Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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High schoolers steal the show at Wild skills competition

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings, Brett Favre, Wild practice Updated: January 24, 2010 - 4:43 PM

Guess what? This is going to be a lazy blog, but I'm cutting and pasting my notebook in Monday's paper on here because, well, I've got friends coming over for the Vikes game in 20 minutes. Here's the notebook -- space permitting -- on the first-class Wild skills competition today.

Also, check out my feature on Wild director of hockey administration Shep Harder in Monday's paper and the Wild's objective to go after more college free agents under the new regime.

Unless there's news, no updated blog Monday. The Wild's got the day off. Brian Stensaas will be covering Tuesday's practice and Wednesday's game vs. Detroit as I get a head start on meeting the team in Denver for Thursday's Avalanche game and upcoming three-game road trip. Russo Radio Wednesday at 6 p.m. on KSTP.

And without further ado, here's the notebook on the skills competition.

NHL goalies can barely stop Mikko Koivu’s signature deke, backhand and roof shootout move.
Tim Shaughnessy? No sweat.
The Hill-Murray junior goaltender stole the show at Sunday’s Wild skills competition when the 17-year-old stoned the Wild captain. With the crowd of 8,000 at Xcel Energy Center roaring, a laughing Koivu gave the young goalie from Stillwater a congratulatory tap on the pads.
“They were playing the Chicago comeback from 5-1 down in the third period on TV before we went out there, and he did the exact same move to win that game,” Shaughnessy said. “I said, ‘OK, he’ll probably do that on me,’ so I said to myself, ‘Go left and I might stop it.’”
Shaughnessy also held Andrew Brunette and Shane Hnidy to one goal apiece in the rapid fire before Koivu whizzed four pucks by him in a blink of an eye.
“He’s got a really hard shot. A lot harder than I’m used to taking,” said Shaughnessy. “This was just a great experience. I’ve watched these guys on TV every weekend and said, ‘Wow, I wonder what it’s like to play with those guys?” I finally got to do it. One of my dreams came true.”
During a fun afternoon, laughing, laid-back Wild players were split into two teams and joined by high schoolers Nick Bjugstad (Blaine), Justin Holl (Minnetonka), Alex Fons (Hopkins), Gina McDonald (Irondale), Julia Gilbert (Proctor/Hermantown/Marshall), Joe Faust (Bloomington Jefferson) and Wilson Housley (Stillwater).
“I couldn’t imagine getting the chance when I was 16, 17 or18 going into the [Toronto Maple] Leafs room and hanging out with some of them,” defenseman Brent Burns said. “It’d be pretty awesome. Just a fun day for us, too. We got to do stupid stuff that we usually can’t do in a game.”
Holl, the Skippers’ senior heading to the University of Minnesota, had the hardest shot among high schoolers at 86 mph. Cal Clutterbuck wowed Wild fans with a 99 mph blast.
Bjugstad, a future Gopher ranked 12th among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting Service’s midterm rankings, showed off during the rapid fire competition.
“Man, what a shot that kid has,” defenseman Nick Schultz said. “I was embarrassed doing the rapid fire after him.
Schultz, an Edina resident, took a lot of flak for wearing an Edina High School hat, especially after Minnetonka beat the Hornets 7-1 the night before.
“The kids were all over me,” Schultz said.
Said Holl, “Not a good day to be wearing an Edina hat.”
Other highlights? Owen Nolan, a right-handed shot, scoring in the shootout lefty, Greg Zanon losing an edge and crashing hard during an ugly shootout attempt, Koivu biting it and doing a belly flop during the puck relay and Josh Harding wearing a Brett Favre Vikings’ jersey during the autograph session.
“The coolest thing was seeing they’re still pretty much little kids,” Holl said. “They’re in the NHL, but it’s still the same kind of banter in our locker room that’s in their locker room.”
 
 
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