Defenseman Nick Seeler had just grabbed breakfast with his parents at PerKup Café in Des Moines when he received a call from Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr.
He felt shock initially, the news delivered from the other end of the conversation surprising him.
But then he realized what it meant, and excitement washed over him.
His dream was about to come true.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to get the first call-up,” Seeler said. “I’m just glad it happened. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I’m going to make the best of it.”
After getting recalled by the Wild from Iowa of the American Hockey League on Sunday, Seeler is set to make his NHL debut Tuesday against the Rangers at Xcel Energy Center.
The Eden Prairie native will become the 25th Minnesotan to skate in a regular-season game for the Wild and just the fifth to log his first career game with the organization — a fitting introduction to the league after the 24-year-old won two Minnesota Class AA hockey championships at Eden Prairie and fulfilled a childhood ambition to suit up for the Gophers. He spent his junior season at Minnesota.
“I definitely have those nerves, but I think it’s a good thing,” said Seeler, who’s expecting a contingent of family members, including his parents, Dan and Kris, and friends to be in attendance Tuesday. “I’m going to try to channel that into just playing my game. You also need to stay calm out there and focus on the ‘D’ side and making that first pass and all that good stuff.”
Seeler is poised to beef up the Wild’s blue line with his physical style — an approach that had merited him a team-leading 74 penalty minutes in 49 games with Iowa this season.
“He’s big,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Seeler. “He’s a defensive defenseman. I think that’s going to bode well for us.”
But in his second pro season, Seeler has noticed an uptick in confidence and he’s been able to help out on offense; he’s racked up 12 assists after tallying just five the previous campaign.
“My decisions have been better with the puck and kind of making that simple pass out of the zone,” he said.
Seeler, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2011 by the Wild, will be the ninth Iowa player (including his former Eden Prairie teammate Kyle Rau) to play for the Wild this season. Injuries, most recently to defenseman Jonas Brodin, have stoked the need for depth, but team brass also anticipates the minor league squad providing support for the Wild the rest of the way.
“They’re a lot better this year,” Boudreau said. “They got way more depth this year. So you’re bringing up players with a winning attitude rather than I think in the past, they were always just quiet guys that were just grateful they were getting a chance.”
Although each team caters to its respective personnel, there are plenty of similarities between how the two want to play, which Seeler was made aware of Monday when he practiced with a portion of the group. Veterans Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen, Eric Staal, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon and Devan Dubnyk — who was named the NHL’s third star of the week after going 2-0-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average and .950 save percentage — skipped the session to rest up.
That cohesiveness between the parent club and its affiliate can help ease the transition a player like Seeler is facing.
“I want to play physical in the ‘D’ zone and in front of the net and play tough when it’s there,” Seeler said. “Just play my game. That’s what they keep telling me.”