Brett Bulmer's WHL Season Is Over - Is A Call-Up In His Future?

Last night's 3-2 overtime victory over Florida saw Jason Zucker make his Minnesota Wild debut. Now is another 2010 second round pick on their way to St. Paul?

Brett Bulmer (photo from WHL.com)
Brett Bulmer, the first of three 2nd round picks (36th overall) in that draft, saw his WHL season and career end Thursday night in a 5-3 loss to Portland. The Winterhawks finished off a four-game sweep of Bulmer's Kelowna Rockets and advance to the second round of the WHL Playoffs.

North Stars Night A Great Touch For Honoring The Past

Two nights ago, Minnesota fans were treated to the return of Marian Gaborik, the first superstar in Wild history. The franchise's first draft pick (3rd overall behind current Wild forward Dany Heatley) in 2000 was the poster child in attempting to turn the page in a hockey market that saw its previous NHL franchise relocated to Dallas.

Marian Gaborik (photo from here)

After leaving to sign a five-year, $35 million contract with the New York Rangers in 2009, the 17,880 fans at the Xcel Energy Center made sure Gaborik knew he is as beloved as the man who moved the North Stars, Norm Green.

North Stars 2012: What Could Have Been

With North Stars Reunion Night going on, the always surprisingly-intense debate about whether the Wild should have retaken the "North Stars" moniker––or, indeed, still should––is a bit louder than usual. I'm still not completely sure which side I come down on, but with everyone in a nostalgic mood, I decided it might be a fun design exercise to see what the jerseys might look like with the Wild's more modern sensibilities. What do you think?


Minnesota Wild Injuries: This week's injury bug is brought to you by the name "Matt"

Every week there's a new injury and every week we try to find a way to get through the triage.


Pretty sure we've already used M*A*S*H* for this post

It almost seems as if typing them all up at this point is a Sisyphean effort. Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have been out since December (although Latendresse is seeing a specialist in Atlanta), Mike Lundin is the Minnesota Wild version of Keyser Soze, Mikko Koivu has missed a quarter of the season before coming back and now two more names, Matt Cullen and Matt Kassian, find themselves on the list - 349 man games and counting.

3/28 Wild Prospect Update: Brett Bulmer Gets Suspended, Charlie Coyle Puts Up Video Game Numbers

Playoffs are coming and going for the young Minnesota Wild prospects. Some have seen their season end (or in Jason Zucker's case, continue with the NHL team) while others are continuing on towards their league's championship. Then there's Nick Seeler, who Dan watched last weekend.

Saint John F Charlie Coyle (photo from Cape Breton Post)
Regardless of how things end, most of the Wild's future can hold their heads high. This week's prospect update features Charlie Coyle's ovechtrick, a regular hat trick by another Wild prospect, Brett Bulmer getting suspended and a Wild prospect heading to Tampa, Florida.

Blogging & Accountability In Sports Journalism

I was in the process of writing an article on Minnesota's fall from grace and its effect on the Wild culture but that can wait for another inevitable loss. Instead, please stand by for a post on sports media and accountability.


Yep, there's nothing on the Minnesota Wild or their prospects in this post (or another one later this week).

Earlier this evening all hell broke loose on Twitter and the Twin Cities blogosphere when Phil Mackey of ESPN1500 caused an uproar in a series of tweets. In them, Mackey stated that "sports bloggers want to be friends w/ players and think they can be GMs" and "I appreciate the work of some sports bloggers. But at times I think some of their platforms are too large in 2012. No accountability." He wasn't alone as other media personalities like Fox Sports North's Robby Imcmikoski chimed in as well.

While the message was directed at a few Minnesota Twins bloggers who have seen their influence grow in the last few years along with advanced stats, it can really apply to anyone who tries their hand in sports journalism. It's something that makes me think because I straddle the line where with one team I'm credentialed and with another I'm not.

Jason Zucker Signs With Minnesota Wild; Forgoes Last 2 Years Of College Eligibility

As someone who Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher stated back in February that he would like to "turn him pro" after the end of his season, it should be no surprise that exactly what is happening.

