Petr Kalus took to the ice on Tuesday for the first time in a Wild sweater.
Minnesota Wild management was certain that teams lobbying for the net protection services of Manny Fernandez would be willing to give up considerable value in return.
Earlier this month, the Wild would find a plausible suitor for such a request in the Boston Bruins. This is where Petr Kalus -- a 6-1, 197-pound power forward -- became an instant top prospect in Minnesota. A native of Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, Kalus (pronounced “KAY-liss”) was acquired by the Wild on July 1, the first day National Hockey League (NHL) teams were able to operate under the new salary cap mandate for the 2007-08 season.
Less than a month later, a number of Wild personnel, including team president and general manager Doug Risebrough, are getting to see Kalus, 20, perform in a Wild sweater.
Tuesday morning at Xcel Energy Center, Kalus and 30 other prospects of the organization began a seven-day developmental camp run by Wild assistants Mike Ramsey and Mario Tremblay with support from minor-league affiliate head coach Kevin Constantine, the newly appointed bench boss of the Houston Aeros, Minnesota’s American Hockey League organization.
Kalus spent most of the 2006-07 season with the AHL’s Providence Bruins, where he recorded 13 goals and 17 assists and 110 penalty minutes (PIM) in 43 games. He made his NHL debut on March 24 in Boston and scored a goal three days later at Ottawa on his first shot attempt.
He wasn’t done using the one-shot, one-goal philosophy after his first one, either. Kalus, a left-handed stick handler, potted two more goals on single-shot attempts (one versus Atlanta on March 31 and one at New Jersey, April 1). In all, he participated in nine games for Boston, posting four goals with one assist for five points and six PIM.
“[Last year] was a great experience for me,” Kalus said. “I got called up a little late but I was injured in Providence. Then I started getting better and worked out hard. When I got called up, it was good.”
In general, scouting reports suggest that Kalus is someone who possesses world-class speed and a knack for the offensive with potential to someday evolve into a top-six NHL winger. In fact, the right wing might even agree with an assessment much like that, but has a message for anyone who wants to know what he’s really capable of on the ice.
“I play a two-way game and try to do my best with my skates and move around the net to get some goals,” he said.
Thompson admitted that Kalus caught his attention while he was monitoring the IIHF World Championships during the 2004-05 season, which the NHL cancelled due to labor disputes.
“[At the time], Petr was playing in the Czech Republic,” Thompson recalled. “They had a very good team in the world under 18’s that year. At the end of that tournament, we really liked Kalus and thought this is going to be a skate hard, hit hard, work hard, pound-the-puck type forward.
“Maybe not a physical guy but he’s on you -- he’s annoying -- you can’t move when he’s there. So, that’s what he’s going to be and we really need someone like that so we were really interested in him.”
On July 30, 2005, the Bruins named Kalus as their second-round entry draftee at No. 39 overall. The draft, which determined its order using a lottery format due to the lockout, was completed in seven rounds rather than the usual nine and in “snake” style, meaning in even rounds, the team’s selection order was reversed.
Today, Kalus is glad to be in Minnesota and was impressed by the Wild’s run into the playoffs last season.
“With players like Marian Gaborik, this team has a lot of speed,” said Kalus of the Wild, which also received a 2009 fourth-round draft selection by dealing Fernandez. “Hockey is being played that way now -- with speed. Players have to be able to skate and I think this team can do it well.
“I was following Minnesota last year in the playoffs and thought there was a team that could win the Stanley Cup in a couple years, maybe even this season. You never know.”
The Prospects Camp is the first step toward playing with the Wild full-time and Kalus has his mind set on staying in Minnesota for a while.
“I want to make this team, like everyone else standing in this locker room, and be successful with the Wild,” Kalus said.
Thompson has told Kalus and the other young hopefuls that they will get their chance.
“I let all the young prospects know the other night that we’re going to present the opportunity to them,” Thompson said. “But we have a good team. No jobs will be given away -- there’s no entitlement -- so you have to force your way into the lineup. On our team, or Houston. If you force your way up, then we’ll find a spot for you.”