Wild TV: Casey Wellman
Newly signed Casey Wellman
, fresh off his season at UMass, talks to the media after skating at Xcel Energy Center
If all goes according to plan, the Minnesota Wild just got younger, stronger and deeper at the center position. And it didn’t cost the team a draft pick or a player. Just money.
On Tuesday, the Wild signed free agent center Casey Wellman to an entry-level contract. Wellman, a two-year standout at the University of Massachusetts, arrived in Minnesota today, and could be in the Wild’s lineup tonight against the Edmonton Oilers.
“Casey is a skilled, offensive forward, who shoots the puck,” said Wild General Manager, Chuck Fletcher. “He was a highly sought after free agent, and we are excited he chose to sign with us.”
The Wild also recalled defenseman Justin Falk
from the Houston Aeros today. The fourth round pick in the 2007 draft could make his NHL debut tonight.
Wellman, a 6-foot-1, 185-pounder led UMass with 23 goals as a sophomore this season, which put him in a tie for sixth in the nation. His 45 points ranked second among the Minutemen. Wellman also ranked second on the team in scoring during his freshman season in 2008-2009, tallying 11 goals and 22 assists to lead all Hockey East freshmen, and earning All-Rookie Team honors.
Prior to joining UMass, the Brentwood, California native spent two seasons with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League. During that time, he totaled 69 points (30-39=69) in 118 games.
“We’re attracted to his offensive potential,” said Assistant General Manager, Brent Flahr. “He’s your typical late-blooming kid that went undrafted. He’s not a finished product, we’re aware of that. But with his shot and offensive potential, we were willing to take a shot and get him in here, and hopefully get him going on his pro career.”
Wellman is no stranger to the professional lifestyle. His father, Brad, enjoyed a seven-year Major League Baseball career as a middle infielder with the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers the Kansas City Royals.
This signing marks a significant change in philosophy for the Wild, which typically had not made a habit of signing college free agents. The last college player to sign as a free agent with Minnesota was Mike Madill after a four-year career at St. Lawrence.
The only United States college free agent to sign with Minnesota and then play immediately for the Wild was North Dakota defenseman Travis Roche, who played in the 2000-2001 season finale after playing the National Championship game the night before. Roche went on to play four games the following year and five more in 2003-2004.
Current Wild defenseman John Scott was also signed as a free agent out of Michigan Tech.
Flahr said this is not likely a one-time fling with the college free agent market. The front office staff has more names on their target list.
“(Wellman) was obviously one of the main targets,” he said. “Our guys work all year long to identify free agents. There are a couple names that we listed at the end of the year. But we’re not out to sign players just to sign players. We’re looking for players that have a chance to play in the NHL, and people we want in the organization. We’re just trying to do the best we can to supplement the talent we have coming.”