It has been Wild prospect Ivan Lodnia’s dream to skate in the NHL since he was 5 years old.
The sounds around the rink hooked him — the swooshing as his skate blades dig into the ice, the clicking when he stickhandles and the hissing once the puck sails toward the net.
“Those little noises, just being there is a lot of fun,” Lodnia said.
But twisting a passion into a profession isn’t a solo journey for Lodnia, now 18. He’s been helped along by his family, and that support is motivating the forward to crack the Wild’s lineup.
“Hopefully I can do my diligence and repay them, so they can finally relax,” he said.
Lodnia was born in Los Angeles after his parents and older sister moved to California from Ukraine with only $100.
He was on the ice by the time he was a year old and played in his first game at 3. Friends were mystified when they heard Lodnia played hockey, asking him, ‘What’s that?’ But Lodnia was committed, and so were his parents — who bought a rink in Anaheim in 2006.
That’s where Lodnia skated growing up before leaving the state to continue his development, first to Michigan in 2012 and then to Erie, where he starred in the Ontario Hockey League for the past three seasons.
Even with him and his parents on the move, the ice arena in Anaheim has stayed afloat, with his sister Masha maintaining it.
“If it’s not for her, we wouldn’t be here today,” Lodnia said.
And while he’s been relieved at the progress he’s made so far — getting drafted in the third round, 85th overall, by the Wild a year ago before signing a three-year, entry-level contract in December — he still has more to accomplish.
“Hopefully I can show the management who I actually am as a hockey player,” Lodnia said.
A return to juniors for a fourth season has the potential to spark even more growth in Lodnia’s game.
After completing development camp at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday, Lodnia will participate in the World Junior Summer Showcase that starts later this month — an audition for the 2019 World Junior Championship.
“It’s an honor to be invited by your country to play for them and hopefully make the team for World Juniors,” he said.
There’s also an opportunity to rebound with the Otters, who failed to make the playoffs last season. Lodnia had 22 goals and 59 points, his best output to date in the OHL, and the winger seemed to benefit from playing center even after he switched back to the flank.
“He needs to take another step,” Wild director of player development Brad Bombardir said.
For Lodnia, that evolution includes adding muscle — strength that should help him deploy his offensive skills. The 18-year-old, who also logged six games with Iowa in the American Hockey League last season, said he feels he already has made some strides in that area and hopes to show the organization his improvement at training camp.
“Obviously you want to make the pros right away,” Lodnia said. “So that should be your goal coming into camp, so that’s my goal this year to hopefully play for the big team. But if that doesn’t work out, just keep developing and just keep pushing.”
Not only for him but his entire family.
“It’s our whole goal,” Lodnia said, “to achieve that goal.”