As Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr fine tunes his prospect list in advance of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center, he can most likely eliminate most players with a “G” under the position column. On Thursday, the Wild came to terms with Red Deer Rebels goaltender Darcy Kuemper, the Western Hockey League’s Goaltender and Player of the Year.
Kuemper now bolsters and already deep goaltending prospect pool featuring German standout Dennis Endras, and Houston Aeros rookie Matt Hackett who has led his team to the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Finals.
Kuemper found out on Wednesday night from his agent that an agreement was completed.
“I was really excited and happy to hear that the agreement was done,” said Kuemper, who will attend his third development camp in July. “I’ve loved my time there getting to know the organization and the city. And I’ve really enjoyed my time in Houston as well.”
“We’re very excited to add Darcy to our goaltending mix,” said Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher. “He had an outstanding season with Red Deer and we’re looking forward to watching him continue his progression toward becoming an NHL goaltender.”
The sixth round draft pick (161st overall) in 2009 led the WHL in every major goaltending category including wins (45), goals against average (1.86), save percentage (.933) and shutouts (12).
“After a summer of hard work, I was really just concentrating on getting off to a good start,” he said of his remarkable start to finish campaign. “I had confidence early because I was a veteran and knew exactly what to expect. And that confidence grew throughout the year and I was able to keep up the pace.
His stellar season led to mild speculation that he would be difficult to sign, and if the Wild had not come to an agreement with him, he could have regained his draft eligibility in June.
That no longer becomes a concern, and the 6-foot-5, 203-pound netminder can soon turn his attention toward his first professional season next year. But first, he’ll have one more award ceremony to sit through. On Saturday, he’ll attend a Memorial Cup Awards banquet to find out if he is the Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year or Player of the Year…or both.