The Minnesota Wild may have laid a clunker against the Columbus Blue Jackets last night, but the Iowa Wild–well–never mind. They lost, too. However, second-year forward Brett Bulmer continues to make strides in the right direction on his journey towards making the National Hockey League.
Back in February, I had this to say about Bulmer, who struggled mightily in his first season as a pro hockey player:
The Minnesota Wild are 17 games into their 48-game season, and already we have seen the NHL debuts of Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin, Charlie Coyle, Johan Larsson and Darcy Kuemper, and the season debut of Jason Zucker. What we haven’t seen, however, is the season debut of Brett Bulmer—Minnesota’s first of three second round picks (the others being Larsson and Zucker) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Once considered one of Minnesota’s top prospects, Bulmer seems to have dropped off the face of the earth recently, compared to his fellow Wild hopefuls. Could Minnesota have Colton Gillies 2.0 on their hands?
Brett Bulmer is a big 6’3” 197-pound right winger that Minnesota eagerly selected with the 39th overall pick in the ’10 draft. One of the things that made the Wild brass so eager to select the hulking forward was the way he dominated the major junior hockey ranks of the Western Hockey League. In 178 regular season games with the Kelowna Rockets, Bulmer scored 65 goals and 86 assists for 151 points, 299 penalty minutes and a negative-9 rating. He also chipped in eight goals and eight assists for 16 points and 27 penalty minutes in 25 WHL playoff games.
His last season in the “W” was particularly impressive as he scored at over a point-per-game pace, netting 34 goals and 28 assists for 62 points, 93 penalty minutes and a plus-10 rating in just 53 games after coming off of a nine game cup of coffee with the big club. The Prince George, BC native looked impressive in his stint in Iron Range Red, notching three assists, six penalty minutes and a plus-1 rating, while dishing out plenty of big hits as parting gifts for opponents to remember him by.
However, since jumping to the professional ranks fulltime with the Wild’s minor league affiliate, Bulmer has struggled, potting just two goals and two assists for four points, 35 penalty minutes and a team-worst negative-12 rating in 29 games with Houston. Is he at the “boom or bust” point of his career? Considering this is his first year of pro hockey, I doubt it. However, fellow 2010 second round picks Zucker and Larsson have far surpassed his point totals many times over and, if Bulmer doesn’t get things together soon, he is soon going to find himself on the bottom of the totem pole with each passing draft.
Does he need a confidence boost? You bet, but, at the same time, the kid is an adult, and needs to learn that not everything will be given to him on a platter. I’m not saying he thinks that by any means, but he needs to fully invest in his game, because there will be no reward otherwise. I’m sure it was a kick to the ego when Minnesota called up Coyle on Saturday simply because they needed another right-shot forward in the lineup. Why not him? Because his play proved he didn’t deserve it.
Bulmer is no longer a man amongst boys—he’s a boy amongst men, and he can either sink or swim. It’s up to him to improve his game, and prove to the Wild brass that he’s worth the second round pick they used on him. I have no doubt this kid will succeed. With Granlund already a fulltime NHLer, and guys like Zucker, Coyle and Larsson regularly getting call-ups, there’s no better time than now for Bulmer to step up his game, and be the leader that he truly should be for the Houston Aeros.
Well, it took another season and the relocation of the Wild’s top minor league affiliate, but Bulmer finally seems to have rediscovered his game. After scoring just four goals and three assists for seven points and a negative-18 rating in 43 regular season games for the Aeros last season, Bulmer has already surpassed his point total with a team-leading eight goals and two assists for 10 points and just a negative-1 rating in 18 games with the newly rebranded Iowa Wild this season.
Best of all? He’s doing it without most of the Wild’s big young guns in the lineup. Granlund, Coyle and Brodin have all made the big club and likely for good. Nino Niederreiter wasn’t in the organization at all last year and doesn’t look likely to be sent down any time soon if at all. Justin Fontaine appears to be a keeper in Minnesota. Larsson is no longer within the organization, and Zucker and Zack Phillips are the only other big ticket prospects still playing alongside Bulmer in Des Moines. Pro rookie Erik Haula has also been impressive this season, but he’s currently spending some time with the big club with Granlund sidelined with a concussion.
With Iowa lacking some serious offensive fire power between call-ups and Zucker’s seemingly numerous suspensions, Bulmer has had to be the guy for Iowa. What’s more, he’s been able to step up and answer the call. If he can keep producing consistently, there’s no reason to think he can’t get back into the good graces of the Wild brass and fan base as one of Minnesota’s premiere young players.