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  1. #1
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    Wild prospects Cuma, Gillies getting taste of NHL

    Wild prospects Cuma, Gillies getting taste of NHL
    On the third day of the Minnesota Wildís development camp, recent first-round selection Tyler Cuma took a high stick near his left eye and spent the latter portion of the afternoon being stitched up.

    Welcome to the NHL, kid.

    Cuma, who was grabbed at No. 23 by the Wild at last monthís draft, was in good spirits Wednesday afternoon after being patched up. The important thing to the 6-foot-2, 180-pound defenseman is heís getting a taste of life in Minnesotaís organization.

    ďItís going fine so far,Ē Cuma told NHL.com. ďItís good to get on the ice and learning from the coaching staff here. Iím getting to be with some of the older guys, and theyíre really taking us under their wing. Itís pretty much everything I expected. Itís a lot faster. Youíve got to make sure youíre in good shape coming here.Ē

    With Cuma still on the board in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and Wild brass anxious to secure him, Minnesota dealt the No. 24 selection Ė and a third-round pick in 2009 Ė to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for the No. 23 pick. Just like that, Cuma became a member of the Wild.

    Nearly a month later Cuma still canít believe that he was able to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams by being taken in the first round of the draft.

    ďI donít think itís completely sunk in yet. Itís pretty surreal,Ē Cuma said. ďItís an unbelievable feeling to be called up on that podium on draft day, especially in the first round. Itís satisfying that all the hard work and dedication youíre putting in is paying off.Ē

    Colton Gillies certainly understands where Cuma is coming from. Minnesotaís first-round selection from 2007 (No. 16) is also participating in the Wildís development camp. Gillies, 19, had a goal and seven assists in 11 games with the American Hockey Leagueís Houston Aeros late in the 2007-08 campaign. The 6-4 center began the season with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League, posting 24 goals and 23 assists to go along with 97 penalty minutes.

    ďIíve been working out here for about three weeks,Ē Gillies said. ďObviously, Iíve been trying to get bigger, stronger and faster. Here, Iím just working on power skating and whatever they give us, you take in.Ē

    Just as he did in Houston.

    While he wasnít there long, Gillies came away awfully impressed with the talent level of the AHL. In the end, he believes the brief stint helped his development.

    ďI thought it was a good league,Ē Gillies said. ďI didnít know if I was going to play the first game or if they were going to let me slowly ease into it, but they ended up throwing me in there right away. I think I did really well and helped them make the playoffs. It was a really good experience.Ē

    While itís highly likely that Cuma will return to the Ontario Hockey Leagueís Ottawa 67ís for a third season of junior hockey, Gillies has a chance make the Wildís roster this fall. If he doesnít play in Minnesota, Gillies will return to Saskatoon for a fourth season. He canít play in Houston due to the fact that he still has junior eligibility.

    ďItís either make this team or go back to junior,Ē Gillies said. ďI think if I just keep working hard and I listen to them, I think things will go well.Ē

    Gillies also admitted that being a first-round selection carries a little extra weight. In the end, he realizes that where he will play next season is ultimately Minnesotaís decision.

    That being said, heís prepared to make that decision a difficult one.

    ďIíve kind of learned to deal with it, but there definitely is pressure,Ē Gillies said. ďAll I can really do is work hard and just help them out as much as I can. The way I see it is itís not my decision to be there. If they think that Iím ready, and if I can help out the team and the organization, then I think Iíll be there.Ē

    Cuma, on the other hand, understands he may still be a season or two away from playing in the NHL. The Toronto native had four goals, 28 assists and 69 penalty minutes in 59 games for the 67ís in 2007-08.

    ďRealistically, I think Iíll probably play another year in Ottawa,Ē Cuma said. ďI havenít really grown into my body yet, so I think the physical part of the game Ė especially for a defenseman Ė I need that. But I know itís coming. Iím obviously going to try to make the team right off the get-go, but if worst comes to worst, Iím going to go back to Ottawa and continue to develop there.Ē

    As for feeling added pressure as a first-round pick Ė combined with the fact that the Wild traded up to get him Ė Cuma brushed off such a notion pretty quickly. In fact, he feels he may even be tougher on himself than any member of the Wildís brass.

    ďItís not too much pressure,Ē Cuma said. ďIím pretty hard on myself as it is. Theyíre not rushing me. Thereís no rush in my development. Itís going to take some time before Iím ready to play in the NHL. They havenít really put too much added stress on me, but itís nothing that I canít handle, anyways. I thrive off those situations. I like the challenge. Whatever they want from me, thereís no doubt in my mind Iíll do it.Ē

    Itís only fair after the desire the Wild expressed just to draft him, right?

    ďItís always good to go to a team that wants you,Ē Cuma said. ďThey even traded up to get me, so it just goes to show you even more so that they wanted me. They even mentioned afterwards that they were trying to get me all night. Itís good to see that they had a lot of interest in me, and Iím happy to be in Minnesota.Ē

  2. #2
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    Is there a reason this is in the Sharks forum?

  3. #3
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    i was just about 2 ask the same thing. why would sharks fans care?

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