New Minnesota Wild F Jason Zucker (photo from Getty)

According to sources and a report by Bucky's 5th Quarter's Chuck Schwartz, Denver Pioneers sophomore Jason Zucker will forgo his final two years of college eligibility and sign an entry level deal with the Wild.

Prospect Viewing: Nick Seeler



Nick Seeler, Defense
6'2" 185 Pounds, 6/3/1993 Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)

I traveled up to Fargo this weekend to take in some USHL action for Future Considerations, taking in The Force and the visiting Des Moines Buccaneers play. While most of the Draft-eligible talent played for the home team, the visitors had someone of local relevance; Nick Seeler, who Minnesota drafted in the 5th Round, 131st overall.
I'm not going to lie; as Nate Wells and I sat in the stands chewing the fat and hearing names we've never heard before get called (at that point our collective knowledge of prospects was dwindling), we just kind of took it all in after Minnesota dealt their 3rd and 4th Rounders to move up and snag Mario Lucia at the end of the 2nd; so when The Wild's next pick rolled around, we heard yet another name we've never heard of, but from a town we all know- Eden Prairie, home of the Class AA State Hockey Champions.
So aside from the Prospect Development Camp Scrimmages in July, I hadn't seen Seeler play. He started the year with the moribund Muskegon Lumberjacks, before he was dealt to Des Moines (for 2013-eligible Michael Brodzinski, currently a junior at Blaine.) His play has picked up, especially on the offensive side of the coin- two goals and nine points in 19 games (giving him 4 goals and 24 points on the season.) He's all set to lace up for legendary Coach Dean Blais at Nebraska-Omaha this fall, which should do wonders for his development.

Talent Analysis: Seeler has good size to him; after a growth spurt during his senior year at Eden Prairie, he stands at 6'2"; his frame is a bit lanky for the time being but can handle another 15-20 pounds of mass, which would make his physical game more effective. Seeler is a strong skater, directionally mobile and shows good acceleration moving north-south and laterally. Shows good gap control, makes it hard for puck carriers to beat him wide. Did a great job of eliminating the center of the ice and keeping puck carriers riding along the boards. Has some "warrior" to him; not afraid of the puck, so he's willing to stand in front of shots and block them (even if you can see the look on his face that is saying "this is gonna hurt") but like any shot blocker, Greg Zanon especially, sometimes Seeler can do more harm than good- he effectively screened his goalie on Fargo's 2nd goal Friday night. He's given all the minutes he can handle for the Bucs; saw ice time in all situations, even playing point on the power play. Has good patience with the puck, and didn't rush any distributions. Showed really good vision- able to find teammates in traffic, and executed a slap pass from the point cross rink to the slot to an open teammate during one shift on the PP. Makes crisp and accurate passes, but doesn't have high end creativity. His shot from the point is heavy and kept low. Plays with jam, although he could stand to be a bit more feisty. Willing to battle and bang bodies, capable of knocking an opponent on his ass. Will jump up on the play, but not at the detriment to his partner. Likely not a high end point producer, but isn't without offensive acumen. Shows a competitive spirit, making him gritty and difficult to play against.


I think it would be easy- no, too easy and maybe ignorant- to say that Brent Flahr (the guy who runs the Draft Table, not Chuck Fletcher) and his staff took Lucia and Seeler simply because they played in our backyard, but maybe its to their advantage- the scouts (and I see Ernie Vargas, Brian Hunter, and others in local rinks all of the time- Vargas and Shep Harder were just down Scout/Media row from me this weekend) are able to get viewings of players with little to no travel costs incurred in what is a long-time source of NHL talent (although this year is somewhat of a down year.) Seeler could very well be somewhat of a gem; I can't find the actual quote, but I believe at some point Flahr or Fletcher relayed to the media that they were surprised to be able to draft Seeler in the 5th- whether that is just Ops-speak cliche or an actual tell of what they think of Seeler's potential we'll never truly know.
The jury is somewhat out on Seeler; he had next to no buzz going into the Draft, but have heard whisperings of Minnesota's opinion of him (Top-4 capacity,) but a scout I know said he'd "eat his scouting book if Seeler ever sees Top-4 minutes at the NHL level."
I liked what I saw, and I thought he was more composed and had a better identity as a player than Sean Lorenz, our 2008 4th Round Pick who just signed an ATO with Houston after his career at Notre Dame concluded a few weeks ago. While I don't know if top pairing potential is there, I think Seeler could top out as a #4 D, but maybe more along the lines of a bottom pairing guy. This however, is a ways out- we likely won't see Seeler in a Wild uniform (if ever) for a number of years, but we'll be able to track his progress in WCHA play Development Camp Scrimmages.







