Mush day is over, and today's camp is make or break for the young guys. They know it, and they're pushing hard while the coaches observe from the stands. This morning's practice is just for prospects and tryouts. Personally, I'm rooting for Petr Kalus.
A soft-spoken forward from Ostrava, Czech Republic, Kalus doesn't think much about the pressure he was under as a Bruins prospect (drafted in 2005), or the pressure and scrutiny from being acquired in the Fernandez trade. “My goal this season—well, you'll see if it comes true yet this season. I don't know yet,” he said with a shrug.
He seemed to be running in high gear this morning, as he always does, demonstrating solid puck-handling skills and a willingness to drive to the net and post himself there to dig for rebounds.
He was willing to get physical, at one point laying the body on another player so hard the momentum carried him forward and he nearly landed on his face. He was also willing to ask the coaches for direction, which no doubt has been noted by Lemaire.
Kalus is a very fast skater who possesses a great wrist shot, good ice vision, and is a serious threat in one-on-one situations. If he doesn't make the team—and I'm not completely certain he will—he ought to be one of the top call-ups from the Aeros.
Krys Kolanos will more than likely be starting the season with the Houston Aeros, and ought to be the go-to guy if there are any injuries to a forward, simply because he is an NHL veteran, having played 115 games with the Oilers and Coyotes.
There's a big guy attracting a little attention as well. John Scott is 6'8" and 247 pounds, which makes him an inch taller than current team-terror Derek Boogaard. Based on what I've seen so far, he'll make a great offensive defenseman.
It looks like goalie Nolan Schaefer will be with the Aeros as well, though the coaching staff are quick to remind everyone that there's never a guarantee who'll have the No. 2 spot behind Backstrom. Goalie coach Bob Mason said, "Somebody's got to come take it from him (Harding). It's a competition, you know. They're competing big-time for these positions. Josh has got it, and these guys want it."
It's important to note, though, that Harding has a one-way contract, so he would have to be placed on waivers to make room for the new No. 2. It's also possible that the Wild will dangle Harding as part of a trade package.
As for the other two goalies at camp—Barry Brust and Anton Khudobin—it's a toss-up as to who will be where.
Brust is a journeyman goalie who saw NHL action in eleven games for L.A. and currently plays for the Houston Aeros behind Nolan Schaefer. He had decent numbers, going 24-16-3 in 43 games with a 2.27 GAA. He spent the summer in Minnesota training primarily for speed. He lost some weight and feels good about his chances this season. "I just want a couple more guys to notice me this year, and hopefully it will all work out," he said after this morning's skate.
Anton Khudobin was with the Texas Wildcatters of the ECHL last season, going 20-1-4 with a 1.98 GAA. He put in an excellent performance at the prospects tournament as well, and could be a strong challenger to Schaefer and Brust.
My predictions of who will make the first cut:
The list of players for the morning practice omitted Tomas Mojzis, Krys Kolanos, and Colton Gillies, which means they'll be in practice with the veterans in the second session.