The Minnesota Wild opened the 2011 NHL season Saturday with a 4-2 home win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and at least one of their players couldn't wait for the puck to drop.
Brett Bulmer is just 19 years-old and certainly never expected to be playing in this game when he arrived at training camp last month.
"It really is amazing to be here right now, it's a dream come true and the hardest part now is knowing you're ready and having to wait all day to hit the ice," Bulmer said before seeing time in Saturday's win.
Bulmer figures to get plenty of icetime over the course this season. He's slated to skate on the Wild's third line with Cal Clutterbuck and Darroll Powe.
First-year head coach Mike Yeo was asked about Bulmer's role on the team after morning skate Saturday and he quickly responded with, "Brett has earned this position by having a tremendous camp for us and I'm going to try and get everybody into the game."
"Brett is a very intense player who works hard every shift,"Yeo continued. "I think he fits on that line really well. I will tell you this much ... those three aren't going to be much fun to play against."
Bulmer was born in Prince George, British Columbia, in 1992. His parents, Lance and Sharon, traveled in from Canada to see their son play his first NHL game.
"They are extremely proud, and talking to them in the last couple of days I almost think they might be more excited than I am ... which is crazy." Bulmer said. "I think, looking back, they have actually put the most work in to get me into this position -- I am very grateful."
Last season Bulmer played 57 games for Kelowna in the WHL, recording 18 goals and 31 assists for 49 points while racking up 109 penalty minutes. Later that same year he was sent to Houston to play for Yeo in Houston with the Aeros. Bulmer played in eight playoff games for Houston with no points.
Yeo was impressed, even though Bulmer was with him only a short time.
"I was taken aback by how fearless this kid was," Yeo noted. "Most often when youngsters play in that league they are a little tentative... but not Brett -- he came in with quite an edge.
"He has this (pesky) side to him that drives players crazy. Being so tall he is able to poke the puck away with his reach and he is always yapping at players while he is doing it."
As the youngster gets ready for the next big step in his career he still seems unafraid of the moment.
"I've played hockey all of my life, I've worked very hard to get here and in the end it's still just playing hockey," said Bulmer.
One of the changes at the NHL level, however, will be the fact that Bulmer will now be going toe to toe with some of the superstars he grew up idolizing.
"Rick Nash who plays for Columbus is certainly I guy I've admired from afar," he noted. "Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I'm out there battling with some of these big names, but most times I just try to do my job."
The preseason brought Bulmer the experience of skating against some of the best players in the world. The next challenge is to prove he can produce at this new level.
"Every day is a new day for me to show that I belong here, and I'm not going to take anything for granted." Bulmer said.
"The guys here have been really good to me and helped me feel very welcome. Now it's my turn to go out there and help this team win, by working my hardest to get some results on the ice."