Photo Courtesy of USHL.com

16 Reasons To Enjoy The 2012 NCAA Hockey Tournament

The NCAA Hockey tournament begins today and two Minnesota Wild prospects, Jason Zucker (University of Denver) and Erik Haula (University of Minnesota), will be playing (or in Zucker's case, a game-time decision). A third prospect, Charlie Coyle, could have been playing Haula's Gopher squad but he left Boston University halfway through the season.

Denver F Jason Zucker (photo from wcha.com)
Denver plays Ferris State today at 4:30 p.m. Central and Minnesota plays tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.

More on the NCAA Hockey Tournament after the jump...

Mikko Koivu & Mikael Granlund Return From Injury Thursday

As the Minnesota Wild's 2011-2012 regular season hits the closing stretch, the team is slowly and slowly getting healthier. As Mike Russo reports, Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu will return tonight from a shoulder injury that has plagued him since January 14th against St. Louis. However, he's not the only Finn in the Wild system returning Thursday.

Minnesota Wild F Mikko Koivu (photo from ESPN.com)
Call it Finnish Returning From Injury Day or hopefully something a lot more catchy (apparently some Russian player is also returning for Nashville) but Mikael Granlund played his first game Thursday since February 25th after being shut down with an illness.

Devin Setoguchi Hit By Car In Preseason - Is Anyone Surprised?

The Minnesota Wild have had their share of injuries this season - losing 320 man-games and counting - but it appears that the origin of the injury prone season stretches all the way back to July.

Minnesota Wild F Devin Setoguchi (Photo from Zimbio)
That month saw then-newly acquired Wild forward Devin Setoguchi being hit by a car. The news, which came out during a story in Wednesday's Minneapolis Star Tribune, somehow stayed hidden all year before now.

More on Setoguchi after the jump...

Jason Zucker's Weekend At The X - 2 Goals, 1 Injury



The Minnesota Wild have had early success followed by injuries and disappointment this season on the Xcel Energy Center ice. Apparently that extends to its prospects.

Denver F Jason Zucker (photo from WCHA.com)

After scoring the game-winning-goal in overtime Thursday night, Wild second-round pick (and current University of Denver Pioneer) Jason Zucker continued his scoring streak in the WCHA Final Five Friday before finishing Saturday's game in the locker room.

More after the jump.

VIDEO: Jason Zucker Scores OT Winner Against Michigan Tech

Two Minnesota Wild prospects, Jason Zucker of Denver and Erik Haula of Minnesota, are getting a chance this weekend to play on the same ice the parent club does for the WCHA Final Five. While Haula has to wait until Friday night for his Gophers to play the winner of St. Cloud State and North Dakota, Zucker already has made his impression at the Xcel Energy Center.

Denver F Jason Zucker (photo from wcha.com)
With the Pioneers and Michigan Tech Huskies tied at 2 in overtime, Zucker found himself alone in front of goalie Josh Robinson and put the puck past him for his 21st goal 2:18 into the extra session.

Video is on the other side of the jump, which as always thanks to Fox Sports North.

