Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Draft roundup & free agency primer

The NHL draft took place Friday and Saturday and the Wild did their best to rack up a few more youngsters to contribute to the future of the franchise. Since we'll probably see most of these guys more than the Wild fans will, it's worth the time to take a look at who they picked up and when they might fall into the loving arms of the Houston Aeros.

BUT FIRST: Check this link out. The WBS Penguins beat writer, Jonathan Bombulie, assembled this monster list of every AHL free agent and ranked the first 250 of them. Whether you agree with his rankings or not, this is a truly ambitious and tedious undertaking, yet incredibly thorough. To get all the names together, much less a little comment on each. Holy moly. My hat's off to the guy. Hell, I'll even toss a bra at him. It's that impressive.

Of course, I disagree with Taffe's quite high ranking, and I think goalies Joe Fallon and Mike McKenna are underrated, but those are the only ones I felt particularly strong about just scanning the list.

Free agency aka Hockey Christmas begins on July 1, so it won't be long before the big fish in the AHL pond will be spoken for and one or two need to be spoken for by the Aeros to help guide and bolster this group of very young prospects coming up.

Anyway, on to the new baby Wildses. I'm gonna start with the lowest pick first and work up to the first round pick.

7th Round: LW Louie Nanne
Nanne just turned 18 earlier this month, will play junior in the BCHL this year, and then has committed to the University of Minnesota, so he could be as much as 5 years from turning pro. He is the grandson of Lou Nanne, a long-time Minnesota North Star, and the son of Marty Nanne, a scout for the Wild.

6th Round: C Christoph Bertschy
This Swiss prospect sounds like a skilled, handsy guy, average sized if he stays the 5'10" he is currently, having just turned 18 in April. He's got 2 more years on his contract in the Swiss League, at which point, if the team still wants to sign him, we could see him in Houston.

5th Round: D Daniel Gunnarsson
I like the symmetry of how 5 of the 7 picks this year have names that start with the same letter as their position. Seriously. Check it out. Anyway, 20 year old Gunnarsson is Swedish (shocking, I know) and played in the Swedish Elite League last season, and will again next season. He's a 6'4" stay-at-home defenseman, so he'll have that nice long reach like a Justin Falk.

4th Round: C Adam Gilmour
Gilmour is already 6'2" and pushing 200 lbs as an 18 year old. He's got a year of USHL junior hockey to play and then will play for Boston College. He's a long way away from becoming an Aero unless he turns into a huge stud and leaves college early to turn pro. But he was a rock star for his Mass. high school team with nearly 2 points per game.

Mr. Serious
3rd Round: D John Draeger
Good sized kid from the pro hockey factory of Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Draeger is headed to Michigan State for his college career. Again, we won't see him for a few years.

Here's another good look at the 3-7 round picks and a little more about them from Dan Chan at Hockey Wilderness.

2nd Round: LW Raphael Bussieres
Bussieres will be 19 in November, which means he'd be eligible to play in the AHL after one more season in the Quebec Major Junior league. It sounds like he's a sturdy, gritty power forward type with some offensive touch and is a bit of a pest. So, he's a taller Cal Clutterbuck? Wouldn't mind that at all.

More from HW on Bussieres...

1st Round: D Matthew Dumba 
That's pronounced DUM-buh, FYI. A former teammate of Darcy Kuemper's with the Red Deer Rebels, Dumba's 17 years old and won't be eligible for the AHL until the 2014-15 season, which means he either makes the Wild full-time before that, or we'll see him in a couple of years. He's an offensive defensman who likes to crush bodies, which is kind of an interesting combination. Brent Burnsian, maybe. Should be a fun kid to watch whenever he gets up to the pros.

And again, the details on Dumba from HW...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Almond signs in Switzerland; Rau, Genoway re-signed

The first big(ish) roster change for the Aeros dropped this morning with the news that Cody Almond has signed to play for Servete in Geneva (Swiss League) next season through 2015.

He is a restricted free agent, so the Wild could have re-signed him, but it appears that won't be happening. If the Wild had no intention of re-signing him, I'm surprised they didn't try and trade him. Maybe they did and couldn't find a taker. I don't want to speculate much as I'm sure we'll get more word on the thinking behind it shortly (and I'll update here).

Personally, I'm a little surprised, but not a whole lot. Almond showed a ton of promise during Constantine's last season, but hasn't looked the same since. I don't know if it's a system issue or what.

Seems a lot of guys are opting for Europe over the AHL lately. Money is better, travel is better, fewer games on the schedule, the hockey is less physical. It's kind of a "make hay while the sun shines" and live someplace interesting (Geneva would not suck at all, I feel sure) mentality that's hard to argue with if your path to the NHL seems to be getting muddier instead of clearer as you get older.

Time to get the ol' movement tracker started in the sidebar of the blog. Tis the season, and probably a lot more to come in the next few weeks.

Also, brief update to note that Chad Rau and Chay Genoway were re-signed by the Wild as expected.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Norfolk wins the Calder Cup

The Norfolk Admirals just swept through the Toronto Marlies in such a way that there was never any question as to who deserved the cup.

What that team accomplished this season was nothing short of jaw-dropping. They were a machine, and they were the best team in 2011-12, and because of their 28-game winning streak - or whatever it got up to - they will go down as one of the most impressive puck units in hockey history.

On the Aeros front, all is quiet and the LA Kings are still trying to secure their first Stanley Cup. Boy, they sure did look nervous in Game 5.

The off-season for hockey is just about here.
October is no where to be seen in this 106-degree heat index.

Until later, enjoy your summer.