The Departed: Brett Bulmer

(Photo Courtesy of The Associated Press)

If you're late to the party, Minnesota decided to send Brett Bulmer back to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League, putting an end to the nice little storyline of a 19 year old making the team out of Training Camp. Bulmer, who had three assists and nine penalty minutes in nine games, wasn't playing badly by any stretch of the imagination: in my opinon Bulmer had been one of Minnesota's better forwards thus far, but was a healthy scratch last game (a 1-0 win over Detroit.)
A lot has been made about Bulmer's status as a 19 year old in the NHL; you have the mythical 10-game mark, in which a year of an entry-level-contract is considered spent, and the 40 game mark, where the clock to free agency begins. The Brass, for their part, always contended that a.) too much is made of the Opening Day Roster and b.) if Bulmer's play warrants it, they aren't afraid of keeping him with the big club. I was in the camp that Bulmer, because of the way he plays the game, was a lock to go past the 10 game mark.
The brash, confident, physical kid was used in just about every situation you can think off; he saw time playing with and against skilled players and grinders alike, and even got himself some power play time. Its not like he was a liability out there- maybe a bit too physically immature to truly be effective yes, but its not like he was a complete mess.

Well, if he was, he certainly didn't show it by clobbering John Tavares on the
backcheck or talking trash to Ryan Getzlaf. So why did he get a bus ticket back to the Canadian prairies?

The easy answer would be the 10 game limit, but I still don't buy that- especially when there will be copious young talent soon to be under contract in the near future: Granlund (we approaching DefCon3 on this yet?) Johan Larsson, Charlie Coyle, and Jason Zucker. It makes sense to stagger those in a way, to where you aren't faced with having to resign ALL of those guys at the same time.
It's not his play; if he wasn't cutting it, he wouldn't have made it out of Camp. In fact, his play had been praised. That being said, he could take this NHL experience back to the Dub, where his junior team desperately needs him, and will likely get an invite to Team Canada's World Junior Camp While there is fear that he could fall into bad habits playing at a speed less than he was accustomed too, it could also serve as a developmental step, in which he can round out his game.
What I think it boils down to is this: the emergence of Nick Johnson, the more heavy duty grit that Brad Staubitz brings, and the respect Head Coach Mike Yeo has for Matt Kassian.
You knew The Brass liked Nick Johnson, considering that Pittsburgh put him on waivers and within 6 hours he was essentially penciled in for a roster spot. He's proven himself to be worthy of playing time every game- I don't think Yeo will go scratch Johnson for a couple games straight again. He's a guy who can grind it out, but has enough game to contribute in the offensive end.
In a way, Johnson is just a more physically mature version of what Bulmer brought to the table, and if that is the case, then it doesn't make sense to begin the clock on Bulmer's contract. Johnson does seem to have some flexibility in that he can play with some skill guys too- I do like what he's done with Kyle Brodziak so far.
And with Bulmer now gone, this gives Staubitz and Kassian a chance to play regularly, which, uh, makes our fourth line a scary, physical, energy line centered by Darroll Powe. Kassian's been a good soldier for the franchise (I remember Tommy Thompson's quote about the 2005 Draft: "Pouliot is a diamond, and we drafted Kassian to protect that diamond") and has paid his dues; he was a vital piece of Houston's locker room, and I believe Yeo respects that and wants that in his moving forward, so he wants to give Kassian a chance to become an NHL regular.

I think its more coincidence in terms of timing in regards to the "Tenth Game"; but its more of a roster squeeze in my opinion as to why Brett Bulmer is now a Kelowna Rocket...again. This won't be the last we see of #19.

Announcement: FRBHockey On Twitter

Quick housecleaning item before diving into more news and analysis. As part of our growth, First Round Bust is getting its own Twitter account @FRBHockey for your latest prospect, Wild news and First Round Busts posts. You can still follow, Dan, Tommy and Nate (and we'd suggest it) but FRBHockey is your new #1 source for everything Wild and prospect related.

First Round Bust Turns 1!

So as far as I can tell, First Round Bust turns one today as our original post came on October 29, 2010:

Welcome to First Round Bust, a blog about the Minnesota Wild and hockey in general. The name itself comes from the franchise's poor ability to draft and an honest take of ourselves. There's much more to come and plenty of fun all around so hopefully this takes off.

I'd like to think this blog has accomplished a lot in a year. The goal of First Round Bust has always been to create more discussion on all aspects of the Wild and give a voice on the blogosphere for those who don't have one. Whether it is prospects, the big club, trying (and probably failing) to be funny, draft coverage, Dan going out to Traverse City or anything else which comes out of our slightly warped minds, I'd like to think we've done that. First Round Bust has linked by small blogs, big blogs like Puck Daddy and even a large Finnish newspaper. However, none of that matters besides putting out content people enjoy.

So I'd like to thank Dan, Tommy (he's the man behind all the technical issues and design), Jarick, Tim, anyone who has participated in a roundtable, guest post or mock draft, most of HF Boards, Bryan Reynolds at Hockey Wilderness for helping us out early on, Kirk Luedeke (now at Red Line Report) for many draft-related questions and most importantly you the readers.

We have a few new tricks which will be unveiled soon but for the most part here's hoping for a fun and healthy (both us and the Wild) Year 2!

Oh and also thank you Michael Russo for not minding a good percentage of our early posts came from replying to your work. Or not knowing - either way thanks!

Boots on the Ground

For a lot of sports fans, statistics are the end all, be all of how to evaluate a player that they know nothing about. There have been several articles posted lately with a back and forth taking place about sabermetrics for hockey. For hockey? Really? No thanks.

In this sport, nothing beats "Boots on the Ground". You cannot fully grasp the skills and abilities of a player unless you a) know the game and b) watch the player in a real game. There are far too many fans that will over value a player based on where they were taken and stats captured.

First, I want to de-bunk AHL statistics. The NHL HITS personnel go to great lengths to be as objective as possible. However, there are always the odd and random innuendos flying around about shots. Roberto Luongo used to face 50+ shots a night in Florida, yet their former beat writer called the shot totals into question. I do not see the same level of objectivity at the AHL level.

Example: Saturday, October 22, 2011: Chicago Wolves at Rockford Ice Hogs.

