I'm not sure whether to say, "Can you believe it's here finally?" or "Can you believe it's back already?" Dunno about you guys but I'm still getting over last season, though every day I get a little more ready to tackle a new season.
But today I'm ready, especially now that I'm done moving into a new (to us, old otherwise) house, which has drained me dry the last couple of months. The serendipitousness of all that settling down the day training camp starts isn't lost on me. Thank you hockey gods and house gods....
We haven't gotten a training camp roster yet to see who's been invited in, but camp will be kicking off with the majority of the big players already in Houston, which is the first time I've seen that since I started covering the team.
But Yeo wants "his team" and only his team up in Minnesota to get them firing as a unit before the season starts. It's kind of a bummer for the guys who miss out on another week of NHLer perks, but the benefit of having most of the "glue" guys here from the start of Aeros camp can't be understated.
(Update: I added Kyle Medvec, who I left off below, and Russo reports that the Wild/Aeros are signing Aaron Boogaard to a two-way AHL deal. Aaron, if you aren't familiar with him, is beloved former Aero/Wild Derek Boogaard's younger brother, and has spent a good chunk of his career in the Penguins system.)
Here's a little on the guys coming down from Minny, some of whom you know, some you don't:
Kris Foucault (foo-coh): Left Wing, sizeable guy fresh out of Juniors (Calgary Hitmen). Here's some video of him:
David McIntyre: Center, second year pro, 30 points with the Albany Devils last season and a Colgate graduate. Solid follow on Twitter if you're into it: http://twitter.com/DaveJMcIntyre
Carson McMillan: Center, third year pro, bad ass. You know him, but maybe you didn't know he played with Foucault for the Hitmen back in 08-09.
Jarod Palmer: Center, second year pro. 9 goals last year, most during a hot streak at the beginning of the season that I completely jinxed. Scout's honor, no more asking players about their scoring streaks. Maybe I'll start asking about scoreless streaks and see if the jinx works in reverse.
Chad Rau: Center (think the Wild have a Center fetish?), third year pro, 40 points last season and just keeps getting better. Lady Byng-worthy discipline with only 14 PIM in 84 games (through regular and post season play).
Tyler Cuma: Defense, when his knees are healthy. If you're the praying type, pray for the kid's knees. Love to see him get through a whole season healthy. Should be an asset having him back on the blue line again.
Chay Genoway: Defense, small (5'8") offensive minded. First year pro. I think the hope is that he fills the rather large void left by Max Noreau's departure. Genoway was the fourth highest scoring defenseman in the history of North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey. Was also captain of the Sioux hockey team.
Kyle Medvec: Defense, tall at 6'5", so imposing presence with hopefully a long reach, which I find delightful in defensemen. Just finished his college career at the University of Vermont. Believe he's a stay at home guy.
Darcy Kuemper: Goalie. Adorable. Won every award possible for his final season with the Red Deer Rebels (WHL). But he's got an uphill battle for a spot in Houston, as Dennis Endras and Matt Hackett are also headed for Houston and Darcy has the least experience of the three. He may get to enjoy the porous defenses of the ECHL for some or all of this season.
Matt Hackett: Goalie. Showed tremendous growth last season and plays a consistent game for such a young guy. Took on a huge load after Khudobin was traded last season and went (almost) all the way with it. His spot in Houston is secure barring a major setback. Will be interesting to see how he handles not being the clear #1 here (because I don't think he will be if Endras is here).
On waivers for the purposes of sending them to Houston are:
Jon DiSalvatore: Right wing, Aeros Captain past two seasons, career year thanks to teaming up with Patrick O'Sullivan on the top line half of last season. He's on the second season of a 2 year deal.
Warren Peters: Center, versatile and gritty with enough scoring touch and hockey sense to make the third line a threat every shift. Also on the second season of a 2 year deal.
Jed Ortmeyer: Right wing, Mr. Clutch. Anything seems possible when Orts is in your locker room. Just when you think you're over-romanticizing his effect on the team, he does something awesome to remind you why you feel that way.
Jeff Taffe: Center. Jim Mill's answer to "How can we do this again without Patrick O'Sullivan?" Dude can straight up score goals, has deep AHL experience, and has gotten NHL call-ups pretty much every year he's played in the A.
Jeff Penner: Defense. Small guy with similar PP quarterbacking abilities to Noreau, so the Aeros should be set on the offensive defenseman front between Penner and Genoway. We got a brief look at him at the end of the season, but I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do when he's not just thrown into the mix mid-season like last year.
Dennis Endras: Goalie, with 3 years of pro experience in the DEL with the Augsburg Panthers. I think the Wild is nervous about having two very young goalies in Hackett and Kuemper as their only insurance against a major injury to Backstrom or Harding. Endras is a solid, sharp goalie and if he's on board with being in Houston (he paid a visit late last season to check it all out), he should be a real asset to the Aeros and push Hackett to stay hungry.
Signed to an AHL deal is:
Kris Fredheim: Defense, and one of my favorite defenseman last season because I almost never had to think about him. And if you're thinking about stay at home defensemen too much, they're probably not doing their jobs. It's a thankless role, so lemme just say, "Thanks, Kris! I really think they should have thrown you a two-way deal."
Potentially signed to a two-way deal is:
Jordan Hendry: Defense. He was trying out with the Wild and the expectation is that, if he's game, he'll sign a two-way deal to provide depth for the Wild and be a very good stay at home d-man for Houston. Young guy still, but with a good deal of NHL and AHL experience under his belt. We'll let you know as soon we hear anything further on that.
So, these guys and a several more should be on the ice starting at 3 p.m. today down at the practice rink in Sugar Land. Hitting the 100 degree mark today, so skip out of work early and check the boys out while you cool off.
Hockey is BACK!