WINNIPEG – Despite joining the Wild late in the season as rookies, the team didn’t shy away from relying on defenseman Nick Seeler and winger Jordan Greenway in the playoffs.
Both impressed amid the responsibility, emerging as two of the bright spots in the Wild’s first-round loss to the Jets. But that decision to dole out steady ice time to them this postseason might have repercussions in the future.
It could also help the team’s competitiveness next season. The two seem primed to contend for regular roles after banking such vital experience this spring.
“I can’t read the future, but I assume it’s going to make them better players,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’ve been really excited by both of those guys, so I think it really bodes well for the Minnesota organization that those guys are up-and-coming NHL players for a long time I hope.”
Seeler and Greenway appeared in every playoff game for the Wild and while the focus was on battling the Jets before it eliminated the Wild with a 5-0 rout in Game 5, the opportunity also has looked like an evaluation period. Based on how both have fared, it isn’t difficult to envision each challenging for full-time gigs in 2018-19.
“I’ve gained a lot of confidence, for sure,” said Greenway, who was playing with Boston University just last month before turning pro. “I didn’t really know what to expect coming in here, to be honest. It was a big jump from college, but definitely being able to play in these games and just practice with the guys and be with the guys definitely I think gives me an advantage for next year.”
Greenway logged only six regular-season games before the playoffs and has only seemed to get better over time. Not only did he score his first career goal in Game 3, but the 21-year-old’s size and ability to hold onto the puck has been a much-needed boost for the Wild.
Seeler, 24, had a longer introduction, skating in 22 regular-season contests, and that seemed to prepare the defenseman to be steady in the playoffs — an effectiveness that earned him a promotion to the second pairing.
“Didn’t expect this,” Seeler said. “Just grateful for the opportunity. Obviously, it’s been a blast.”
The Jets were without defensemen Josh Morrissey for Game 5, as he served a one-game suspension for the cross-check he delivered to center Eric Staal’s neck Tuesday in Game 4.
But Winnipeg did get 6-8 Tyler Myers back on the blue line after he missed Game 4 because of a lower-body injury.
Myers was injured in Game 3, leaving the action after a collision with winger Marcus Foligno along the boards. Some suspected Foligno injured Myers with a punch to his knee when the two got tangled up, but Myers said that wasn’t the case.
“I just remember it being an awkward play,” Myers said. “I haven’t put too much thought into it, trying to focus on [Game 5] and trying to get back to feeling good again these past couple of days. I did that.”
As expected, the Wild switched up its look for Game 5 to ignite an offense that was blanked in Game 4.
Aside from adding puck-moving defenseman Ryan Murphy to the third pairing, winger Kyle Rau slotted into the third line on the right side. Neither change helped, as the team ended the series getting shut out for 141 minutes, 37 seconds.
“We wanted to score,” Boudreau said. “They made it very difficult to score.”
The Jets inserted forward Matt Hendricks into their lineup, his first appearance of the series after being out with a lower-body injury. Winger Nikolaj Ehlers didn’t play, as he was dealing with what Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice termed a “malaise.”