Happy New Year to all! Let's begin 2009 with another look at Wild draftees in the minors and in juniors.
We all know that OHL defenseman Tyler Cuma is pretty much the only source of excitement in the organization, in terms of the junior ranks. Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo went so far as to say, "Other than Ottawa 67s defenseman Tyler Cuma, no budding prospects are on the horizon," in a column ripping the entire Wild organization. As we know, Cuma's been hurt since injuring his knee earlier this month during Hockey Canada's evaluation camp for the World Junior Championships; while Team Canada has cruised to first place in Group A at the WJC and a spot in the tourney semis, Cuma's been stuck at home, rehabbing his knee.
Frankly, the up-and-comers that are already in the big time haven't exactly been tearing it up, either. James Sheppard had the puck in the net against San Jose last night; the goal didn't count, as a review determined a previous shot had gone in the net, but if it had stood it would have been his first goal since November 28. Colton Gilles has been a healthy scratch half the time, and a confirmed fourth-liner the rest of the time. Benoit Pouliot is back to his old tricks, coasting through games and getting publicly called out by the coaching staff.
Really, the bright spots have been energy guy Cal Clutterbuck (this year's Aaron Voros, in that they play almost the exact same game - lots of hits, lots of energy, and the very occasional goal) and free-agent pickup Krys Kolanos, who scored against San Jose and who led Houston in the AHL with 15 goals in 19 games.
Elsewhere in juniors, Marco Scandella (2008 2nd round) might be on the trade block, but for now, he's still captaining the QMJHL's worst team, Val d'Or. The Foreurs actually got three points out of three games after Christmas, with Scandella posting a -2 in a win, a loss, and an OT loss.
Out west, Kelowna's Cody Almond (2007 5th round) got a shootout winner last week and was noted as a standout in the game by the broadcast team. (Another update: the Kelowna broadcaster has given him a 'B' for his work so far this year, noting that while he works hard, he doesn't score enough.) He ended December with just one goal and four assists in 10 games, though. And in Calgary, Carson McMillan (2007 7th round) missed a penalty shot in a New Year's Eve Battle of Alberta with Edmonton, but came back to get an empty-netter to seal the win. The WHL veteran had 6-5--11 in twelve games in December for the Hitmen.
The college ranks are all quiet for Christmas break; not much news, therefore, but one Wisconsin blog notes that Chris Hickey (2006 7th round) played well against UM-Duluth, some of his first action of the season.