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Around the Camp-fire: Parting thoughts

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Pup tents are packed up, the ice was switched for a “Queen” concert, and now we await September for the Traverse City prospect tourney.

2016 4th rounder Brandon Duhaime (65 - Providence College) makes a move on invitee Jake Kielly (No number - Clarkson University) at Day 1 of Development Camp
Katlyn Gambill/MN Wild

A lot of Hockey Wilderness was present at this year’s Development Camp where the Wild trotted out some prospects ranging from high school invitees to guys that finished up their first year of professional hockey. I’m a little late with my post-camp thoughts, but thankfully bjvcampbell and mntrumpeterguy were on the ball with their reflections on Tuesday and Thursday’s scrimmages.

As far as player performances, there was little to be left vexed by. The AHL guys scored on the junior guys, the top draft picks played like top draft picks, and the guys with eligibility in the junior leagues are going to head back. However, there were guys who did stand out, a lot of names that hadn’t been heard in awhile found the scorers sheet, and we got to finally see a size versus speed game, thinking “of course speed will win”.

If you’re looking at the scoreboard, the favorite, Team Green, was 2-0 following the two contests. If you’re looking at 5-v-5 the series was split; White dominated the second game in terms of quality opportunities and ice positioning, though it was a low scoring game before they started playing 3-v-3 OT and added a shootout. While there were a lot of names thrown out there like Kunin or Greenway, there are late round guys looking to break into the NHL fold. Here’s three to keep on the radar:

Brandon Duhaime

Katlyn Gambill/MN Wild

If you weren’t there on Tuesday, you’re not going to see it (except in .gif form), but the light of the hockey gods shined on Duhaime’s hands and he scored one of the best goals of the week with his shootout dangle. Not sure any other player drew such a response to some skill shown.

He even has some breakaway speed at over 200 lbs as he took a penalty shot for Green following a slash in game two (should’ve had another on a missed tripping call). I don’t want to spend too much time fawning over his shootout skills (à la TJ Oshie) because he also put one away during 5-on-5 and earned "most improved player" honors from the Development staff after being drafted last summer. Iowa Head Coach Derek Lalonde said of him:

“He looked bigger and stronger. He looked like he put on 8 to 10 to 12 pounds of good weight. He looked like a bigger athlete, a bigger a bigger man [...] He was much more assertive with his game, and that’s what you like to see.”

Duhaime echoed what a few members of the staff were expecting him to do in the past year: put on size. In Providence’s program he was listed at 6’0", 203 but came into camp looking like a big-bodied forward set to have his presence seen and felt after working with trainer Matt Bergdorf in Florida. I have a few inches on the guy, but after seeing him at the dot and playing in the corners, he’s going to let his presence be known in Hockey East this season. Apart from his size, he’s also looking to find the back of the net more:

“I’d like to have a little more of an offensive year, last year I didn’t put up the numbers I wanted. Going into this year I want to keep the defensive side of the game and maybe go into next year with a little more offense”.

Providence finished fourth last season in Hockey East but were seventh in offensive production with 116 goals. I asked him what he thought about Leaman’s system and how it will translate to offensive success:

“[Leaman] loves getting pucks behind their D and really attacking the space behind them and really working them hard. That all ties into my game ‘cause I’m a guy who likes to get into the corners and work through there.”

He’ll return to Providence this summer to take some summer school classes and hit the weight room. In adding more size and working on the “little things”, hopefully he’ll have the breakout season he’s been working towards with the Friars who look to reach the top of the table in Hockey East.

Jack Walker

Katlyn Gambill/MN Wild

When going through to do write-ups on player profiles, what confused me the most, as well as those at Pension Plan Puppets, was that when a player is drafted a team retains the rights to a Major Junior player for at least two years. The NHL CBA gives us some leagalese, but what the rule boils down to is that you need to make a QO towards a CHL draftee after year one to retain the rights for year two. Jack Walker is a Free Agent, and I think he’s going to be somebody that the Wild should (and have) a lot of interest in.