During this game, I keyed in on several different players. The first player which gained focus was Matt Climie for the Wolves;
At first glance, he was just calm, cool and collected in net. I thought his butterfly technique was a little weak, but passable. He did not flop around like some AHL goalies and was more of an angles goalie. Climie is 28 years old and there honestly isn't a lot of press about him. He was an un-drafted free agent signed by the Stars out of Bemidji State.

Here is where the stats from the game are exceptionally misleading. According to those same stats, Matt Climie faced 48 shots and made 47 saves. That is a whopping .979 save percentage! But wait... Did he really face 48 shots? Not that I could tell. There were several times that I saw the shot counter go up one where Antti Miettinen would have been proud to have gotten a shot that close to the net. Another example was an actual shot, which rebounded to the corner, and when cleared to the blue line, the puck came within 15 feet of Climie. Two shots went up on the board and what's worse? The clearing attempt was made by a Billy Sweatt of the Chicago Wolves. Two shots were registered on that one play.

This is not to take away from Matt Climie's game at all. He made at least four out of five saves out of what I would call great scoring chances. He was calm and cool under pressure, but his 5 goals against in the Phoenix system really emphasizes how much faster the NHL game is when compared to the AHL. If an NHL goalie takes that long to go from post to post, well, he'll let in 5 goals.

At the other end of the ice, Alexander Salak embodied what I've become accustomed to regarding Ice Hogs goalies; Floppy Fishies. That is what I call goalies that tend to act like a fish, flopping around the ice trying to block shots. Corey Crawford was a mess the numerous times I saw him play in Rockford. Salak was very much like that on Saturday night. However, again, the stats captured during that game are very misleading, saying that Salak only faced 16 shots, letting in 3 goals. That is most definitely *not* good. Yet, the inverse of the gift shots to the Ice Hogs was true for Salak. During a stretch of five minutes of play, I counted six Chicago Wolves shots that were expertly placed directly into the logo on Salak's jersey. Marek Zidlicky would have been proud! The shot counter? The shot counter was stuck on the number 10 for all six of those shots. The shots faced by Salak did not seem to increase until over 7 minutes into the third period. Maybe the Friesen goal woke up the stats keeper, because at that point, but only half of them, were being counted. One would think that when the puck thunks off of a goalies left leg pad (and loudly) it would be a shot. Evidently, I'd be wrong.

Another player that I couldn't help but pay attention to was Kyle Beach. If you read HF Boards at all, the majority of the Chicago Blackhawk fan posters have a very high opinion of Kyle Beach. If these same fans are trying to get a player to help their Blackhawks in random trade proposals, Kyle Beach is a piece that a lot of them will throw into the mix.

Here is what Hockey's Future says about Kyle Beach: Drafted 11th over-all in 2008.

Well, we here at First Round Bust don't buy into the potential of a first round draftee!

There is one word that I could use to describe Kyle Beach. Pylon.

This is probably the fifth or sixth time I have seen Kyle Beach play in person. Each time, the only word to describe him is "pylon". Yet, nearly every Blackhawks fan says things like; "I really think he's going to find a niche as a spark plug on the third line. Hit, fight, agitate, and score around 50-60 in his prime. Think Alex Burrows but actually willing to back up his smack talk". Meanwhile, the few Blackhawks fans that bag on his skating get roasted alive. In person, his skating is abysmal, he lacks any defensive awareness, has no nose for the net, and had the HITS worker not been handing out gimmee shots, would have only really registered maybe, and I'm being nice, one shot on goal, not six. Since he can't skate, how can he hit? If he doesn't talk on the ice, how can he agitate? Sure, he can fight...

For the Chicago Wolves, there were two positive stand outs. Billy Sweatt looks to be nearly NHL ready. Mike Duco, for being somewhat undersized, could really add some Cal Clutterbuck style grit to the Canucks line up, if there is ever room. Since the one stat that you really cannot muck with, even at the AHL level, is plus/minus, these two guys were both a solid plus 3.

A negative stand out, but only really because he is
  1. From Minnesota
  2. A first round pick
  3. There were quite a few Wild fans that thought we took the wrong Minnesotan
Jordan Schroeder.

He has not grown an inch and he still looks tiny. His skating speed looked fine in college, but for a player that is as small as he is, I expected a lot more speed at the AHL level. Unfortunately, I didn't see that and what I did see was choppy skating and getting burned by his opponents in a lot of different situations. He couldn't out muscle anyone on the ice and I would also be intensely curious as to what his average time on ice was during that game.

Of course, I am not going to judge these three guys based on one sample game. Now that Vancouver is the parent club of the Chicago Wolves, this is the first time I've seen them play. Bill Sweatt and Mike Duco could have just been having a good night. Jordan Schroeder might have forgotten to get his skates sharpened. Kyle Beach, on the other hand, brings very strong consistency to his game.

In summary, I have yet one more new perspective on how NHL teams work. NHL scouts have a very difficult job. First and foremost, they need to have Boots on the Ground in order to form an opinion. Video scouting needs to be a thing of the past for any club. Stats scouting should never even be attempted at the NHL level. Nothing is black and white with the sport. So while Jonas Brodin seems to be the only positive on a relatively horrible Swedish team, I think I'm going to side with the scouts on this one.

Also, in the future, I plan on taking all things said about a player I haven't seen in person with a grain of salt. After all, I understand that sometimes, used car salespeople aren't exactly the most honest lot on the planet.

Tidbits: The "He's Back" Edition

Going into the season, there was a good amount of attention, and rightly so, paid to what would pan out to be our Top Line. While the trio of Mikko Koivu, Devin Setoguchi, and Dany Heatley are a little slow to go (scary skate cuts to Koivu's neck not withstanding) but while Matt Cullen has arguably been our best forward out of the gate, it sure is nice having this guy back.

Minnesota just don't have any other forwards like Guillaume Latendresse- a horse of a winger who can dominate a game with a blend of physicality and finesse. Latendresse can literally make an impact every shift, and that's something this team sorely missed last year, and should be boosted this season with his presence in the lineup.
This is a pivotal year for Latendresse: not only does he have to prove that his breakout year two years ago wasn't a fluke, but he was publicly challenged by the Brass to come to camp in shape; the general sentiment being that his lack of physical fitness was the reason behind the handful of surgeries that derailed his season last year. In essence, he's got to protect his career; he came in to camp in great shape, and has been one of our best players, maybe second only to Cullen, with whom he's begun to forge a nice chemistry with. Let's not we forget the ultimate motivator, maybe much moreso than just proving everyone wrong; the mystical "contract year." This is the rear end of the sensible "show and prove" extension he got from Chuck Fletcher; and despite looking at what we have coming down the pipeline in terms of prospects, none of them has a playing style akin to Latendresse. Getting up for every game shouldn't be an issue.
There is some concern though; he's been battling a perpetually sore hip, probably something that will nag him all season long. Such as life following having your hip and torso rebuilt like it was Lee Majors. I'm sure there will be maintenance days, but if he's gonna be in the lineup night in and night out, then by all means take them.
It's nice having him back, scoring goals and burying opponents in the boards, and his presence makes this team better.

