If Minnesota Wild prospect Brett Bulmer
makes the big-league team this fall, fans might have to thank former Wild forward and current Dallas Star Eric Nystrom.
Bulmer said it was Nystrom who played a big part in his development last fall, before the veteran was traded to the Stars on Oct. 12, 2011. Perhaps in a bit of an ironic twist, it also was the trade that helped pave the way for Bulmer to make the Wild's roster for nine games last season -- something he said was invaluable.
"It's huge to have that as a 19-year old," Bulmer said. "Going back and playing in the WHL, I just made sure I went back and stayed a pro. This summer, I consider myself a pro and living that way and making sure I don't take a day off."
While with the Wild, Bulmer made sure to pay careful attention to the older players. With a locker next to the veteran Nystrom, Bulmer said he learned from him how to carry himself and how to work each day.
The Prince George, British Columbia native used those lessons when he was sent back to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League to finish the season. He carried that edge with him last week at 2012 Wild Development Camp, where Bulmer was perhaps the best player on the ice for much of the week. He also will use them this fall when he agian vies for a roster spot with the big club.
"I'm not going to just come here and go through the motions," Bulmer said. "I'm going to put in the work and make sure, if it's on ice or off ice, I'm going 100 percent, showing I want to be here."
The power forward in the making rocketed up the Wild's prospect chart last fall with a great training camp, one that kept him with the big club at the start of the season. National Hockey League rules allow players from the WHL to play in nine games in the NHL before being shipped back to their junior teams.
After showing his NHL future is bright, assisting on three goals in nine games and playing with a physical edge, Bulmer went back to Kelowna and scored 34 goals and 28 assists in 53 games for the Rockets.
"I needed to use my confidence," Bulmer said of what he took with him back to Canada last fall. "I've always been a confident player. I got a taste, so I know what it takes now. It's the best league in the world and that's where I want to be."
Competition for roster spots this fall will be fierce. Not only do the Wild have a number of veteran forwards, but Bulmer will be competing with perhaps the deepest prospect pool in franchise history. The competition, especially between the younger guys, is something he feels will make the whole group better.
"Whenever you have guys to feed off of, it's huge," Bulmer said. "We have a pretty special group I think and the fans are going to see that. For us to be able to feed off each other and push each other, we're going to get better every day."
The signing of Zach Parise earlier this month also could have a direct effect on Bulmer's chances of making the roster. Despite being a right-handed shot (Parise is a lefty), Parise's arrival likely pushes other veterans down the depth chart.
Bulmer said it wouldn’t change his approach one bit.
"It doesn't effect it at all," Bulmer said. "I have the same mind set. They can sign whoever. You gotta worry about yourself and that's what I'm going to do… just worry about how I approach [the season] and how I take care of myself. The rest will figure itself out."
For the rest of the summer, Bulmer said he will head home to B.C. and continue working on his game and his body. He said putting on some weight but maintaining his speed ("It's a big part of my game too," he added) will be his goals.
Once training camp opens, he only has one focus: Making the Wild, and this time, sticking around for good.
"I need to be all I can be," Bulmer said. "They let me play last year because they knew I could add to the team. I'm going to play that same game, use my skill, use my offensive ability, take care of my own end, be gritty and get on the body."