This is when the “fan-boy” in this hockey writer pops out. I have been absolutely itching for Minnesota’s own version of Wild-stopper Pekka Rinne to make his NHL debut. Every level of play he’s faced, the kid has done nothing but excel. In fact, though he was the second of two goalies drafted by Minnesota in 2009—the first was Matt Hackett—young Darcy Kuemper may prove the better of the two. In 16 games played with the Wild’s minor league affiliate this season, Kuemper has been lights out—posting a 10-6-0 record, a 1.79 goals against average, a .938 save percentage and four shutouts. His numerous titles include CHL Goaltender of the Year (2010-2011), WHL Best GAA (2010-2011), WHL Best Save Percentage (2010-2011), WHL Player of the Year (2010-2011), WHL Top Goaltender (2010-2011), AHL Player of the Week (2011-2012) and AHL Rookie of the Month (2011-2012). It just goes on and on.
Last season, Matt Hackett saw plenty of time in a Wild sweater, posting a 3-6-0 record, 2.38 goals against average and .922 save percentage while backstopping an injury-plagued squad—proving how good he could be with a healthy NHL team in front of him. As you can see, Kuemper has a high standard to live up to as a rookie goaltender playing for an overall healthy team. Like Hackett before him, Kuemper will make his NHL debut against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. He’ll have to be better than Roberto Luongo on the other side of the ice, and will be relied upon to shut down Wild-terrorizers Henrik and Daniel Sedin—an intimidating prospect for a rookie making his NHL debut.
According to Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, Josh Harding has been feeling a bit “off” lately, hence the call-up of one of the AHL’s very best in Darcy Kuemper. The intriguing question is just how long is this call-up for? The answer truly depends on how Harding is feeling. The source of his problems seems to stem from the prescriptions he’s been using to battle his MS. As someone battling heart problems and in need of a transplant, this sports writer knows firsthand how fluctuations in prescriptions can affect the way a person feels.
Once the doctors can identify which drug is causing it, I’m sure Harding will be fine. However, in a lockout-shortened season, missing nearly any length of time could be the difference between keeping and losing your position in the team lineup. Is this an opportunity for Darcy Kuemper to cement his spot on Minnesota’s roster? Possibly; one thing is for sure—there is no better time for him to do so than now.