3/15 Minnesota Wild Prospect Update: Haula Beast Mode v. 3, Phillips Fights, Brodin Scores & More

As the junior, European and collegiate seasons begin to wind down it's one last chance to catch up with the Minnesota Wild prospects before the speculation of what their next move will be. Whether they turn pro, stay in school, Europe or keep us up at night as the deadline to sign them draws near (hello Mikael) it's been a successful year for the future of the Wild.

Penticton F Mario Lucia (photo from BCHL/Fraser Rodgers)
This week First Round Bust looks at volume 3 of Erik Haula's "Beast Mode" Series, how far Mario Lucia's Penticton team has gone, the latest on Mikael Granlund's illness, Sean Lorenz's season and two players doing things out of the ordinary.

The Mike Yeo Conundrum

Last season, Minnesota lost 13 of their final 19 games in a collapse that saw second-year head coach Todd Richards lose his job at the end of the season and several key players let go via trades or free agency. The rationale was simple - despite injuries to key players, the Wild had regressed past the point of acceptability and needed a fresh face to get the most out of the team.

Todd Richards (Photo from KARE 11)

Does this sound familiar? At this point you can blame the injuries, the refs, lack of depth or trades but the fact remains Mike Yeo has lost this team. How much? Well that's the conundrum.

More on Yeo after the jump...

Justin Schultz and The Intrigue Down I-94

With Luke Salazar's Overtime goal Sunday at Magness Arena in Denver, Colorado (in a game that wasn't televised, so did it even ever happen?) the loss for The Wisconsin Badgers meant not only that their season is likely over. No Final Five, no NCAA tournament, and the curtain has likely been closed on the distinguised WCHA career of Defenseman Justin Schultz.


Photo Courtesy of Mark Kauzlarich/The Daily Cardinal

Schultz, if you've been living under a rock for the last few years, is arguably the best defenseman in the NCAA, and maybe the best player overall. The 2nd Round pick of Anaheim in 2008 will likely make the jump to the pro level, if not the NHL now that his Badger sweater has come off for the last time.

The logical progression was that he would sign with Anaheim and possibly make his NHL debut this year- Anaheim General Manager Bob Murray intimated that they'd be willing to burn a year of Schultz' Entry-Level Contract (which would be just two years long due to his age, which is 22) as long as they got him signed.

But what if they don't get him signed?

As friend of the blog Chuck Schwartz so finely details in that post, Schultz holds all the leverage thanks to a CBA loophole that allowed Blake Wheeler, Blake Kessel, Jason Gregoire, and Billy Sweatt to essentially hand pick their preferred place to play. Now, this is all conjecture; there is no deadline, and conceivably Schultz could return to school for his senior season, although it doesn't make any sense developmentally, or financially for that matter. For anyone whose lived off the cheap beer and ramen diet, an $87,500 signing bonus is pretty tempting.
And you can bet your ass that every team in the NHL, even the possibly-eschewed Ducks, will be hot to trot for Schultz' services. Minnesota shouldn't be any different.

While one hell of a sales job would be needed to convince that Minnesota, despite winning just nine times in nearly three months (a sentence that makes me shudder just writing it) is the best place for young Mr. Schultz- but young Mr. Schultz is EXACTLY the type of defenseman this team sorely lacks. A good sized, mobile defender capable of controlling play and creating a really good amount of offensive production. (God knows our power play could use him.)

Having seen him live four times this year, he was simply a dominant player- someone the opposing team had to account for every shift.

And if the cards shake out a certain way, Chuck Fletcher and his Merry Band of Hooligans have a shot at landing a high-end, blue chip player FOR FREE- no assets going to Anaheim, nothing but the exchange of handshakes and some of Craig Leipold's cash being wired into Schultz' account at Wells Fargo, or wherever he banks.

No doubt this is a situation worth keeping an eye on, as you can bet the brain wizards on Kellogg are doing the same.

James Sheppard Called Up By San Jose (3/11 UPDATE: Relegated To "Black Ace" Status)

In furthering our effort to be a Minnesota Wild blog that discusses everything not pertaining to the Minnesota Wild (in fairness, we're not alone - our friends at Hockey Wilderness and Hitting the Post have also gotten in on the Minnesota High School and North Stars action, respectively), here's yet another update on the Patron Saint of First Round Bust...even though he was traded by the Wild to the San Jose Sharks back in August.

