Born June 18, 1984 (age 27) in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Goaltender for the Minnesota Wild
With Minnesota’s surprising rise to NHL dominance comes a desire to really study more about the men propelling them to the top of the league. Harding is the Wild’s current backup tendy. He came up in the WHL with the hometown Regina Pats and the Brandon Wheat Kings, winning recognition as the league’s top goaltender and MVP in 2003. Minnesota drafted him 38th overall in 2002, so he is homegrown talent. But he came up through the juniors, tending goal for the Houston Aeros, notching a notable rookie season (21-16-3, 2.01 GAA). Of course, he also stayed with Houston during the year that never was. He then amassed a 27-8-0 record and a .923% save percentage, the second best in the AHL, for 2005-06.
He made his way to Minnesota in 2006 following the trade of Dwayne Roloson (yes, that Dwayne Roloson) to Edmonton. He appeared in three Wild games that season with a 2-1-0, 2.59 record. This pattern of primary usage by Houston with occasional callups to Minnesota continued for the next few years, Harding getting a shutout against the Oilers in 2007, another shutout against the Ducks that same year, improving his GAA, continuing to do what he could when called up…but then in September 2010, he tore his ACL and MCL in his right knee during a preseason game and had to miss the entire season for rehab. (When I was in high school, a football player tore his ACL and had a huge cast basically all the way up to his upper thigh. I cannot imagine how healing went for him or Harding; that’s a tough set of cards to be dealt.)
However, the Wild kept their faith in him and resigned him in July of this year. The Wild made headlines for temporarily signing a 51-year-old tendy when Backstrom was out with imminent fatherhood, Harding got the start and they had to activate Matt Hackett from Houston. Worried that he might not arrive in Minnesota in time for the game, Paul Deutsch got to have one heck of a day, though Hackett was there in time. When the line of succession isn’t interrupted like that, Harding has been able to play this season and has been a very able backup for Niklas Backstrom, posting a 7-2-1-1 so far with a .932% and 2.14. For a while there, he was atop some of the most notable standings for netminders. He’s definitely a part of what’s keeping Minnesota’s haters quiet.