Seems like there’s just no end to the interest in Wild hockey around here.
There was the drama last week, culminating with the signing of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to long-term deals. Monday the two were introduced in a well-attended press conference. Tuesday prospects in the Wild organization took to the ice for development camp knowing that an improving team will make competition for roster spots that much more intense.Greetings. Kent Youngblood here. I was at the two practices today; Mr. Russo will be back in the saddle tomorrow. Before I really get going, I have to say the most entertaining thing I saw today was after the second practice, when Marco Scandella, who had been skating in a defensive pair with first-round draft pick Matt Dumba in practice, welcomed Dumba to the organization with shaving cream pie to the face.
Welcome to the NHL, kid.
Meanwhile, it’s going to get a little harder to get that welcome come the regular season, given the signings of Suter and Parise and the influx of prospects vying for NHL roster sports. And these guys know it.
Going around the locker rooms today you heard two messages. One, that everyone was thrilled to follow the free agency saga last week and excited for what landing both Suter and Parise means to the organization. Two, that everyone knows the competition just went up a notch or two.
“This team is going in the right direction,” said Charlie Coyle. “But yeah, it’s added pressure for everyone. Those are two roster spots that are now gone. But it just makes you work harder.”
Jason Zucker appeared in six games with the Wild late last season after finishing his career at Denver University. He knows how hard it will be for him to stick, full-time, this season. “It’s a challenge,” he said. “It made me want to get to the gym the next day, made me want to get on the ice the next day to make sure I was getting better. Because I am fighting for a spot. I’m not guaranteed a slot on this team. Nobody is. Well, except for Parise (he said, smiling). It put a fire in me, made me want to get into the gym and make sure I can make this team.”
Here are some other items from camp today:
--The only two players not here today were forwards Mario Lucia and A.J. Michaelson.
--Jonas Brodin and fellow Swede Johan Larsson were on Sweden’s 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal team. “It was unbelievable,” he said. “It was a great season for me, and I think I developed through the season.” Brodin, 6-1 defenseman, said he got a little stronger and has improved his shot.
--Erik Haula, the Gophers forward from Finland, has been working hard to put NHL-caliber muscle on his 5-11 frame. He is listed on the roster as being 170 pounds. But, he said, when he weighed in for this camp he tipped the scales at 189. Haula is returning to the Gophers this fall. He said the team will have very high expectations. “I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “Just gotta see what big 27 is going to do.” He is referring, of course, to Nick Bjugstad, who is deciding whether to return to the Gophers or turn pro. Bjugstad, drafted by Florida in the first round of the 2010 draft, recently completed a prospects camp down there and is said to be mulling his decision. “Obviously everybody hopes he’ll be coming back,” Haula said. “But I have no idea what he’s thinking right now. Florida probably put the pressure on him. But I haven’t talked with him (recently).”
That’s about it for now. Have a good day.