Sharks F James Sheppard (photo from NHL.com)
Lets be honest, it's either this or discussing whether Kevin Gorg or Mike Greenlay are now third on the goalie depth chart. On second thought, that would be a good "Face Off" topic...

Minnesota Wild Prospects: Erik Haula Goes "Beast Mode" Otos Kaksi (VIDEO)

The old saying is true - blondes do have more fun.

Along with the rest of University of Minnesota team, Erik Haula bleached his hair blonde for the beginning of the WCHA playoffs. After going "beast mode" last weekend in a 2-1 victory over Wisconsin, the 7th round pick by Minnesota in 2009 one-upped his own effort by scoring his 16th and 17th goals of the season in Friday night's 2-1 win over Alaska-Anchorage.

Haula's first goal of the evening 1:42 into the second period  is below the jump (once again, thanks to Fox Sports North for making these clips available).

If No One Watches The Wild, Does It Still Count?

The Phoenix Coyotes have been struggling to bring fans into Jobing.com Arena despite the possibility of another playoff run. With an uncertain future, selling season tickets is a tough endeavor and the Coyotes' last game in Glendale versus Columbus had an announced attendance of 13,579 (with a hockey capacity of 17,125). They've been the butt of jokes for poor attendance and Fox Sports North's Dan Terhaar is no exception in tonight's game.


(H/T HF Boards User "forthewild")

It's all fun and games and although I'm happy to see Terhaar and Mike Greenlay have some fun in what can sometimes be a vanilla-sounding broadcast, is anyone watching the Wild in Minnesota?

Tyler Cuma's String Of Bad Luck Stretches To Airplanes

In a season which has seen 44 players suit up for the Minnesota Wild so far, one name which has continued to stay in Houston is 2008 first round pick defenseman Tyler Cuma.

2008 Draft Night with Cuma. Create Your Own Caption...
Taken before John Carlson and a player that former Minnesota General Manager Doug Risebrough traded a third-round pick to move up one spot to draft, Cuma has had his share of bad luck since being taken 23rd. Whether it is injuries, regime changes or even airplane flights from Houston to Phoenix, the last hope of avoiding five seasons (2004-2009) of first round busts cannot catch a break.

More on Cuma's luck after the jump...

Prospect Viewing: Erik Haula vs. Wisconsin 3/2-3/3



Erik Haula, Center
5'10" 184 Pounds 3/23/1991 Pori, Finland
University of Minnesota (NCAA)

I know we've covered Haula before as a prospect viewing post, but since I was alongside Nate Wells and a host of dignitaries at Mariucci Arena this last weekend for the seminal rivalry series against Wisconsin, I felt it behooved us to do it again.

We have a good sense of who Erik Haula is as a player; someone who likely pans out as a secondary/complementary offensive player at his best. There's no denying he's got good offensive instincts, soft hands, improving skating, and defensive responsibility, but this last weekend is the story of two Haulas.

Admittedly no one in Maroon and Gold played well Friday Night; with Nick Bjugstad out, the team just sputtered (sounds familiar.) Haula was invisible, and in similar fashion to his games against Northeastern and Notre Dame, he seemed to wait for the play to come to him, and there were visible signs of frustration; extra stickwork, undisciplined play, etc. No intensity, no urgency, no want to try and change the game.

Saturday...well...He was in beast mode.



Forget about the game tying goal for a second (the video does NO justice to just how loud that building got when he scored, maybe the loudest I've ever heard in person) but Haula was proactive and effective. Getting pucks to the net, singlehandedly killing off seconds of a Wisconsin power play by freezing the puck along the wall, winning faceoffs (I think he was something like 25 for 35 for the weekend, rough estimate,) playing with passion and energy.

He was, plain and simple, a difference maker.

So therein lies the rub again; two different nights, two different Haulas, two different outcomes. Bottom line is the kid can play, but the most important thing will be for him to learn how to bring it every night.



