Leland Irving is a name that may or may not ring a bell to those who follow the Western Conference pretty closely — so for some Minnesota Wild fans, news that he’s getting a shot will bring back a few memories.
The Minnesota Wild have been dealing with goalie issues since last season, when the club saw a tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom struggle to hold the Central Division club afloat.
The hope, of course, is that recently extended starter Devan Dubnyk will be able to repeat his success from last year, while Kuemper is able to bounce back from the trouble he had in the 2014-2015 campaign (which saw the 24 year old netminder post back-to-back shutouts, then drop to a 14-12-2 record and see his save percentage dip to a .905). With Backstrom perennially injured, though, and a rotating cast in net for the Iowa Wild in 2014-2015, it’s reasonable to see the team giving outsiders a shot to compete for a job.
#mnwild bringing Calgary #Flames first-rounder, goalie Leland Irving, to camp on a PTO. Fresh off KHL. Essentially trying out for Iowa
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) September 14, 2015
Drafted in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames, Irving played in a grant total of 13 NHL games before opting to head over to Europe to play. Struggles adapting to the pro game following a successful career with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips — Irving posted a post-draft year save percentage of .929 at the major junior level, posting 11 shutouts throughout the regular season — left the 6 foot, 175 lb native of Swan Hills, Alberta without a spot in Calgary’s depth chart. He inked a deal with Jokerit Helinski of SM-liiga, and it seemed that was the last that would be seen of him in North American pro hockey.
Now, though, he’s got a shot to return to the NHL depth charts — if things pan out, he’d be a likely face to get ice time at the AHL level again.
For goaltenders, 27 — the age that Irving is now — isn’t too old to see a game finally develop into something consistent. So much of goaltending is both mental and physical that the mental aspect can finally click at any time; for Irving, that may be the case.
Of course, it seems that Irving may just like keeping his options open; the former top prospect had initially accepted a PTO invite with the Tampa Bay prior to the 2014-2015 season, then reportedly backed out around this time last September.