goal.

Olvecky played with Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik for Dukla Trencin of the Slovakia Elite League last season. Olvecky had 19 points in 45 games including 10 goals to earn the league’s Rookie of the Year award. Olvecky played aggressively with 49 penalty minutes. Olvecky played 6 games for Slovakia at the World Junior Championships recording 4 points including 3 goals. Although still a work in progress, Olvecky will be given time to develop. He could see NHL action as soon as next season.

ECHL and CHL

Rookie goaltender Miroslav Kopriva played three games with the Aeros before being assigned to the Central Hockey League Austin IceBats. He has played six games there with a 5-1 record, a .945 save percentage and 1.83 GAA.

Defenseman Chris Heid and forward Mark Rooneem each played a handful of games with the Aeros this season as well. Both are now with the ECHL Pensacola Ice Pilots, an affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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