According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, Minnesota could potentially make a call-up between today and Sunday night’s 5pm matchup with Detroit Red Wings. If they do, it’s likely because of an injury to third line forward Cal Clutterbuck. The Wild winger was injured late in the first period of last night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche with what looked like a stick to the head. He left with 6 ½ minutes left on the clock in the first, skated just three shifts in the second and was out for the rest of the game. If he can’t play Sunday, Minnesota will be forced to make a call down to Houston for backup.
Minnesota has three main forward options—the first being to recall Charlie Coyle after having just been reassigned by the Wild—or they could give Jason Zucker or Johan Larsson a shot.
Jason Zucker, the third of Minnesota’s three second round picks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has been a dominant player at every level of play he has faced. Drafted out of the USHL’s U.S. Nation Development Program, Zucker took the NCAA’s WCHA by storm, winning the WCHA Rookie of the Year award while potting 23 goals and adding 22 assists for 45 points in 40 games in his first year of collegiate hockey with the University of Denver Pioneers.
Zucker would spend an additional season with the Pioneers, scoring 22 goals and adding 24 assists for 46 points in 38 games. After two seasons of playing college puck, Zucker turned pro, finishing out the season with a six game stint with the big club. In those six games, he looked real solid and notched two assists playing on the Wild’s third line. This season, in 46 games with the Wild’s minor league affiliate in Houston, Zucker has scored 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points, 43 penalty minutes and a negative-8 rating. Zucker was also an AHL All-Star and notched a goal and an assist in Team West’s 7-6 victory over Team East. He has certainly looked worthy of a call up and will most likely get one sooner rather than later.
Johan Larsson is the forward prospect that most often gets forgotten about. Drafted the second of three Minnesota second round picks in 2010, Larsson has fared quite well in his native Sweden, including being named the Rookie of the Year in the SEL—Sweden’s top professional hockey league. Larsson was also captain of the Swedish World Junior team that took home the gold medal in the 2012 tournament. In 49 games last season as a rookie with the SEL’s Brynas, Larsson potted 12 goals and added 24 assists for 36 points, 34 penalty minutes and a negative-10 rating. Playing his first season of North American pro hockey this year, Larsson has scored 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points, 24 penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating in 49 games with Houston.
With a few more years of seasoning in the North American game, Larsson is likely Kyle Brodziak’s heir apparent as Minnesota Wild third line center and is most certainly captain material. Wild fans should definitely keep an eye on this young man.
Either way, Minnesota would get a solid guy in the lineup and both will likely see time in a Wild sweater at some point this season. With Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero in attendance at last night’s Wild game, many are wondering if there is a trade in the works, what with Minnesota’s many connections to the Penguins, and Pittsburgh’s need for a top-6 winger. If Minnesota pulls the trigger on a trade with the Pens, don’t be surprised to see any combination of Coyle, Zucker and Larsson in the Wild lineup. Gone Puck Wild will keep you informed as the situation develops.