What the staff was talking about was what everyone was talking about. He’s fast. Not just in his skates, but also in his decision making. He streaked along the boards, closed in on players in the corner, and used his stick to break up a bunch of saucer passes. It’s going to remain a mystery as to why Lou let him go, especially when his coach told me about his versatility in 5-on-5, power-play, and penalty kill. The knock against guys like Mason Shaw was that he played on an inflated team; Walker’s Victoria Royals finished fourth in their division while he touched the puck on 30% of their goals scored (239).

What is certain is that Lalonde is interested in what kind of player he can develop into with the Wild as he is expected to join the other rookies at the Traverse City tournament. I wouldn’t count out Walker earning an ATO in Iowa after he wraps up his 20-year-old season in the WHL.

Carson Soucy

Katlyn Gambill/MN Wild

There have been a few names kicked around Hockey Wilderness in regards to who is the best defensive prospect within the Wild organization, and Gustav Bouramman seems to be the favorite. After talking with the Development Staff, however, Carson Soucy is a name that was asked about and asked about a lot. He wasn’t a big point producer with just 15 on a UMD team that scored 140 goals en route to becoming National Runner-Ups. He found the scorers sheet at camp and talked about building his offensive side of the puck:

“That comes with working on my skating, just trying to get up ice when I can. I still pride myself on my defense, but if I can get up the ice and help on offense, I’m going to try.”

Skating and size were two things that he also said he’s be working on this summer before joining the Iowa Wild for 2017-18. He’s got a great mind set. There can be a lot of knocks against him though: he’ll be 23 at the end of this month, older guys are supposed to score in these camps, he’s not an offensive standout like Bouramman. All valid, but as a defender, he prides himself in what a defenseman should pride himself in: defense. Coach Lalonde opened up about what he meant to the organization after being drafted four years ago”

“I told him ‘make a good impression on Bruce. Bruce is huge on first impressions’. He made a good first impression at this camp [...] I tell all the guys ‘you concentrate on making a good first impression on Bruce’ and then we’ll let everything fall from there. What excites me about Carson is he already knows what he is. You can already see it sometimes with some players: they play a significant role with me and then they come up and get eight minutes with Bruce and not get scored on and be above pucks. Where Carson, what he was in Duluth, what he was in junior, is what he’s going to be for me and where he’s going to be for Bruce in time. Guys take time to establish an identity, and I think he’s already fallen into his.”

He played well in the neutral zone, did a good job closing in on the opposing forwards, and also had to play with what seemed like a new D-partner every shift. Hopefully in competing with the Free Agent signings like Murphy and Grant he’ll be able to get on the scorers sheet early and often in the AHL and be a guy that puts pressure on guys like Mike Reilly (who was there on Tuesday) and Gustav Olofsson with the ability to come to St. Paul and act as a sound bottom pairing defenseman.

Other Notables

If you’re saying to yourself that these guys aren’t the answers to Minnesota’s prayers in search of a Stanley Cup, I think you’re under-estimating the internal competitive game plan that Boudreau and the organization are trying to implement. Coach Lalonde brought up that this wasn’t a camp with a lot of draft picks (2014 was completely absent) and that they were interested in a lot of the invitees (Jack Walker being on of them) in hopes of going out and finding “the next Jared Spurgeon”.

Depth and opportunity is what this camp was all about. And there weren’t any big surprises in Lalonde’s mind:

“I thought the level of camp was very good ‘cause our invitees were quality. I thought our guys we expect to be good: the Luke Kunins, the Jordan Greenways, the Soucys; some returners that played in Iowa at the end of last year: Mayhew, a Kloos, Sammy [Anas] played well and made for a really good camp.”

It was a microcosm of the Wild going forward in a short period of time, but Lalonde was also impressed with the leadership attributes shown by Soucy and Kunin who will both be beginning next season in Iowa. As for guys like Lodnia, he came in “better than advertised” and “creative offensively” and was high on Mason Shaw who won “hardest worker” at the camp.

“I really liked our picks [...] I’m no different than Bruce [in that] I’ve not seen these players [...] to see those guys is very exciting. Obviously I think our scouting staff has proven they can draft very well and I think our scouting staff was the talk of hockey last year with [World] Junior Championship. When you don’t have those first and seconds, you gotta get quality and I think they really did that”.

Minnesota opens the regular season on the road against the Red Wings on Thursday, October 5th; Iowa begins the 2017-18 campaign at home against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) on Saturday, October 7th.