Wild CHL prospects 2008-09 review

By Neil Ternowetsky

The Wild prospects are represented in each of the three CHL leagues. In the WHL, the Wild have two prospects on two of the top-ranked teams. In the OHL, the Wild are represented by their top prospect, Tyler Cuma, whose season was cut short by an MCL injury. And in the QMJHL, the Wild are represented by an intriguing prospect on a rebuilding team.

Tyler Cuma, D
Ottawa 67’s
Acquired: 1st round, 23rd overall, 2008

At the age of 17, Cuma was arguably the best defenseman on the Ottawa 67’s last season. This season, Cuma was expected to challenge for a roster spot on the Wild, represent Canada at the World Junior Championships and lead his vastly improved 67’s deep into the postseason. Cuma did come close to cracking the Wild roster, as he was one of the last players cut, and was all but guaranteed a roster spot on Canada’s junior squad until tearing his MCL at Canada’s world junior camp.

After watching team Canada win gold from the side line, Cuma had to have his torn MCL surgically repaired, putting an end to what would have probably been his final year in the OHL.

After coming close to cracking the Wild roster last season, Cuma, if all goes well, could find himself in either the No. 5 or 6 spot next season. The Wild only have four defensemen under contract, with a cap hit of $15.25 million for next season. Cuma could be a very viable and inexpensive option for the Wild.

Marco Scandella, D
Val d’Or Foreurs
Acquired: 2nd round, 55th overall, 2008

In all likelihood, Scandella and the Val d’Or Foreurs will be more than happy to put this season behind them. However, despite the Foreurs disappointing season, Scandella did prove he could put up solid offensive numbers on a very offensively impotent team. Scandella, who is projected to be nothing more than a very solid stay-at-home defenseman, scored eight power-play goals, good for second on the team and seventh among QMJHL defensemen. Scandella also led all Foreurs defensemen in points.

Next season will be an important year for Scandella; the Foreurs young talent will have progressed and should be far more competitive. Scandella will be the go-to guy on the blueline in every situation. If he can lead the Foreurs to respectability next year, his stock will rise.

Cody Almond, C

Kelowna Rockets
Acquired: 5th round, 140th overall, 2007

In what will probably be his last season in the WHL, Almond will look to close out what has been a solid campaign with the Kelowna Rockets with a serious playoff drive.

Winner of the Rockets 2009 Unsung Hero award, Almond has proven that he can do whatever the team needs him to do. Rockets coach Ryan Huska feels that Almond is the one player that he can rely on in every situation.

Despite Almond’s versatility, he will be in tough trying to crack the Wild roster this fall. The majority of Wild forwards are either under contract or RFA’s in 2009-10. Almond will more than likely be suiting up for the Aeros in the AHL. Because of his well-rounded game, Almond should be on the short list for Wild call-ups.

Carson McMillan, F

Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 7th round, 190th overall, 2006

After the Minnesota Wild summer prospects camp, McMillan was asked to stick around and attend boxing lessons. Whether or not the Wild were suggesting that the 6’2, 220-pound McMillan should become an enforcer is unknown, especially considering that rather than drop the gloves this season, McMillan put up a career-high 72 points.

McMillan has found his niche as a power forward among the offensively gifted group the Hitmen have assembled. He has been depended on to play in every situation and to provide leadership on the CHL’s top-ranked team.

McMillan will likely get a great deal of attention this spring; his Hitmen are favorites to win the Memorial Cup. If McMillan can be as imposing a presence in the Memorial Cup as he was in the regular season, he’ll set himself up for a good transition to pro in the fall.

Because McMillan has the size, speed and work ethic teams love, he will get the opportunity to show his stuff with the Wild in the preseason. He fits the mold of the new age enforcer in the NHL — one who is big, gritty and won’t hurt his team during five-on-five. McMillan will probably find himself between the AHL and the ECHL next season. But if McMillan can find the twine like he did this season (31 goals), he may become a very interesting option for the Wild down the road.