Photo Courtesy of Craig Cotner

Prospect Update: Mario Lucia Wins 41st Consecutive Game, Mikael Granlund Still Out

In the need to forget tonight's 7-1 loss to Colorado and/or find something positive about anything related to Minnesota's NHL team (don't worry, we'll add fuel on the negative fire later), here's a quick prospect update on Wild draft picks Mario Lucia and Mikael Granlund from two earlier stories..

Penticton Vees F Mario Lucia (photo by Jon Zacks)
When Penticton broadcaster Fraser Rodgers answered questions about Lucia last week, the BCHL-leading Vees were on a 37 game winning streak. Tonight (March 6th) they extended that streak to a Canadian Junior Hockey League record 41 games with a 10-0 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters (yes that is actually their name).

Lucia, the 60th overall pick in 2011 by Minnesota, scored two goals and an assist tonight en route to the blowout win. One of eight Minnesotans to play in Penticton, he now has 91 points (39 goals - 52 assists) in 54 games. That is second on the Vees behind future St. Cloud State player Joey Benik and third in the league.

Mario leads the BCHL in points per game, however, with 1.7 and will attend the University of Notre Dame next fall. His secret for success?
Left wing Mario Lucia, meanwhile, hoped a few superstitions would help tip the game in their favour — and they obviously didn't hurt.

"I put my left side of my equipment on first I guess and I always put my stick up against the wall so it never touches the ground."

HIFK F Mikael Granlund (photo from HIFK)
Mikael Granlund, the 9th overall selection in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Wild, continues to miss games in Finland after being held out of two last week.

Granlund was nowhere to be seen in HIFK's 2-1 win over JYP today, missing his fourth straight game with what appears an illness. HIFK is adjusting well without the fourth-leading scorer in SM-Liiga - Mikael's younger brother Markus (a Calgary Flames draft pick) scored the first goal today - but as fans who have dealt with top players being injured and out of the lineup, it's hard to adjust.

Hopefully Granlund gets well soon.

Charlie Coyle Signing: Jack Parker Still Not Happy

Initially this was something we wanted to add as an update to our Charlie Coyle signing a NHL entry-level contract post, but with that post being buried down the page (look at who has been productive lately!) it deserves a better fate.

Charlie Coyle (photo by Michael Cuomo)
A couple months after the CHL/NCAA hubbub of Coyle's departure seemingly died down, it's come back up with comments Boston University head coach Jack Parker made after the former Terrier signed a NHL contract.

More on Parker's comments after the jump...

Minnesota Wild Prospects: Erik Haula Goes Beast Mode (VIDEO)

Last week was not a good one for the Minnesota Wild Finnish contingent. The team announced on Tuesday that Captain Mikko Koivu would miss at least two weeks with a shoulder injury, Niklas Backstrom was sidelined by a groin strain and even Finnish Baby Jesus himself, Mikael Granlund, missed two games with an illness.

Erik Haula (photo courtesy Gophers Athletics)
There was, however, a bright spot with Pori, Finland's own Erik Haula.

More, including video, after the jump...

The Magnificant Seven are Great but...



There is a distinct difference in this year's annual "bottoming out and looking toward the future version 2012"- the injuries to a number of top-6 forwards and the subsequent glaring lack of depth are now easily lamentable considering what lies on the horizon.

The kids.

We're all fluent with the names and player types at this point, almost reading like the dossier of some sort of covert ops collective in an action movie: Mikael Granlund is the boy wonder of Helsinki, Charlie Coyle is the Beast from The East, Jason Zucker the speedball, Jonas Brodin the ethereal skating defenseman, Zack Phillips the master strategist, Brett Bulmer the explosives expert, and Johan Larsson the computer and electronics whiz...er, you get the point.

Arguably the most impressive, talented, and touted group of Minnesota Wild Draft picks........ever. Just the fact that there is 3 second round picks in the mix (from the same Draft!) goes to show that this is something exclusive to the Chuck Fletcher regime.

