In today’s edition of Minnesota Wild A-Z we turn the spotlight on Keith Ballard. Ballard is currently a defenseman for the Minnesota Wild wearing #2. Whether that is true come October is still yet to be seen. Keith stands 5’11” and weighs in at about 200 lbs. He’s a 31 year old native Minnesotan from Baudette, just a bit north of St. Paul. A big bit. the 2013-14 season was Keith’s first with the Minnesota Wild. It sure wasn’t his best in the NHL by a long shot as he battled injuries at various points throughout the season.
Ballard played just 45 games in a Wild sweater this past season.He also played just three during the teams 13 game run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Keith is signed to a contract through this coming season and will be an unrestricted free agent in the spring of 2015. This past seasons his production was not great but it was better than his last three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks.
In 2013-14 with Minnesota Keith Ballard scored a pair of goals to go with 7 assists for 9 points. He best year with Vancouver he had two goals and 5 assists for 7 total points. All of those are a far cry from his 2005-06 rookie season in Phoenix when he netted 8 goals and 31 helpers for a career high 39 points. In his years with Phoenix Ballard scored 19 goals and added 63 assists but his production declined each season. He went from 8 g, 31 a=39 pts. to 5 g, 22 a=27 pts. to 6 g, 15 a=21 pts. Ballard’s point totals rebounded a bit when he joined the Florida Panthers in 2008.
Ballard came to the Panthers by way of a fairly big draft day trade on June 20th, 2008. Ballard and Nick Boynton and a 2nd round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft went to the Panthers for Olli Jokinen. By the way that 2nd round pick was used by Florida to take Jared Staal. Incidentally three of the four Staal Brothers are now playing in the Carolina hurricanes organization wearing numbers: #11 Jordan, #12 Eric , and #13 Jared. Marc Staal is with the New York Rangers.
While with Florida Ballard played every game for two seasons. In that time he scored 12 goals added 43 assists for 55 points. He had a +7 rating overall and accumulated 170 Penalty minutes. On July 3rd 2010 he was traded once again. This time it was to the Vancouver Canucks along with Victor Oreskovich for Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner and a 2010 1st round Draft pick.
Keith Ballard joined the Canucks and never was the every game defenseman he was with Florida. Over three season he averaged just 49 games a season. Keith scored just 3 goals and added only 13 assists while a Canuck. I’m betting he was really ready to get the heck out of Vancouver and back to the State of Hockey.
Keith Ballard started his road to the NHL in the 1999-2000 season playing for the US Junior National Team in the USHL. Over the course of 58 games he totaled 12 goals and 21 assists. He also showed a lot of toughness in accumulating 119 penalty minutes in that season. The next year he moved to the Omaha Lancers also in the USHL. In 56 games he scored 22 goals added 29 assists for 51 points and pile up 168 PIMS. Its no wonder the University of Minnesota Hockey team wanted him to become a Gopher.
Ballard spent three seasons at Minnesota playing in the WCHA. After his first one he was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round, the 11th overall pick. Ballard’s future as a NHL player was looking very bright indeed. However being taken that high in the draft comes with some heavy pressure to perform. That’s just what he did en route to winning a NCAA Championship with the Gophers on April 6, 2002. Ballard opened the scoring with a power play goal at the 7:18 mark of the first period as Minnesota went on to defeat the Maine Black Bears 4-3 in OT at the Xcel Energy Center.
At the U of M his point production climbed each year from 42 to 78 to 83 points. Ballard was showing some good offensive potential and demonstrating continued grit and toughness as a top defenseman. He scored 33 goals and totaled 69 assists in his time at the University of Minnesota. Ballard was destined to be in the NHL which team was the question. Hew was traded for the first time while still in college. The Sabres traded him to the Colorado Avalanche for Steve Reinprecht in July of 2003.
Ballard left the University of Minnesota after three season to turn pro. The NHL lockout made his first stop the Utah Grizzlies of the AHL. He spent one season there after being traded yet again. This time was in March of 2004 when he went from Colorado along with Derek Morris to Phoenix in exchange for Ossi Vaananen and second round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. For those of you keeping score that’s four trades between 2003 and 2010.
Keith Ballard made his NHL debut on October 5th 2005. He would go on to play all 82 games in his first NHL season. He totaled 8 goals and 31 assists in his rookie campaign. All told Ballard has played 590 NHL games scoring 38 goals and adding 136 assists. His career penalty minutes are at 586 with 35 career fighting majors.
That wraps up our look at Keith Ballard. Coming up next on Minnesota Wild A-Z is Cam Barker.