What is the proper development plan for Casey Wellman?
When Casey Wellman was pursued and signed by Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, it was heralded as a new day in Wild management. Not only are college players on the table at the draft, but those who prove themselves after going undrafted will also be sought after. To restock a bare cupboard, that is the type of moves a GM has to make. With Wellman, Fletcher was successful.
Still, Wellman finds himself unable to crack the Wild's top six, instead finding himself on a line with Brad Staubitz. Not exactly what he had in mind, is my bet. But hey, a gig in the NHL is a gig in the NHL right? That may be true, but not all players are suited for the roles that are open. You wouldn't cast Danny DeVito as Jason Bourne and you wouldn't cast Matt Damon as the dumpy father in Matilda.
What is the story here? Where is Wellman headed? What exactly is his role?
Make the jump for discussion on what is in store for Casey Wellman.
After singing a short-term deal two years ago to get him on the roster, a new deal with an $850,500 cap hit in the NHL, and a two way contract got Wellman on board "long term." He came to camp, and was assigned to the Houston Aeros. With the dearth of talent at the center position at the time, it seemed to just be a temporary thing while he developed a bit and waited for this season to arrive.
He was called up late last year after injuries ravaged the Wild, and played well... in a checking role. He then returned to Houston after the Wild season to help with the Calder Cup run. From all reports, he wasn't the end all be all of the run, but he was there.
This season, Wellman was once again sent to Houston and told to "dominate." His 19 points (11G, 8A) in 20 games suggest he is doing just that. For argument's sake, if you put those numbers on the Wild, he would be near the top of the team. If you further translate that over the same number games, he would lead the team. Granted, the NHL is not the AHL, and there is absolutely zero guarantee he would score at that rate with the big club.
The Current Story
He certainly isn't going to score 11 goals and add 8 helpers skating on the fourth line in a shut down role with six minutes a game.
The best player theoretically gets the call when the big club needs help. However, it is generally the best player to fill the hole that needs filling. Warren Peters to fill in on the fourth line makes sense. That's his game. Casey Wellman to skate with Brad Staubitz? Not so much.
With the team in first place in the league, it is certainly not a good time to criticize decisions made by the organization. At the same time, this one doesn't make much sense. What good does a player with top six skills (even if not fully developed) skating in a fourth line role do?
Perhaps the objective was to teach Colton Gillies a lesson. A single healthy scratch can do wonders for a young player. With Wellman already in town, it made it easy to simply slot him in for Gillies, and voila, message sent. Wellman played well, and even saw a minor amount of power play time.
The story took another twist last night as Cal Clutterbuck took a nasty knee from Ryan Whitney, and Darroll Powe took a hit into an open bench door. Cody Almond was called up today, most likely as insurance. Almond fills Powe's role, but who fill's Clutterbuck's? Russo says Yeo asked Gillies to "summon his inner Cal," so that helps with the hitting, but it does little for the offensive flare needed on the second line.
The Future Plan
College free agents are hit or miss. Players like Martin St. Louis don't walk by everyday. The hype that surrounds guys like Wellman, Stephane DeCosta, Matt Gilroy, and Tyler Bozak is enough to make these guys seem like the next coming. They aren't, at least not regularly. So while the words "temper your expectations" are infamous around these parts, that may be what needs to be done.
That said, Wellman's game is top six or nothing. He isn't a grinder nor a checker. He is skilled labor being used to bag groceries. A job? Sure, but not the right job. He skates on the top line wing in Houston, developing into a top six forward with big minutes and power play time. When he is called up, he should be serving a similar purpose, or he should be left in Houston to play the minutes and situations he needs to play.
Of course, it is, once again, tough to argue with the results right now. Sure would be nice to see what the kid has, though.
Your turn, Wilderness. What is the role of Casey Wellman in this organization? Is he a top six forward still under development? Is he an over-hyped signing that needs to know his role and be a grinder (ala Gillies)? Is he something else?
Most importantly, will he ever find his spot on the Wild long term?