The more you watch Jason Pominville play hockey, the easier it is to understand why Zach Parise’s eyes lit up April 3 when told the Wild acquired the Buffalo Sabres captain.
He’s smart, defensively sound, a terrific playmaker and a proven finisher.
“He’s an all-around player, and I saw him firsthand a lot out in the East, so I knew how good a player he is. That’s why I was so excited when we got him,” Parise said after assisting on goals by Pominville and Mikko Koivu during Sunday’s green-white scrimmage. “Now that we’ve got a healthy Pommer, it’s going to make a huge difference for us.”
Pominville, 30, scored four goals and nine points in 10 games with Minnesota before sustaining a concussion and whiplash with three games left last season. Now he is not only healthy, but he feels much more comfortable simply having a training camp after his whirlwind April.
“I remember the first game in L.A., they chalk up a board and throw a bunch of things at you, and you’re just excited to be there, it’s a new team, you’re meeting all kinds of different people and you’re just confused,” said Pominville, who had never been traded before.
“There’s a lot of things that go with being traded. You have a place where you used to play, so you have to make sure you empty that and bring as many things as you can here. You get here and you don’t have a vehicle, so what do you do? And I’m terrible with directions anyway [laughs]. Everything’s new, everything’s thrown at you. So it’s nice to be able to get settled in, get out of the hotel, get my family here and get a feel for the city and team.”
Sunday, Pominville, Koivu and Parise showed impressive chemistry. The line buzzed and seemed to know each other’s tendencies all scrimmage.
“We supported each other really well,” Parise said. “It’s just a green and white game, but we put each other in a good position with the puck with speed, so we were supporting all over the ice. That makes it a lot easier on each other because you’re giving the other guy a good chance with the puck.”
Asked why he thinks Pominville is so underrated around the NHL, Parise said: “It makes no sense. He’s a guy that’s scored 30 a few times, has been a point-a-game player. You’re playing with a guy like [Thomas] Vanek, who gets a lot of notoriety. Maybe that’s it, but every time I played Buffalo, I thought Pommer and Vanek played very well together and each one was equally as dangerous.”
That’s pretty ironic considering there’s a chance the Wild pursues Vanek, a former Gopher and current Stillwater resident, if he becomes a free agent next summer.
One thing that could help? The Wild is working toward signing Pominville to a contract extension.
“Jason’s very quietly managed to forge a very good career. His intelligence and competitiveness are off the charts, and you combine that with his puck skills, it’s easy to see why,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said.
“I don’t want to get into a blow by blow [of contract talks], but we’re working with his agent and just want to get it done. We’ll continue to work away at it. Generally, when a player wants to stay and a team wants him to stay, these things typically find a way of working out. I’m not overly concerned with the time frame.”
In white’s 3-2 win, new Wild left winger Matt Cooke scored a goal and assisted on linemate Torrey Mitchell’s goal in a losing cause. Teammates were shocked at the speed, skill and shot of Cooke, mostly known for his agitating style and big hits.
“Did you guys think we were getting some bum or what?” Cooke told his teammates kiddingly.
Jason Zucker also scored for white on a nice pass from Mikael Granlund. Defenseman Matt Dumba assisted on Koivu’s winner.
One day after saying Nino Niederreiter’s shot was “silly hard,” coach Mike Yeo said, “He just screams NHL player … when you look at his size, skating ability, his shot.”
New rule for visors
Starting this season, all new NHLers must wear a visor. Defenseman Ryan Suter, one of handful of Wild players who had played without one, will start wearing one, too. Being nailed in the helmet by a slapshot last season woke him up.
“An inch over, I could have lost my eye,” Suter said. “Just not worth it anymore. Everyone else can wear it, why can’t I?”