Can we not call him "The Big Bear" though?

- New season, same gripes. Mikko Koivu doesn't shoot enough, and Cal Clutterbuck needs to shoot lower to create rebounds.
- My hope is that there will be a watershed moment for this team that a goal scored from the crease counts just the same as a pretty tic-tac-toe play. Hopefully Heatley's goal late (understatement there) in the Edmonton goal from the goal line will convey that. Stop being cute, and just shoot the damn puck.
- For better or for worse, our most consistent D has been Clayton Stoner. The more he plays, the better he is- he's not a guy you can scratch for two or three games and expect him to not miss a beat.
- Initially I though Stoner could be in trouble going into the season because of a.) the oncoming youth movement, b.) a bit of a logjam in terms of players for spots, and c.) the fact that this year of his contract is two-way. It still is possible that he could find himself on the outside looking in, but I think he's safe. That's because...
- Greg Zanon might be in some trouble. He's been hit or miss all Training Camp and into the season, and now he's battling a wonky groin. Justin Falk will get his chance to cement a spot, but I think that he'd have to be a real mess for The Brass to try and put him on waivers to get him to Houston, because I think he'll get claimed. If Falk is solid, and Zanon isn't likely to be resigned at year's end, you could always cut bait with the veteran, since he's a possible waiver claim too.
- Also, at some point Mike Lundin is supposed to play (and that's a matter of if, back injuries are no joke) and you got guys like Nate Prosser down in Houston (who have ties to Mike Yeo) who can play.
- Too many turnovers.
- I like what Colton Gillies is doing. Knows his role and plays it to a tee, and typically good things happen when he's out there.
- Probably said this in the last tidbits post, but I think Bulmer sticks all year. Curious to see his progression as the year goes on.
- Finally, good to see Nik Backstrom show some success in the shootout. Still doesn't mean we can't think the worst will happen.

Mike Yeo Needs No Excuse With Making Adjustments

It's been a while since I have written any analysis on the Wild and despite working on other stuff (i.e. the Gophers), there's no excuse. Sure it took a couple days to catch up on games and I fell asleep during the Minnesota-Pittsburgh broadcast, but even if there was a legitimate excuse, no one would care.

Which brings us to Mike Yeo and adjusting Minnesota's defense and offense.

One of the prevailing thoughts Wild fans have had since former Coach Todd Richards was fired back in April was that any new coach could a better job dealing with the ups and downs of an eighty-two game season. The first time NHL head coach could not make the adjustments necessary in the top hockey league in the world, especially line match-ups on the road, to succeed long-term. By the end of last season, it was apparent Richards had lost the locker room and any attempt to get Minnesota out of any rut it was in.

At the same time, most season previews forgot to mention the fact the Wild replaced a rookie coach with another coach. Or that it took time for Mike Yeo to get his players to buy into his system last season as the Houston Aeros won nine of their first twenty-three games.

So it shouldn't be a big surprise that the Wild are continuing many of the struggles early on under Yeo that the team did under Richards. The organization did a great job building up expectations with promoting the prospects and trading for Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi that unfortunately it's easy to forget that there's a reason why the Wild are promoting their prospects.

This year's team is not the complete product. It's not even close.

While trading Brent Burns to San Jose gave the Wild Setoguchi, the main pieces to the trade are sitting in Boston and New Brunswick. It also left a fragile Minnesota blue line this season further battered. Minnesota has a good top six and top-four defensemen in Nick Schultz and Marek Zidlicky compared to other NHL teams but the difference (which has been apparent the last couple seasons) is the lack of depth. When a Mikko Koivu gets hurt or a Kim Johnsson gets traded, with few exceptions no one has been able to step up and fill that role. So a team which has been struggling to move the puck out of their own end continues to have that problem.

The lack of depth on the blue line has already reared its ugly head this season. Mike Lundin, who was signed to help take many of the minutes from the departed Burns, has been injured since before training camp. Greg Zanon, who was signed as to be a #4/#5 defenseman, has been moonlighting as a #2/3 defenseman.

That's not to say Zanon can't play as a top defenseman - although both he and Marco Scandella had bad giveaways which led to two Pittsburgh goals Tuesday - but the fact he's being put in that position should speak to the state of the Minnesota blue line.

And that's where Mike Yeo comes in.

Like my lack of analysis this season, Yeo makes no excuse for the team. It may take time and there may bumps along the way - such as losing to a Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Fleury-less Penguins team at home - but the key for Yeo and the Wild is to make the proper adjustments.

The upcoming stretch is tough for Minnesota with the next five games after tonight being against playoff teams, but regardless of depth or a shoddy power play Yeo is working to make adjustments. Last Sunday, after a loss to Detroit where the team put up 14 shots, he spent an entire practice working on the skills they needed to improve upon (such as making line changes) and drilling into their heads what needed to change.

Mike Yeo didn't give the players a day off nor did he bag skate them like the previous coach. Even further, he switched Heatley and Setoguchi back to the strong wing went and talked one-on-one with ten Wild players this morning. To put that last part in perspective, it's more than most coaches do and enough where Justin Bourne (formerly of Puck Daddy and college and minor league hockey, now of The Score) wrote an article marveling at that fact; in the article Bourne mentions it's something "good coaches do."

Although the State of Hockey will have to wait and see how well the adjustments of another rookie NHL coach go tonight and in the coming weeks, I'm happy to see someone behind the bench being active rather than reactive to the lows. This year's Minnesota Wild hockey team has a lack of depth on its blue line and everyone besides the highly protected Jared Spurgeon have made errors. However if they want to grow and mature into a finished product down the line, they need to make adjustments and have players step up.

No excuses.

