After watching the scrimmages over the Wild online stream, I came away with many positive impressions of the future the organization holds. The Houston Aeros will be filled with youth and talent, which is a hard combination to find.
Obviously, this is only a scrimmage, meaning many prospects will not engage with the intensity that they would during regular season. No one wants to make enemies with their own teammates, so any mention of "physical intensity" in the following scouting reports could either mean they lack that certain quality or perhaps they just choose to not show it in the two games in Minnesota.
Here a few of my thoughts:
Guys we know too well...
#22 Johan Larsson
An extremely versatile forward that plays well at any place on the ice. He plays smart and simple, but excels at doing so because he anticipates the play extremely well and understands how to create offense. His skating isn't speedy but he is good on his edges and maneuvers his solid body around the ice very well. He plays consistently well and plays with energy and tenacity.
Projection: Has the makings of a very talented third line center, but also has good potential to become a second line center. Has all the intangibles of becoming a team leader, and can play on a team's top PK and a team's second PP.
#64 Mikael Granlund
He looks very well conditioned and I have little doubt he can't command regular NHL minutes due to conditioning. Amazingly has the ability to slow down any play and can really control how the game unfolds; a talent few have. While he does look like he can handle physical play, he has this amazing talent to roll off defenders in order to create space for himself along the boards or to find space to make a play. I know I wrote that article earlier this month, but I think Granlund will be fine.
Projection: Top line playmaker. There are few with the ability to control the pace of the game, and even fewer that also have the rare ability to roll off defenders. He is an amazing talent.
#17 Brett Bulmer
Tall but lanky, Bulmer likes to insert himself physically, and has above average puck skills and skating to compliment that trait. Bulmer seems to be very raw; he has the large frame to be a punishing forward but needs to add more muscle. His physical game also needs more consistency as he can be a punishing forward, but chose not to show it at times.
Projection: Key third line physical winger. He has all the tools to become a dangerous player you can put on an energy line, but is extremely raw. He needs to add more muscle and will need to have the same energy and physical game we have all have enjoyed from Cal Clutterbuck. Imagine a Clutterbuck-Bulmer duo, that will scare any team.
#3 Charlie Coyle
Coyle has a large body that he uses effectively to provide a presence in front of the net and along the boards. He has a quick release, which he uses nicely with his strong base in order to provide offense in the slot. His skating is strong with good balance and strong edges and his top speed is deceptively fast, but he could improve his acceleration. His puck skills are above average but aren't going to win any fashion contests. He plays very simple and effective and has the tools to become a dangerous threat deep in the offensive zone. Coyle could pick up his physical intensity.
Projection: Top nine powerforward. His game relies on his size and strength in order to create havok amongst opposing defensemen. Maybe it was the fact it was a scrimmage, but Coyle could pick up his physical intensity.
#51 Zach Phillips
A talented playmaking forward that sees the ice well and makes strong, crisp passes. His skating is not that good with average speed and somewhat heavy feet, but it is good enough to get where he needs to be and to move up the puck up the ice. He has the ability to keep the puck away at a safe distance while keeping his head up looking for developing plays.
Projection: 2nd line playmaking centerman. Phillips isn't going to be a guy that will carry a team, but he could develop nicely into a complimentary offensive player. He has great offensive instincts and playmaking abilities, but will need to hone his skills for awhile in the AHL.
#16 Jason Zucker
Zucker is an energetic forward that creates space for himself through energy, hardworking, and quick moving feet. He isn't the biggest guy, but is hard to contain because he is always moving. He is a very sneaky player, able to get into scoring positions without the defense noticing. He makes quick decisions and his puck skills are above average. His shot release is extremely quick, which is very deceptive to opposing teams.
Projection: 2/3 energy winger. His game is perfect for the third line, as he has a non-stop motor and scoring potential that can many times be unmatched on the third line as top defensive pairings are spent guarding the other top two lines. He may not be the biggest, but his quick release and ability to get into offensive positions can make him a dangerous player.
