Wild junior prospects 2009-10 review

By Peter Prohaska

The Wild had eight prospects in the junior ranks this season.
Kris Foucault, LW — Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
4th Round, 103rd Overall, 2009  
Foucault has great hands and pro size at 6’1" 200 plus pounds. But he was far from a point a game in the regular season, finishing with 22 goals and 21 assists over 68 games. In the playoffs, he got off to a slow start, with just four points (three goals) in the first eight playoff games, but he scored the series-clinching overtime winner to send his team to the Conference final. He now has 11 points in 14 games.

Last spring he attempted to erase an underwhelming regular campaign by tallying 11 goals and 16 points in 18 playoff games, and it was likely on this basis that he was drafted in the fourth round.

Though Foucault has undeniable talent, he must find a way to lock his drive and determination in the high gear he finds for playoff games, or he won’t move to the next level.  
Erik Haula, LW — Omaha Lancers (USHL)
7th Round, 182nd Overall, 2009  
Haula is a Finnish-born prospect who finished the season with an outstanding 28 goals and 72 points over 56 games, tied for fifth in scoring league-wide. The Lancers should have a deep playoff run after winning the West Division. Haula has been a big part of that success.

Although smaller than average at 5’11, 170 pounds, Haula throws his body around plenty. He was a plus-36 on the season and had five shorthanded points. Omaha completed a three game sweep of Tri-City in the USHL playoffs, and Haula has six assists in those games, one short-handed and four on the power play. Overall in the playoffs he’s third in the league with seven points in five games.

Next fall he’ll be a freshman at the University of Minnesota, so the Wild has every opportunity to keep close tabs on a promising prospect.  
Anthony Hamburg, C — Omaha Lancers (USHL)
7th Round, 193rd Overall, 2009  
Drafted out of Midget AAA Dallas, Houston-born Hamburg has a somewhat unusual pedigree for a prospect. His USHL numbers weren’t anything too remarkable either, with just 22 points (five goals) in 54 games, but he has the skillset and the determination to continue to improve. He is average sized at 6’1 and 190 pounds, but needs to improve his all-around game. He played mainly third and fourth-line minutes for the Lancers. Four of his points were scored on the power play. He has only played two out of five games in the playoffs though, going scoreless.

Hamburg is still only 18, with an August birthday, so he is young even within his cohort.

Next season he’ll be a freshman at Colgate University of the ECAC.  
Marco Scandella, D — Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

2nd Round, 55th Overall, 2008  
Scandella’s junior career undoubtedly did not end the way he would have liked, marred as it was by a 15-game suspension. He played just 31 games with his junior club, and scored nine goals and 31 points. Val d’Or was defeated in the first round of the playoffs, but Scandella managed a point per game, with two goals and six points in six games.
His game is not necessarily in his offense, so this kind of production is an encouraging sign.

With the Foreurs out of it, Scandella signed a tryout with the Aeros, and made his first game notable by fighting Chicago’s Anthony Stewart. Scandella got his first professional point, an assist, in his next game. The seven games he played should prepare him for his rookie pro season in the fall.
Tyler Cuma, D, — Ottawa 67s (OHL)
1st Round, 23rd Overall, 2008  
Currently the No. 1 ranked prospect in the Wild’s system, Cuma is a strong defensive player, with no real obvious knocks on him other than his lack of offense. Cuma looked to finish his junior career with a strong playoff run, but finished with five assists in 12 games as the 67s fell to Mississauga in a tough seven-game series.

This season, Cuma was a leader for his junior club, playing a physical game and controlling the tempo from behind the blueline. Always matched against the league’s best offensive lines, Cuma managed a plus-nine over the course of the regular season. His final stats were five goals (three power-play goals) and 17 assists over 52 games. Though the numbers were somewhat disappointing considering what he did in his draft year (32 points in 59 games), Cuma did fully recover from the knee injury that shut him down last year. He will undoubtedly be working hard this summer with training camp in mind. At 6’2 and 192 lbs, and with the Wild seeming to prefer an oversize defense corps, Cuma may see at least some AHL seasoning.  
Bjorn Krupp, D — Belleville Bulls (OHL)
Free agent, 2009  
Likely best known as the son of Stanley Cup hero Uwe Krupp, Bjorn Krupp is a California-born defenseman playing for Belleville. He is a tall (6’2) but not imposing player, weighing in at about 189 pounds. He’s a defensive defenseman, and just 11 assists over a 67-game slate bears that out. The problem for Krupp this season was an atrocious -42, by far the worst on his squad. The Bulls struggled throughout the season and even team scoring leader Shawn Lalonde, who had 56 points, also ended up -21. However, results have to come from somewhere, and Krupp did not do enough to make a positive difference this season. He will likely have another chance to improve his defensive skills in the OHL next season.  
Matt Hackett, G — Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
3rd Round, 77th Overall, 2009  
Hackett finished the 2009-10 regular season with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers having played the bulk of that team’s minutes and holding up under considerable fire. With a 33-18-1-2 record, four shutouts, a .925 save percentage, and a 2.62 goals against average, Hackett was definitely one of the best goalies in the OHL. Over the season, he faced 1848 shots, third most among the league’s goaltenders, and had the second best save percentage. Mavric Parks had him beat by .005, but also played 20 fewer games. Hackett’s postseason save percentage stands at .919, while still getting shelled. He made 40 and 51 saves in two losing efforts against the Windsor Spitfires and was ejected for a roughing incident in the third game, earning a one-game suspension.

Hackett, like almost all goaltenders, needs more time to develop, but he is clearly a blue-chip prospect at his position. Though the Wild have several dependable netminders in their system, the 20-year-old Hackett will almost certainly have his professional debut next season.   
Darcy Kuemper, G — Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

6th Round, 161st Overall, 2009  

Kuemper is another excellent goaltending prospect in the Minnesota system. He has good size (6’4, 195 pounds) and big-save ability. With very poor goal support, Kuemper managed a 28-23-0-4 record, a 2.73 GAA, .908 save percentage, with three shutouts before Red Deer was eliminated in the first round by the Saskatoon Blades. All with a healthy dose of rubber most nights.

The Aeros signed Kuemper to a tryout after the Rebels were eliminated. His professional career had a good start, making four saves on four shots in a one-period relief appearance, and then earning two consecutive wins. He had an .886 save percentage in 199 minutes of play.