Minnesota Wild Twitter Survey

I'm hoping to do some real analysis on the Wild's season later today (in case anyone has noticed, it's been a while) but for now I want to moment to throw out a survey on the Minnesota Wild and their twitter use (this is being ran by the Wild themselves) to the First Round Bust readers. It's a subject which I find interesting - for a team who is still trying to establish a fanbase, every little bit matters - and one the Wild can stand to improve on.

The survey is here and takes 3-5 minutes. Hopefully the Wild brass can find something they are missing with the results and continue to use social media as a two-way platform which gives fans in the State of Hockey a look behind the curtain.

And now back to your original, non-shill blogging...

October 19th Wild Prospect Update

First Round Bust's weekly look Minnesota's prospects may be a couple days late but nonetheless there are some interesting tidbits. This week's update includes Finnish prospects leading their league in points, a look at Johan Larsson, the Houston Aeros opening their season and a Wild prospect versus Wild prospect battle.

-Mikael Granlund continues to lead SM-Liiga in points as a nineteen year-old with six assists and twelve goals in twelve games. Despite having a couple of scoreless "off games," the HIFK player is improving in other ways off the score sheet.

But for a team struggling to score, this is always nice to watch:

-Fellow countryman Erik Haula is on top of the NCAA hockey scoring leaders with nine points in four games. The Golden Gophers are also 4-0 after sweeping Minnesota Duluth (yes I linked to something else I what?). Haula played well and scored two goals Friday night (including the tying goal off of a Bulldog skate with 40 seconds left in regulation), but wasn't as sharp Saturday as Duluth players easily skated past him (in fact he took a lazy hooking penalty which led to a 5x3).

However Haula has nearly matched his freshman season goal total in four games, which is an impressive feat on its own.

-Johan Larsson is also seeing a jump in scoring this season as the Brynas player has scored three goals and five assists in twelve games. That matches his point total in 43 games last season and the strong, two-way forward is second highest NHL draftee in the SEL in scoring.

-2011 Wild first round pick Zack Phillips was named the #1 star Friday after scoring two goals and an assist for Saint John. Phillips has five points in his last three games and leads the Sea Dogs with 15 points (7 goals - 8 assists) in 9 games after showing promise at Minnesota's training camp.

-Minnesota still has Brett Bulmer playing with the big club, although his nine game stint may be up soon and Mike Yeo has Bulmer on the fourth line.

-Mario Lucia followed up on his college commitment last week with seven points in two games and now is tied for the Penticton team lead with nineteen points (8 goals - 11 assists).

-Houston opened their season and Casey Wellman has four goals in four games. In addition, Matt Hackett has played well and Justin Fontaine scored his first goal against San Antonio (that one is for you RWD).

On the other end of the spectrum, Darcy Kuemper was sent to Ontario of the ECHL to get more opportunities to play and Carson McMillian was suspended for four games. For more Aeros news, follow The Third Intermission.

-Two of Minnesota's top prospects, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, faced off against one this weekend in Boston. While Coyle's Boston University team defeated Zucker's Denver University squad 4-3, both players had a primary assist in the game. Zucker also went off against Boston College the night before scoring a goal and an assist; his three points lead the Pioneers.

In addition, here is a USA Hockey article on Coyle and his Team USA roots.

On The Grind

As it stands now, Minnesota two wins in five games, but the point total is six- good for a tie for 4th in the Western Conference, although Anaheim has the tie breaker (yes kids, its never too early to talk tiebreakers) because it has more wins. There's no doubt that two wins in 5 games seems pretty paltry, but while its good to get the two points every night, the reality is that Minnesota just can't walk away with zero when the final buzzer sounds.
In this week's edition of 30 Thoughts Elliotte Friedman uses the main bulk of the piece to talk about how its imperative to get off to a good start at season's beginning with the contention that it becames so hard to catch up ground as the season moves on; the dreaded three point game.
Of course, we in Minnesota are aware of this- the past few years it seems like the team would make a push to get into the playoff picture, but it was continually a slippery slope as two teams ahead of The Wild would play, and each would get points out of it. As Friedman points out in some research, that if you are out of the Top 8 come November 1, the chances of you making the playoffs is pretty slim.

This brings me back to the points vs. win total thing so far; the fact that Minnesota is walking away with at least a point in 4 of 5 games so far isn't just a nice bonus, its crucial to making the playoffs.

The ability to grind it out to get to the extra stanza and the "charity point" is also big for a team who is still in the process of installing a new system, ideology, and verbiage- and for a possibly potent top line who is still in the process of learning to play with one another. So the reality is that this team is showing that it is capable of winning games outright, but considering that there is still on an on-going learning curve (gotta love what Mike Yeo did with the team's practice on Sunday,) this team isn't just losing games outright either- which is a necessity considering the desire to see postseason play this Spring.

Tidbits: The "Get On The Good Foot" Edition

With the season having just four games in the books, you could say that Minnesota's gotten off to a nice little start; two wins, a loss, and a shootout loss. Five out of a possible eight points so far- given the situation with a new coaching staff, new players in key positions and line combinations, and a couple players just blasting out of the gate in Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. There are instances where the forecheck and waves of Wild suffocate, that the "worst defense in the World" is capable of defending and moving the puck, and that Niklas Backstrom is capable of not only keeping the team in the game when the going gets tough, but perhaps outright stealing one as well.
The reality is though that Minnesota's had it fairly easy so far in terms of opponents; Edmonton, Ottawa, and The Islanders aren't amongst the League's elite (The Isles could surprise though) and Columbus, despite their additions, are scuffling about for the time being (time to find a legit goalie.)
The real litmus test comes in the form of the Detroit Red Wings, who are in town tonight. This is a legitimate team, a perennial playoff-bound Stanley Cup contender, a squad that is so precise and skilled that one mistake can mean game over.

Now we can really see what Minnesota is about.

