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  • Iowa Wild Season Preview: Goaltenders


    It has felt like a very long time since the Wild organization has had anything resembling depth in goal. A carousel of traumatic and infamous injuries and incidents have been a defining characteristic of the Wild netminders for a very long time. Kicked walls, Multiple Sclerosis, and undiscovered nerve damage have played a huge role in defining the destiny of the Minnesota net. However, this offseason, GM Chuck Fletcher made a few under-the-radar moves that have shored up goaltending depth immensely. First and foremost, Darcy Kuemper remains with the team after rampant speculation that his days in a Wild uniform had come to an end following last season. But with no trade happening, Kuemper signed a one-year deal and is set to back up Devan Dubnyk again in Minnesota. Fletcher also made a couple of key acquisitions over the last several months that now give Iowa 3 legitimate options in the net and will potentially play into the future plans of the big club. This is a major turnaround for an AHL club that borrowed its keeper from the Boston Bruins for a large chunk of last season. Let’s take a look at the guys who will spend time between the pipes for Iowa this upcoming season.

    Alex Stalock

    Stalock came to the Wild as a low-risk, high-reward reclamation project whose NHL career had gone a bit off the rails (not unlike one Devan Dubnyk a couple of seasons ago). The former UMD Bulldog and #OneOfUs from Saint Paul, MN has returned to the State of Hockey on a one year two-way deal with the hopes of getting his career back on track. Stalock, now 29, broke into the NHL in 2011 with the San Jose Sharks but played only one game in relief before being returned to the AHL and injured for the rest of the season. He got another NHL cup of tea for 2 games during the 2012-13 season but really started to assert his effectiveness in the 2013-14 season as he posted a .932 SV% with 1.86 GAA and 2 shutouts over 24 games. This caught the attention of the Sharks brass and he was officially placed in the backup role. His next season was not quite as effective as he posted just a .902 SV% with 2.62 over 22 games. This did not cost him his job quite yet, but over the start of the 2015-16 season, Stalock posted an .884 SV% and 2.94 GAA over his first 13 games and this lead to a change. He was first demoted to the AHL and later traded with Ben Smith to the Toronto organization but stayed in the AHL. He only saw 5 games in the AHL last year and coming home to Minnesota will provide him an opportunity to rehab his performance and provide depth should Kuemper or Dubnyk miss any time.

    He has a career line of .911 SV% with 2.37 GAA in the NHL and will be an interesting case to keep an eye on. Currently, the Wild have only Dubnyk signed beyond this year which would force them to expose Dubnyk to the expansion draft. There is absolutely no way the Wild will expose their #1 guy, so there is a potential for Stalock to earn a longer contract and an NHL backup job if he performs well enough in Iowa. His performance in the preseason had some people speculating that Kuemper had become expendable, but Stalock still has plenty to prove before being handed the backup job on a Bruce Boudreau team where he will see plenty of games. If things pan out the way Fletcher hopes, Stalock will play well enough that he can provide an opportunity to trade Kuemper at the trade deadline and extend Stalock, thus exposing him instead of Dubnyk in the expansion draft.

    Adam Vay

    Fletcher’s other pickup is an intriguing one with Hungarian backstop Adam Vay. Vay had spent some time in the little-known WSHL in North America and returned home to Hungary after aging out of the junior league. He was chosen to represent his country at the 2016 IIHF World Championships. Hungary would sputter out and end up in second-to-last place in the tournament, but Vay played in 3 games and caught the eye of NHL scouts. At just 22 years old, Vay is likely a few years away from NHL action, but his hulking 6’5” 210 lb frame match the prototype for modern NHL goaltenders and Vay has been a bit inconsistent, yet still impressive in his limited time with the Wild. His presence has been felt both in prospect development camp and at Traverse City, and his inconsistencies are typical of a goaltender his age. But he did lead the league in his final year in the WSHL with his .936 SV% and 1.76 GAA. He has the body and the tools that could translate to success in the NHL, but there are a lot of unknowns at this early point in his career. While he will definitely see time in the AHL this year, it is also possible he heads to Quad City in the ECHL to get more playing time and continue to develop his game.

    Stephen Michalek

    Michalek is the familiar name to Wild fans as he has been in the organization for an extra year compared to the others. Michalek came to the Wild after a successful career at Harvard and began his professional career last year in Quad City. After getting his feet wet, he earned a promotion to AHL Iowa, where he promptly

    He posted .910 SV% and 2.63 GAA over 14 games and stands to be the primary backup for Stalock in Iowa this year. Michalek is also of the modern NHL goalie prototype, standing 6’3” and 205 lbs. At just 23 years old, he is still very young for a netminder and will be given plenty of time to develop.

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