In the second of a few articles about how the Wild prospects in Houston are doing, here is how the players who are currently on entry level contracts with the organization are doing in the AHL.
Colton Jobke- 0 games with the Aeros this season. After playing in the WHL for the last 2 seasons, he was assigned to the Solar Bears (ECHL) for three games before being sent up to the Aeros on April first.
Marco Scandella- Scandella is a guy that everyone had high hopes for coming into this season. He played very well at the tail end of last year for the Wild, and most people expected that he had a spot on the starting roster with his name on it.
Even before his injury at the end of December, Scandella hadn't been playing at a level Wild fans had grown accustom to. It easily could have been brushed off as not wanting to get injured in Houston while waiting for the lockout to end.
The lockout is over now, and something is still off with Scadella's play. He's averaging over 24 minutes a game, and isn't afraid to use his body to get opponents off of the puck. But he's also making a lot of mistakes.
He makes passes that can be (and often are) easily intercepted by the other teams and he doesn't seem to have the same puck vision he had last season. He only looks one step ahead, and gets the puck to a teammate who has nowhere to go with it, or no play to make. He's also prone to turnovers, and honestly looks a little panicky when he has the puck sometimes.
Frankly Scandella should be a man amongst boys with the NHL experience that he had last season. While he's playing decently and obviously trusted with playing minutes, he's not doing anything that is going to give him a spot on the Wild's roster over Prosser/Falk/Stoner right now.
Aero stats- has played 38 games, and spent 22 games injured this season. He has 2 goals, 15 assists and 23 penalty minutes.
Kyle Medvec- Medvac is guy that many people aren't familiar with. He started off this season in Orlando, and was called up to Houston in December. He had a bit of a rough adjustment, and was prone to making some pretty serious, almost Skoula like mistakes.
He has definitely settled into his role with the Aeros. He's partnered typically with Scandella, and they complement each other pretty well. Don't expect to see him in a Wild jersey anytime soon however. His ice time fluctuates quite a bit, he had 2 games of 10 minutes and one game of 20 in the last week. He's got a huge body, but hasn't learned what to do with it yet and at 24 is running out of time to figure it out.
Aeros stats- 46 games played, 5 goals, 2 assists, 46 PIM
Kris Foucault - Foucault has been injured for much of the season, with his last game being a 5 game stretch in mid-January after missing almost a month.
Aeros stats- 26 games played, 5 goals, 6 assists, 2 PIM
Jason Zucker- Zucker is dominating play in Houston, which should come as no surprise. He's playing around 20 minutes a game, some games getting more minutes than almost all of the defense players.
He has 5 goals and 2 assists in the 6 games he's been back in the AHL. He also has a great attitude, and is using his time down here to improve his skills even more. Honestly, I could go on about him, but everyone knows what he brings and what kind of player he is. No doubt that he will be in a Wild jersey full time next season.
Aeros stats- 52 games played, 24 goals, 24 assists, 43 PIM
Brett Bulmer- Bulmer has been dealing with injuries for most of the season, and right now is not getting a lot of ice time. He has sick puck handling skills to keep pucks in the zone however.
Aeros stats- 37 games played, 3 goals, 2 assists, 39 PIM
Steven Kampfer- Kampfer is probably one of the best defenders the Aeros have right now. He's constantly communicating with the guys he's on the ice with, more so than any other player I noticed all week.
He's really not afraid to use his body. He doesn't make very many mistakes, and his passes are clean, crisp, and right to the player. However, he's a smaller player and has a serious history of head trauma. He's not quite Spurgeon sized (about 2 inches taller and 10lbs heavier), and likewise knows how to use his body to avoid hits and isn't afraid to throw hits at all.
After his concussion in November, he sat out almost 2 months and there were discussion that he might not be able to play again. He's been a +4 since his return, and has been basically playing on the top pairing with Paul Mara. I wouldn't be surprised if he is called up to fill a hole in defense this season should there be a decision to do so. His injuries are the only thing that could hold him back right now.
Aeros stats- 48 games played, 3 goals, 17 assists, 26 PIM
Justin Fontaine- Fontaine has had a pretty good season for the Aeros so far. He is playing on a line with Zucker and David McIntyre currently, which is the top line without a doubt. He is great at holding on to the puck long enough for someone to get into a scoring position and getting the puck to them. When he decides to shoot himself, he has a great shot.
His stats are impressive but looking over my notes from the week, I just don't have much about him which is a bit of a problem considering that I was specifically watching the prospects. He's being out-done by the other guys he shares the ice with pretty consistently.
Aeros stats- 57 games played, 18 goals, 30 assists, 10 PIM
Joel Broda- Has played 28 games for the Aeros this season. Reassigned to the Aeros last week after playing in Orlando for a rehabbing stint (he was out with an injury since the end of December). Has 2 goals, 2 assists, 22 penalty minutes, -5. Honestly he only played 2 games this week with only about 8 playing minutes, so there isn't anything to judge his performance on yet.
Aeros stats- 30 games played, 2 goals, 2 assists, 27 PIM
Tyler Cuma- Cuma missed over a month due to a foot injury this season, and has been scratched 4 times since returning. It's possible that he still has some injury nagging him. It seems like every time Cuma starts to get healthy and starts playing great hockey, he get's re-injured.
Although sometimes he gets rushed when he has the puck, he still has the skills to get the job done and be a good defenseman. The problem becomes that at this point, due to his injuries, other guys have passed him on the depth chart due to no fault of his own.
Aeros Stats- 39 games played, 1 goal, 10 assists, 14 PIM
Zack Phillips- If there was an award for most improved Houston prospect, hands down it would go to Zach Phillips. My first venture to Houston in January had me very worried about his play. He was playing 4th line minutes, and overall just looked lost. He was beat out for pucks, a liability in his own zone, and honestly looked like he might have made the jump to the AHL too early.
But this is why development with the team is so important. After this trip, no doubt that Phillips is going to be a good player. He has great puck handling, a wicked shot and honestly his vision on the ice reminds me a lot of Granlunds. He isn't going to be in the NHL anytime soon, but defiantly not worthy of the "bust" moniker some people have given him. Quality prospects take time to develop and Wild fans have been spoiled with how quickly some of the prospects have developed.
Phillips always seems to know exactly where his line-mates are, and who has the best chance of getting the puck in the net.
I talked to Coach Torchetti and to Phillips last night about how his season has gone. According to Torchetti, the number one thing that Phillips had to learn was defense.
When I asked him about how Phillips has been playing, Torchetti responded with "I'm proud of him. He's really detailed and he's done a great job. His job is to make sure he gets stronger. With strength brings confidence. There are some big boys out there, and he's still a puppy with his body."
Phillips talked about his adjustment to the pro-game and said "It took awhile to adjust to the pro game. Torch has been on me about keeping my game simple and focusing on defense a lot, so that's what I've been doing and it's been working out. "
When asked about how it feels to have the team depend on him to have a good game now, he said "It feels really good, I've always been that kind of player throughout my career. It does kind of bug you when you're not in that role. You like to help out your team and be there for your team, so it's definitely felt good to be able to do that lately."
Aeros Stats- 64 games played, 7 goals, 15 assists, 10 PIM