- Won't be there, but if its like Home games against Detroit in the past, the Wings Bandwagon will be parked out front of the X tonight. Don't understand it, but Detroit fans travel well....or come out of the woodwork.
- I've backed off the "Matt Cullen Shouldn't Be Our 2nd Line Center" thing. He doesn't have to drive the line, he just needs to center the line. His speed should be a real asset to that line. The thing I'm curious about though is his ability to win puck battles down low and cycle with Guillaume Latendresse because those two will have to do that in order to create space for Pierre-Marc Bouchard to operate.
- We would be fooling ourselves if we thought there wouldn't be some growing pains with Marco Scandella being handed big time minutes and responsibility. If he can stay healthy, he'll be fine.
- Gotta love Brett Bulmer. I think he sticks the entire year; he is about 20 pounds from being really effective out there. The kid is just fearless.
- Bold prediction: Bulmer plays more games in a Wild sweater than Mike Lundin.
- Maybe its just me, but seeing alot of forced passes from the top line. Remember they've only played together for a month so it should smooth out, but I wonder if they are just trying too hard to feed each other the puck for a shot.
- Never realized how much of a water bug Setoguchi can be. He's the kind of player who can score goals from everywhere in every manner.
- Kind of sour on Marek Zidlicky. He's really feast or famine right now, with the needle leaning a bit more on the detrimental side.
- Finally, I like what Mike Yeo is doing in terms of getting his team to calm down and reset when they start to fall apart. There was a timeout taken by The Isles in the 1st period of that game, and Minnesota took over from there. You could put your finger on that moment when The Wild got their crap together (and if it wasn't for Al Montoya being a complete rock in the the net who knows what could have happened.) Reminded me of the premiere episode of Becoming Wild where Yeo takes a time out during the Aeros-Admirals game and chews his team's ass for their play. The Aeros got their act together for the rest of that game.
I don't know if we ever saw that sort of thing from Todd Richards.

Guest Blog: The Curious Case Of Signing Kyle Brodziak

Editor's Note: The following post was written by Cole Giannetti, aka this providence. As always, First Round Bust has an open pulpit policy and encourages other voices - if you want to get on this bully pulpit email firstroundbust(at)gmail(dot)com.

If Wild hockey Minnesota sports has ingrained anything into us fans, it’s the thinking of ‘there’s always next year.’ The past few seasons the Wild front office types decided to take a step back and really sink some serious commitment into addressing the lack young talent up and down the organization. They’ve certainly come a long way in a few short seasons to the point where us Wild fans have multiple players to be excited about moving forward. As these players start to emerge and make a case for themselves to make the NHL squad, Fletcher and company will need to start making more difficult decisions about the make-up of their roster. Which brings us to Kyle Brodziak.

Brodziak is a free agent at the end of the season and will pose a fairly difficult decision for the Wild to make. Given his progression, he’s certainly due a raise on his $1.15 million he’ll make on this final year of his contract. The question is, would it be prudent for the Wild to extend him given what the Wild currently have on roster and coming up through the system?

When the Wild acquired Brodziak in the summer of ‘09 from Edmonton most all of us came away with the impression of ‘who?’ Once the smoke cleared the general consensus seemed to be that he was a fairly limited player who’d be a capable fourth line center and would see time on the penalty kill. Brodziak was a player who, then new coach, Todd Richards was familiar with given he coached Kyle in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton so most just went with what seemed to be a fairly minor transaction.

Fast forward three seasons later and Brodziak has progressed every season and had pushed Matt Cullen out of the role of number two center last season. A role Cullen was signed to fill. As this season begins with a new staff, Brodziak is back down to a role he's better suited for on the third line. While it’s extremely early in the year, it’d be hard to deny that Brodziak hasn’t been one of the more noticeable players on the ice for the Wild. Especially impressive considering this offseason seen a lot of roster turnover and many new faces to keep an eye on. Put simply, Kyle Brodziak has taken to the system head coach Mike Yeo is trying to instill and certainly seems confident and effective within it.

When looking ahead to the 2012-’13 Wild team, Koivu and Cullen are almost assuredly going to be around; for different reasons. Then add in the Finnish kid who’s seemingly toying with the FEL. By all accounts, the Wild will give every opportunity to Granlund to thrive once he steps foot on North American ice. Right there, that’s three centers leaving only one spot open. Cullen will then only have one year remaining on his deal but it’s hard to believe that he and his salary would be relegated to the 4th line. Not to mention the center/wing top 9 prospects all on the horizon such as Coyle, Larsson, and Phillips; amongst others in Houston who are likely capable of playing 4th line center roles.

Would it really be in the team's best interest to have a re-signed (and likely more expensive) Brodziak filling a fourth line role in addition to his PK duties? As much as I’m conflicted about seeing the team part ways, I believe it would best in the long run and give the team more flexibility moving forward. As we seen this week, the Wild lucked out getting Dallas to take Nystrom’s mistaken contract off their hands. Paying a player who eventually/will see limited time isn’t something that should be replicated.

I believe Fletcher’s plan going into the year was to cut ties one way or another with Brodziak. I view the trade for Powe to seal the fate of Brodziak and I do expect him to be moved as the deadline nears. Long story short, I don’t view this team as legitimate playoff threat. But they’re close and should be building for those imminent years ahead. This would involve the team moving Brodziak for solid, albeit not very significant, piece. What could they expect? Chris Kelly netted Ottawa a second round pick from Boston last season. Hell, the Wild got a second for Eric Belanger. Teams with playoff aspirations are always in need of centers like Brodziak as they can contribute up and down the line-up if needed, hold their own at the dot, and be an effective, go-to penalty killer.

The Wild will eventually need players like Kyle Brodziak and while he’s been a surprise and pleasure to watch here in Minnesota, this franchise is just not at that level where it's vital to keep him around. Given the early returns on recent Wild second round picks in addition to the current perceived strength of the 2012 draft, the Wild could do well with that type of selection added to currently ascending prospect pool and franchise.

Minnesota Trades Eric Nystrom To Dallas For "Future Considerations"

It appeared earlier that Eric Nystrom would be back in Iron Range Red after clearing re-entry waivers. However ,now we know that the reason for it was Dallas making a trade with Minnesota for the 28 year-old forward. From Glen Andresen of

The Minnesota Wild has come to an agreement with the Dallas Stars on a trade that will send forward Eric Nystrom to Dallas in exchange for future considerations. Nystrom was placed on re-entry waivers yesterday, but cleared at 11:00 a.m. today.

The re-entry and trade move makes sense as Dallas needed $1.2 million in salary to reach the cap floor after Sean Avery was waived by the New York Rangers (who coincidentally had claimed Avery off of re-entry waivers). Rather than picking up Nystrom at 700K on re-entry waivers, they now get two years of Nystrom at $1.4 million and stay above the cap floor.