Brodin aside, we're looking at roughly two lines of Top-6 forwards. There's going to be growing pains, inconsistencies, and the things that go with learning to play at the NHL level AND becoming a professional at your craft. Its not like we're just going to throw the veterans out: Mikko Koivu is here long term (whether or not he'll play 82 games is the question), Kyle Brodziak is the second most important forward on the team, and there's guys like Devin Setoguchi, Nick Johnson, Cal Clutterbuck, etc. There will be some guidance AND protection for the younger forwards.

There's going to be shelter, AND four lines of opportunity to put players in positions to succeed.

While the focus is on the forwards, and rightfully so, I think its prudent to look at our blueline- we should, in theory, have a veteran group (or at least a group of guys who have a good amount of games together) who can take care of the back end while the youngsters are trying to find their way.

Why do I say this? Teams with young and talented forwards need a veteran defense to win championships.

For better or worse, when the kids (or whoever pans out), we're looking at Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon, Nate Prosser, and Marco Scandella as a core; you got guys like Justin Falk and Clayton Stoner too. Throw in Brodin, and maybe a HIGH PROFILE FREE AGENT and that's a young but veteran group in or nearing their primes, giving a buffer to the players up front.

And I'm not even mentioning how this would be beneficial to the goaltending being eventually being handed off to Matt Hackett/Darcy Kuemper.

A veteran group allows for youth up front and in net to develop with a safety net of sorts. A veteran defense also allows a guy like Brodin or whoever to play protected minutes without exploiting his youth and inexperience, giving Chuck Fletcher the ability to tinker with the group without hurting the integrity of the unit.

Yes, the incoming youth is exciting, but it all starts on the back end.

Minnesota-Montreal: A Game Review In Pictures & Video

Author's note: First Round Bust normally does not do game recaps because there are 15 other Wild blogs and the two Twin Cities newspapers which that do the same - quite honestly there are better ways to spend our time - but on rare occasions we like to describe the game. This is one of those games.

What a ride! The Minnesota Wild gave a valiant effort in coming back on the road against the Montreal Canadiens but ultimately fell 5-4 in a shootout. Matt Kassian scored two goals for the Wild, the first two of the enforcer's career, while Josh Harding had 19 saves in relief of injured goalie Niklas Backstrom.

Backstrom's status is unknown but General Manager Chuck Fletcher told the CBC that it "wasn't short term." He had to be helped the ice less than three minutes into the game.

More on Minnesota's 5-4 loss to Montreal after the jump...

The 2011-12 Wild Season, in a Nutshell

Mikael Granlund Misses Two Games With Illness, Can Things Get Worse?

It's been a tough season for the Minnesota Wild in terms of injuries. The team has lost 264 man-games (and counting) with players being hurt and news coming out Tuesday that Mikko Koivu will miss at least two more weeks after re-aggravating an earlier shoulder injury doesn't help. At times Minnesota's lineup has looked closer to that of its AHL affiliate Houston and half the top-six (Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse) is currently on injured reserve.

Sadly that string of bad luck has extended across the Atlantic to Finland and Mikael Granlund.

Behind this jersey, the savior himself! (photo from Zimbio)

Wild Prospects: Charlie Coyle Signs Entry-Level Contract

The Minnesota Wild announced today that they have signed prospect forward Charlie Coyle to a three-year, entry-level contract. The 28th overall pick in the 2010 Draft by the San Jose Sharks was acquired by Minnesota in a 2011 Draft night trade along with Devin Setoguchi and the 28th pick in the 2011 Draft (which became Zack Phillips) for defenseman Brent Burns.

Minnesota Wild prospect Charlie Coyle (photo from Zimbio)
Terms of the contract were undisclosed but they should be similar to the deal Phillips received being in the same spot one year later of $832,500 in salary and a $92,500 signing bonus.

Regardless, it's a nice early birthday gift for Coyle, who turns 20 tomorrow (March 2nd)

More thoughts and analysis on the Coyle signing after the jump