Minnesota sends prized rookie back to junior

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In a move that signals a different approach for how the club handles young prospects, the Minnesota Wild sent 19-year-old Brett Bulmer back to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League today. Bulmer had three assists in nine games this season with the Wild, averaging just over 11 minutes a night.

“It doesn’t make sense to keep a 19-year-old around an NHL team when he’s not playing regularly,” Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher told the Minnesota Star-Tribune (the Wild had scratched Bulmer for Saturday’s game against Detroit.) “He played really well for us in the last month and we believe it was a good learning experience for him, but at this point, the best thing for him in his long term development is to get back to playing junior hockey and playing a big role on his team there.”

Minnesota had been criticized in years past for rushing its draft picks to the NHL. Colton Gillies, the Wild’s first-round pick in 2007, joined the team as a 19-year-old but quickly fell out of favor with then-head coach Jacques Lemaire. Same thing with James Sheppard, the ninth overall selection from 2006 that jumped straight from junior to the NHL (and then jumped straight into Lemaire’s doghouse.) Gillies has spent most of his career in the AHL while Sheppard is now with the San Jose organization.

Bulmer’s return to Kelowna is much more in line with Minnesota’s current approach to draftees. The Wild’s last three first-rounders — Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin and Zack Phillips — are all currently playing with their respective European/junior teams while Charlie Coyle, who Minnesota acquired in the Brent Burns trade, is still at Boston University.