Unfortunately for Wild fans, I wouldn't expect much, if anything, coming back from the traded "future considerations." Sometimes it's a pick, sometimes it's a prospect, but most of the time it's a nice way of saying the team is getting nothing tangible in return. Case in point would be the Petr Kalus trade last year where the Wild received nothing in return besides maybe lunch at the draft from the Columbus contingent.

However, the team does have more salary space over the next two years to make a future move.

UPDATE: Michael Russo has confirmed the future considerations are in fact nothing. Guess Chuck Fletcher didn't hold out for first dibs in the Central on this trade.

October 10th Wild Prospect Update

Another week, another dose of prospect optimism. This week's update looks at a first-hand report on Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula sounding nothing like a Finn and Mario Lucia's college choice.

-Mikael Granlund continues to tear up SM-Liiga as he now has 14 points in 8 games and it seems every week he has something new to talk about. This week he has a highlight package.

Did anyone else know that Nelly had a song which samples the NBA on NBC theme?

-Mario Lucia has committed to Notre Dame. He also is up to 6 goals and 6 assists in 7 games (4 G - 3 A in the last week) but for now lets just remember the present Penticon Vee is going to his father's alma matter rather than playing for his father.

-Speaking of Wild draft picks playing for Don Lucia, Erik Haula scored three goals and two assists in this weekend's 9-0 and 6-0 wins over Sacred Heart. Erik is second on the team in points; however honestly I wasn't as impressed with him as I thought I would be. Skating still seems to be an issue as Haula was burned multiple times. In fact, one of his goals ended up happening because he was in the right place after being burned and Jake Hansen was able to get a takeaway. Of course Haula is a long-term project like any 7th round draft pick, but the numbers don't tell the whole story.

However here is Haula speaking after Saturday's game (video comes from MN Hockey News):

-Jonas Brodin remains the only Farjasted defenseman with s postive +/- and averages 19 minutes per game. In comparison, fellow 2011 first round pick Oscar Klefbom averages one-third of the minutes.

-Charlie Coyle picked up two assists in a 5-0 shutout over New Hampshire. Daniel Chan from Hockey Wilderness was at the game and had this to say about Coyle:
At first, wasn't too impressed at Coyle because I was expecting some great offensive game from it, but as the game progressed, I realized it just wasn't his style.

Standing at 6-2 207lbs, he looked big and used his size very effectively and efficiently. It was clear he was dominant physically; he would bully players easily. He would win battles along the boards, keep the cycle going, force loose pucks in the defensive zone or just give a good, solid hit.

He also displayed solid stickhandling skills and speed but nothing to gawk about. But had good hockey sense to make small, simple plays.

Overall, I question whether he can become a top line player because I just didn't see much offense from him but he definetly was dominant in using his size effectively and efficiently. Didn't make any unnecessary decisions. Could use 2/3 more years in college to develop some offense when BU top line center Corey Trivino leaves (he's a senior). Could develop a very good 2-3 centerman.

-The arrival of #3 pick Johnathan Huberdeau has not hurt Zack Phillips as the Wild first round pick has 4 goals and 6 assists in 6 games.

-Jason Zucker played another exhibition against the US National Development Team as Denver opens their regular season next weekend against Boston College and Boston University. Saturday should be interesting as Zucker and Charlie Coyle will be facing each other in a battle between top-five Wild prospects.

Why Pierre-Marc Bouchard Was Suspended For Two Games

Thanks to Felix for pointing this out.

I Guess This Is Growing Up

There is no doubt that Minnesota's defense corps is, uh, pretty vanilla- so the mantra of "defense by committee" isn't necessarily a way of managing expectation (just shuddered typing that,) but its going to have to be the way it is. The departure of Brent Burns in the Draft Day Trade essentially erased the dynamic element to the blueline; a guy who can not only skate the puck out of the zone, but take it end to end. Oh yeah, he was capable of being a horse; a guy who could be fed a ton of minutes against the best the opposition would pit against him night after night.

Minnesota lacks that "horse"; but we do have "The Giraffe."

Photo Courtesy of Bleacher Report

I wouldn't say that this is Marco Scandella's big break- he by and large was Minnesota's best defenseman during Training Camp (an omen if there was ever one, and an indictment on some of the incumbents.) Coach Mike Yeo knows what the kid can do, and with 20 games of NHL experience under his belt, the Brass knows what he can do. Hell, Scandella knows he can play at this level. And he's going to get better and better. From a kid who was projected to be a depth defenseman, he is now looked at a guy who can anchor Minnesota's top pairing. Despite the nickname, Scandella's really the only guy who not only has potential "horse" qualities to him, but he's got the chance to be as good as Brent Burns was for the Wild.

See, the issue with this is that Scandella will be force-fed Top 4 minutes because not only has he earned it, but the team NEEDS him to. Scandella's gonna have to grow up quickly.

However there's been signs of progression, and if he wasn't slowed by injuries last year (a mangled ear/concussion, broken finger) he might be even further along than he is now- there may not be the same level of concern about the group as a whole if Scandella had progressed to the point where we KNOW he can handle Top 4 minutes, and not if he's still somewhat of a question mark. He improved and showed the ability to process the speed of the NHL game with every night in the lineup, and flashed some of the things that, to me, make him a viable replacement for Burns; the physical strength, the skating, the ability to move and rush the puck, the hard shot from the point, the ginormous reach. Marco Scandella has the goods.

There's going to be growing pains, and there shouldn't be much doubt that he can handle it when its all said and done.

The question is how long will it take?

Waiving Nystrom; or Worst Comes To Worst

The news broke around noonish today that Minnesota had put Eric Nystrom on waivers. Nystrom, who signed a three year deal roughly 15 months ago, had quite the run until today in a Wild sweater: posts hit, nets missed, a broken cheek which caused a dent in his face, and the Taylor Fedun incident, and the subsequent Twitter aftermath.

And now he's being offered up to the rest of the League before he gets assigned to Houston.

Which isn't a bad thing.

Nystrom's a hard working, physical, honest player; he's likable as a player- anyone who expected 20 goals is probably gravely disillusioned. He's a great quote for the local media jackals scribes, and now he'll bring all that to The Aeros, where he'll be a mentor to the impressionable minds and young professionals that the Wild Brass will inevitably keep marching through the Toyota Center. He could conceivably become the heart and soul leader down there- setting examples for the Jared Palmers, Carson McMillans, and Casey Wellmans of the World, and presumably the Charlie Coyles and Jason Zuckers at one point or another too.