#25 Jonas Brodin
Amazing the way he moves around the ice. His agility is the best at camp, and his ability to maneuver along the boards is unmatched. He plays with energy and determination, which helps compensate for his lack of physical play, which isn't his game. He plays with tons of confidence and poise and makes decisions almost immediately. Brodin is not mistake-free, and could add in a physical element to his game.
Projection: Top pairing two-way defenseman. He may not be the biggest but he just thinks the game so quickly and moves around the ice so well, he will be valued as a player anywhere in the world. Like Granlund, he can control the
#31 Matt Hackett
Not as large as Kuemper, but makes up for it by being extremely active in his crease. He has very quick reflexes and is very confidence around his own net. He has great balance in his movements, which allows him to make those second and third saves. He also isn't afraid to come out and challenge the shot; his anticipation allows him to do so without creating an open net. His anticipation also allows him to cover the short side extremely well, cutting off passes or putting on a V-H stance in order to eliminate any potential plays.
Projection: 1A goaltender. Hackett is a very quiet goaltender in that he makes his saves look simple and moves around the net smoothly.
The Other Aeros...
#23 Steven Kampfer
An exceptional skater, able to skate in any direction with balance and agility. He is very smooth and isn't afraid to jump up into the offensive zone to keep the offense going. He makes quick and accurate passes, and has the ability to control the play. Defensively, he isn't great. He doesn't possess the size to slow down forwards, nor does he have the smarts to be defensively mistake free.
Projection: Middle pairing offensive defenseman. Kampfer seems to be the type of player that will flourish in the right system and right organization. He will do very will in a transition type team as he moves the puck well and has good mobility. However, he will need limited minutes as he doesn't appear that he can handle opposing top line forwards.
#37 Justin Fontaine
A bit undersized and appears slightly skinny, but he plays with hustle and displays quick feet and good speed. He has very good puckhandling skills and can navigate his way through traffic while keeping his head up and his feet moving. He has a decent shot but believe he could make it quicker. He isn't afraid to play physically but his size doesn't allow him to do so effectively at a consistent basis.
Projection: Offensive AHL star/NHL callup. I think Fontaine is very talented and hardworking, but his size is something I think he will have a hard time overcoming. Players his size either need to be very built or very dynamic in order to succeed in the NHL; Fontaine lacks both at the moment. However, he can prove me wrong if he finds a way to add significant muscle to his smallish frame.
# 61 Tyler Cuma
Cuma looked quite big during the scrimmage, and moved well in all directions for it. He isn't extremely fast, but he has great balance and control of his skating. He makes the simple and smart play, and has surprisingly nifty puckskills to make those quick plays. He has a long reach, which he uses effectively, and maintains good gap control. He could play with more physical play and could improve his first few steps.
Projection: Bottom pairing two-way NHL defenseman. He has the tools to be an NHLer, but lacks certain traits to take control of the game. He looked good in his few games with the Wild but another year with the Aeros should work wonders.
#21 Colton Jobke
Jobke is a safe defender that sticks to his man well and plays his position correctly. He has solid size and plays with confidence and poise. He doesn't seem to get rattled easily, and makes the simple plays. He may not possess top speed or agility, but he moves well enough to get where he needs to be and to stay ahead of the rushing forwards. He doesn't shine in any aspect of the game, but plays simple and smart.
Projection: Bottom pairing defensive defenseman/AHL leader. He really doesn't possess any trait that makes me think he will carve out a niche in the NHL, considering he is of average size and average skill. He is a simple and safe defenseman that might find a way into the NHL as a bottom pairing defenseman but will need to pick up his physical game to do so.
pace of the game and has the ability to roll off opposing players.
#35 Darcy Kuemper
A very large goaltender that takes alot of space in the net and has an amazing ability to the track the pucks. He plays with poise and confidence, and doesn't allow many rebounds. However, much like many goaltenders his size, he could improve his balance. He has athletic legs that allows for strong pushes and butterfly slides.
Projection: 1B goaltender. Kuemper has the size and technical skills to become a very good goaltender, but needs more time in the AHL to polish up his recovery and balance around his crease.