With several talented, young defensemen ready to take his place, Minnesota Wild fans have likely seen the last of former top defensive prospect Tyler Cuma.
A four-year veteran of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s, it was Cuma’s draft year–a sophomore season in which he scored four goals and 28 assists for 32 points and a plus-4 rating in 59 games–that really put him on Minnesota’s radar. Unfortunately, that has been his best season to date. Though he played a solid game in his first and only National Hockey League game late in the 2011-12 season, an unfortunate series of injuries and sporadic minor league play has really hurt his chances of ever making the Wild’s roster, let alone the best league in the world.
Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has added a lot of depth throughout the organization since the club made Cuma the last top selection under the Doug Risebrough Era with the 23rd overall pick in 2008. Even though Fletcher traded Minnesota-born defenseman Nick Leddy–the first selection of a new chapter in Wild history–he still managed to assemble an impressive collection of promising, young blue line talent in top draft picks Jonas Brodin (10th overall, 2011), Mathew Dumba (seventh overall, 2012) and Gustav Olofsson (46th overall, 2013), unsigned free agent Jared Spurgeon and 2014 top undrafted collegiate free agent Christian Folin.
In addition, 2008 second round pick Marco Scandella has developed nicely into a serviceable top-4 NHL defenseman while former Nashville Predators first round pick Jonathon Blum has done a great job whenever he’s been recalled from waiting in the wings of Des Moines. Finally, after all the players listed above, a plethora of talented, middle-round depth defenders continue to grow and mature within the major junior and NCAA ranks. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why Cuma has fallen to the wayside.
In 201 career regular season American Hockey League games with the Houston Aeros/Iowa Wild organization, Cuma has scored just two goals and 31 assists for 33 points and a negative-35 rating. Considering Iowa is about to see an influx of high upside youngsters in Dumba, Olofsson and potentially Folin (if he doesn’t make the big club out of training camp), Cuma is purely a veteran depth player within the Wild organization at this point.
Could he be signed to an AHL-only deal? Sure, but it makes sense for Cuma to look for employment outside the organization first. If he can find another opportunity to finally reach his goal of playing in the NHL, he needs to take it, because it’s highly unlikely that happens in the State of Hockey.