Of course, there will be injuries- so Nystrom is a viable option to be called up (unless he's fallen waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of favor with the Brass) and he'd go on to re-entry waivers- which means he could be claimed and Minnesota would be on the hook for half his salary. But Nystrom's contract isn't an albatross, so if he remains in the Organization its not the worst thing ever.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see Nystrom in a Wild sweater again this season.

Previewing The Wild Previews

With every major and minor media outlet putting out their own "30 in 30" or predictions in preparation for the regular season, we figured to save you, the amazing and beautiful reader, some time (and possibly suck up) by previewing every Minnesota Wild preview. Some are well-written, some believe the Wild will make the playoffs and others think Minnesota will fail for Nail. The previews are ranked on getting their facts right and making a solid argument so not all "good" previews see the Wild being playoff-bound and not all "bad" previews think Minnesota is in trouble.


The Good

-ESPN Power Rankings and Scott Burnside. For the record, these don't match up with the ESPN The Magazine predictions. Those would be in the Ugly section if they weren't behind a paywall.

-Pro Hockey Talk is fairly realistic and looks at all the offseason moves.

-Our friends over at Hockey Wilderness are pretty optimistic and why not. They cover the Wild inside and out so it's hard to not have their facts straight.

-The State of Hockey News also has a positive outlook for the Wild.

-Cappers' Picks is fairly thorough with their Wild preview albeit the defense gets overlooked some and doesn't really give a betting tip.

The Bad
-The 5 Hole doesn't really explain anything Wild fans don't know.

-Same thing goes with this short Sports Gnome preview.

-Crime Spree Hockey is kind to the Wild (albeit still have them out of the postseason) and probably has the best of the short previews; however the preview is just too short to put in the "good" section. still believes Pierre-Marc Bouchard is a center.

-And this preview from The Sports Network believes Bouchard is playing with Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu.

-The Hockey News gets saddled in the "bad" section for both applauding and dismissing Brent Burns depending on the team. Can't complain about the position (11th) but not a fan of the explanation.

-Bleacher Report is upholding the fine, fine tradition of Bleacher Report. Normally it would just be an ugly read but the author is thinking playoffs.

The Ugly

-Puck Daddy's Wild preview which Jarick already took issue with. Enough said.

-Hockey Prospectus also has the Wild last in the NHL which Dan took issue with.

-Fortunately we don't have the article but USA Today's Kevin Allen did pick Minnesota to finish last in the West

-Bodog's odds for the Wild this season. The over/under is 82.5 points after a season which Minnesota had 86 and making the playoffs is at +400 (so if you bet $100 on making the playoffs and they do you make $500).

-Apparently Ottawa fans are still rooting for Dany Heatley to fail as this preview shows. It also shows the fact the Fansided network doesn't have a Wild writer for Gone Puck Wild.

-Then again, this Ottawa fan previewing Minnesota is more realistic. It's also horribly incomplete and partially incorrect but you can't win them all.

-And lastly Driving Play has no idea...literally that's the most coherent part of the preview. Bad advanced stats use, knowing facts like Brent Burns' expiring contract and the use of opinion to shape an argument.

Sabremetrics and Me; A Review of The 2011-12 Hockey Prospectus

Friday (was it Friday? yeah it was) I got an email from a guy I consider a friend; Timo Seppa, who is the Managing Editor of Hockey Prospectus. Seppa and his merry band of hooligans, many of which I am aware of their works across the landscape of hockey media, released the 2011-12 Hockey Prospectus (GO BUY IT) which uses statistics to project how all 30 NHL teams will finish this season, along with a look back at last season (as if we want to relive that mess,) and a few other nice pieces including the Top 100 Prospects by Corey Pronman; Minnesota has 5 of them. Granlund? #1 with a bullet.

Seppa asked me to do a review of the 12 page section devoted to our beloved Minnesota Wild. The last sentence of this email?

"Oh yeah. We got The Wild ranked as the last place team in the NHL."

Hell of a preface there, Timo.

Its not a shocking projection; Bodog has our over/under for points at 82.5, and many (seemingly superficial and lazy) previews from various folks have us finishing nearing the bottom than the top. Not that I'm Paul Allen of KFAN saying that the Vikings are going 13-3 this year, but c'mon...give us some credit. We can't be that bad.

HP kicks off with Wild coverage with a piece that talks about how Mikko Koivu's transition from matchup center (in which Kent Wilson labeled him a legitimate Selke Candidate) under Jacques Lemaire to a focal offensive piece under Todd Richards has had a negative effect on not only the team, but Koivu himself. Wilson makes a compelling argument by using quality of competition (QUALCOMP) and Corsi, and concludes:

"as Koivu’s life got easier, the rest of his team paid the price. The club’s depth didn’t develop rapidly enough for Koivu to move from Selke candidate to sheltered scorer. One of the only guys on the club who could reasonably be expected to carry the mail against quality competition was Koivu himself. So like a cornerstone, when he was removed, the rest of the structure fell down."

Shreds of truth all throughout that quote- one that resonates in the sabermetric and "eye test" communities alike.

After an overview of the positional collectives (and some more Brent Burns praise, which I'll get to later), Wilson breaks down the guilty parties one by one; showing their stats from the last three years- not just the traditional games played, goals, assists, points, but also time on ice, TOI (power play and shorthanded,) and various measures of Goals Versus Threshold. GVT, for brevity's sake, is a measure of that player against a replacement level player; injury call up, depth forward or defenseman- similar in nature to VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) in Baseball. Underneath each stat line is a summary:

"Few players bounced around the lineup like Matt Cullen last season. His list of linemates is enormous: Martin Havlat, Cal Clutterbuck, Patrick O’Sullivan, Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Brunnette, Antti Miettinen, Casey Wellman, and the list goes on. Unfortunately for Cullen, his role was ever-shifting as well: neither a top-six offensive guy nor a capable bottom-six checker, Cullen never settled on one particular assignment in 2010-11. Nevertheless, he finished the season averaging the third-most ice time per game amongst forwards behind Havlat and Mikko Koivu, in part because he was so active on both the power play and the penalty kill. Although he will never lead the team in scoring or shut down the opposition’s big guns, Cullen is capable enough at both ends of the ice to continue to be useful member of the club."

