Minnesota had plenty of prospects that had strong camps, but with the first puck drop Thursday against Nashville, the Wild made their final roster cuts on Monday. Here’s who was released, here’s who made the roster, and what else to expect early in the season.
The Wild opened training camp with few open spots on the professional roster and a healthy amount of talent that could arguably be better than some of the players who are expected to make the pro team. The list includes Professional Tryout Drew Stafford and prospects Will Bitten, Connor Dewar, Brandon Duhaime, Matvey Guskov, Ivan Lodnia, Dmitry Sokolov, Nico Sturm, Colton Beck, Gabriel Dumont, Luke Johnson, Hunter Warner, Louie Belpedio, Carson Soucy, Mike Liambas, Gerald Mayhew, Mitch McLain, Brennan Menell, Mat Robson, Kaapo Kähkönen, and finally journeyman Matt Bartkowski. Most would get their papers and assignments to the minor leagues; one would make the roster as a beneficiary of an injury during training camp, but certainly earned the callup.
Well Obviously they Made the Roster
Have they played three or more NHL games in there career? Did they finish last season in a Minnesota Wild sweater?
They’re on the team (Sorry Sturm, just missed that first qualification)
Oh yeah- Did Paul Fenton sign them this offseason?
They’re on the team
Who Ultimately Missed the Roster
The players who had solid camps from the preseason roster who were assigned elsewhere included J.T. Brown, Louie Belpedio, Nico Sturm, Will Bitten, Hunter Warner, Gerald Mayhew, and Matt Bartkowski. Those who had to clear waivers to be assigned to Iowa made it through without being claimed. J.T. Brown was only assigned to the minors because Bill Geurin elected not to put a certain $4M/year in the minors, even though owner Craig Leipold permitted him to according to Michael Russo’s most recent article:
"As those actions unfold, Leipold said Guerin has carte blanche to do what he wants to the roster. That even meant Guerin was allowed to bury 13th forward Rask and his $4 million salary in the minors"
In terms of the prospects, there just was not room. For defense: Louie Belpedio, Hunter Warner, and Matt Bartkowski were likely only making the roster if there was an injury in Camp, which did happen. Greg Pateryn underwent surgery for a sports hernia and will miss six weeks. The prospects were good enough to convince leadership that they could outperform the veteran Bartkowski, ending his chances of making the opening day roster. Hunter Warner utilized his size well, but ultimately Louie Belpedio and Carson Soucy had better camps than Warner (btw Hunter Warner led both Belpedio and Soucy in one statistic: Flow)
It came down to Louie Belpedio and Carson Soucy to replace the injured Pateryn. Belpedio is a righty (like the injured Pateryn) and had a spectacular camp, but ultimately they elected to go with the size and Carson Soucy (we’ll talk about him later).
For the forwards, Nico Sturm, Will Bitten, Gerry Mayhew, and several other prospects made the most of their opportunity. They opened some eyes, but couldn’t pry open a spot. Nico Sturm certainly had the best camp of the group of prospect forwards and it was determined that it would be better for Sturm to be playing games in Iowa than rotating into the lineup
The other significant departure from the preseason roster was Edina resident Drew Stafford being released from his PTO, which I think is a shame. I believe someone will take a chance on him, but he didn’t have a dazzling preseason. In the three preseason games he played, he contributed zero goals and zero assists. Additionally, he’s a 33-year-old trying to make a roster that already had few spots available, and is the fourth oldest team in the league with an average age of 28 years old. It just was not meant to be.
Who Ultimately Made the Roster
Carson Soucy made the roster by Greg Pateryn’s injury during training camp, but don’t get it wrong: He earned that promotion. Soucy had a great camp, especially after last season’s disappointing camp after being promoted in an emergency during the playoff series against the Winnipeg Jets. Played a better defensive game, using the body at the right time, helped create plays:
Soucy was the one who hit Ryan Hartman who was astonishingly alone.
Since Carson Soucy has made the opening day roster, he’s been given an “official” number, and he took his Iowa Wild number, #21, most recently worn by PTO Drew Stafford and Eric Fehr.
Now that isn’t to say that he will play all 82 games. Until Pateryn returns, he’ll likely be the seventh defenseman and frequently scratched. And if the play regresses, he could easily be sent down for Louie Belpedio or Hunter Warner who also had solid camps.
Mentioned earlier, Bill Guerin was allowed to send Victor Rask and his $4M/yr to the minors and elected against it. It’s a no-win situation. Victor Rask did not have a strong camp and burying four million dollars in the minors is not a great use of your owner’s money. I’m not sure what the plan is for Victor: perhaps he gets opportunities to increase his value and gets shipped out for a marginal return (like that contract being off the books, an open roster spot, and maybe a late draft pick several years from now). It’s hard not to feel for the guy. You want him to succeed, but right now it’s just not there. Everything that could be said about his time in Minnesota has been said. He’s still a member of the team:
If Dumba is behind the guy, I guess I can be too.
Puck drop is in less than nine hours. Let’s. Go.