By and large it was pretty comprehensible, especially for a math dunce like myself; at the very least sabermetrics provide another way to view the ever changing landscape of professional hockey. I did have some issues with this though.

I thought that at times the statistical value established by a metric like a GVT may not necessarily equate to a players value to a team; for instance this was Colton Gillies' summary:

"In Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball, Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane used the term “jeans model” to describe players who looked good in the eyes of scouts but never really accomplished anything. Colton Gillies is the Minnesota Wild’s jeans model. Chosen 16th overall in 2007 despite managing just 13 goals and 30 points in the WHL during his draft season, Gillies’ scouting reports always spoke glowingly of his various tools, including impressive size(6’4”, 200 pounds), smooth skating ability, strength on his skates, and strong shot. Unfortunately, the player has always been less than the sum of his parts. Gillies never managed more than 47 points in junior and has gathered just 54 points in 147 games in the AHL. The nephew of former NHLer Clark Gillies, the young winger made the Wild for 45 games in 2008-09 on the strength of his draft pedigree and bloodlines, but was clearly in over his head. Only Derek Boogaard was more sheltered than Gillies that season and yet the rookie managed an even worse possession rate that of the late enforcer (a team worst -15.9 Corsi/60). His seven-game audition for the Wild this season was more of the same. Although he’s only just 22-years-old, it’s unlikely Gillies will ever be anything above a replacement-level NHLer."

Gillies wasn't drafted to score goals (despite Tommy Thompson's insistence that he would be a 20 goal scorer.) I don't dispute that Gillies may have been a reach at 16 (especially when you trade up to get him,) but his value in my opinion comes from things that may not necessarily reflect on the scoresheet or in possession numbers; the ability to be a menace on the forecheck forcing the opposition's hand, hits, drawing penalties; making an impact shift after shit. So his value as a player may be worth more to a team (or to a Coach, like Mike Yeo) than say his GVT might convey. Gillies was a key cog in Houston's Calder Cup run; and similarly Joel Ward was the same spark plug for Nashville in the playoffs this Spring, and was rewarded with a fat contract (how much is irrelevant, but he was sought for the value he brings as a role player) from Washington in Free Agency.
And as an aside, to label Gillies the same player in the seven games last year as he was when he was a rookie just isn't true, even if it is statistically comparable.

The same sort of sweeping generalization rings true with Brent Burns. Hockey Prospectus, along with many other media outlets, cannot believe that Minnesota traded away "an all-star defenseman." The metrics don't show the poor decision making, the willingness to try and do too much with the puck, the inability to make the simple play that plagued the second half of last season. Overall Burns' stats may look good, but you'll have in-game situations where a mental error (which cannot be hidden by impressive physical talent) can cost you the game- there's just more to the game and to the players and to the coaches that don't necessarily come across in the sabermetrics by Timo Seppa, Kent Wilson, et al.

Conversely, sabermetrics shed light and illustrate trends and mirages that the traditional way, the "scouts" way, may not ever see. There is a balance- Early in the Prospectus Timo Seppa says this about the Wild, and its, ahem, 81 point projection:

"To be clear, if you asked me if I think the Wild will finish last overall this season, I would answer “probably not”. They simply have the lowest projection of our 30 teams, but this is only one point less than Ottawa and Edmonton. There is still a significant
amount of luck involved even over the course of an entire season of hockey. Even if we are right that 81 points is the Wild’s “true talent”, this just means that they will likely finish somewhere between 71 and 91 points. 71 points will lead to a lottery pick, while
91 points would leave them in the playoff race until the last weeks of the season."

By and large Hockey Prospectus is easily comprehensible, even for a math dunce like myself; but moving forward there isn't a need, nor should there be, for a line to be drawn in the sand. The traditional way of watching a game and diagnosing it, and the use of sabermetrics can be complementary moving forward.

October 3rd Wild Prospect Update

The home opener may be days away but hockey season has started for many of the Wild's prospects. Here's a look at what they've been up to with most of the play being positive.

Yes, positive. Who would have guessed that was possible with Wild prospects?

-Mikael Granlund has recovered from his injury scare and returned to action for HIFK this weekend. He scored a goal, assist and had a hooking penalty in a 5-2 loss Friday and a goal from his brother Markus on Saturday. For those scoring at home, Granlund now has 10 points in 5 games which by my math is a 2 PPG pace.

Granlund goal at 0:58

-Jonas Brodin is one of the few bright spots for a underachieving Farjestad team. The defenseman has one assist in six games but has been logging between 15-20 minutes per game as part of the first pairing and is on the second power play unit. Of course not everything has been positive.

Check out 0:37 for Brodin's mishap

-Charlie Coyle had an assist in Boston University's 6-4 exhibition loss to Saint Francis Xavier. The Terriers, who were picked to win Hockey East put themselves in a 5-0 hole early but rallied to nearly tie the game. From talking with Hockey East writers who saw the game, Coyle was much more confident with the puck and was better without it. His weight training has also paid off as Coyle appears to be stronger than his freshman year.

-Jason Zucker scored both goals for Denver in a 2-2 exhibition tie against McGill. He was also named WCHA preseason player of the year by the media.

-Zack Philips has adjusted well to the QMJHL after his tryout with the Wild and notched a Gordie Howe hat trick in his return to Saint John. Right now Phillips has 2 goals and 4 assists in 6 games for the Sea Dogs; however it will be interesting to see how those totals change with the return of fellow 2011 first-rounder Johnathan Huberdeau.

-Johan Larsson has 2 goals and 2 assists in 6 games and is halfway to his 2010-2011 total (achieved in 43 games). Part of that has to do with Larsson getting more ice time with Brynas this season as he's averaging 16 points/game compared to the 5-10 minutes last season.

-Mario Lucia has 2 goals and 3 assists in 4 games for a very Minnesota-oriented Penticton team. Despite the PPG pace, Lucia is tied for 4th in points as the Vees are 3-1 and averaging 6 goals per game.

-Brett Bulmer made the big club. So did Matt Hackett (for now).

-Erik Haula scored last night for the Gophers in a 3-0 exhibition victory. Minnesota's season begins Friday against Sacred Heart and I'll be there to cover it.

-Fellow 7th round pick Tyler Graovac has 6 points in 4 games so far for the Ottawa 67s after only scoring 10 goals in 66 games last season.

-Nick Seeler hasn't played yet (along with the rest of the USHL) but here's a team-oriented piece on him.