Wild's biggest catches are on display

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 12, 2011 - 6:22 AM

Former San Jose Sharks Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi introduced themselves to Minnesota as the Wild's future took shape.

With the prospects being worked into a sweaty lather Monday on the first day of the Wild's development camp, Devin Setoguchi introduced himself to draft pick Stephen Michalek.

"Oh, I know who you are," the Harvard-bound goalie said to Setoguchi.

Moments later, renowned goal-scorer Dany Heatley caught the attention of a number of awestruck teenagers who, like Michalek, are aspiring NHLers.

"Pretty surreal to see Heatley cruise by in the Wild locker room," defenseman Kyle Medvec wrote on his Twitter account.

It's been a dramatic offseason for the Wild, one that was triggered less than 12 hours after the team missed the playoffs for a third consecutive year by the firing of coach Todd Richards.

Since then, the changes have been fast and furious, with the hiring of Mike Yeo as coach and the overhaul of a roster that includes the departure of six unrestricted free agents, established players Brent Burns and Martin Havlat and the arrivals of Darroll Powe and Mike Lundin.

But General Manager Chuck Fletcher's two largest additions -- Heatley and Setoguchi -- tried on their forest green Wild sweaters for the first time Monday.

"I think as a team we're going to get back in the playoffs," said Heatley, music to the ears of Wild fans everywhere.

If that's to happen, Heatley and Setoguchi must be two significant factors.

The former San Jose Sharks teammates looked and sounded excited for fresh starts Monday. They spent the previous couple of days in the Twin Cities looking for places to live.

It appears the buddies will be living a few blocks apart.

"I think Minneapolis is going to be the place I call home now," said Setoguchi, who jokingly called Minnesota "the 14th province [and territory] of Canada."

Both players met with Yeo and Fletcher to discuss expectations and roles.

"I may only be 24, but I've played four years," said Setoguchi, who scored 31 goals in 2008-09. "I've been in the playoffs every year and played overtime games in the playoffs every year. I'm at a crossroads where I need to pick up my game one more step, be a professional and turn into that man you've got to be in order to play in this league.

"I'm ready to take the jump."

Fletcher acquired Heatley and Setoguchi in an effort to change the mentality of the forwards, who love to pass but not shoot. The Wild ranked 26th in the NHL in goals and 30th in shots last season.

"You're going to find that I'm just going to shoot the puck," Setoguchi said. "I get the puck, I shoot it. I don't hold on to it, I don't make nice, really sweet plays with it. I just shoot it."

Heatley, a two-time 50-goal scorer who dropped to 26 last season, sounded motivated to prove all his always-loud critics wrong.

"If you score goals, you're always expected to score goals, and that's never going to change," Heatley said. "I love being in that spot. If you don't like being in that spot, I think you're in the wrong place."

Some say Heatley has lost a step, but as Heatley said, "We were just joking about that with [Yeo]. He was saying, 'You're 30 years. It's not like you're 38.' So I feel real good. I feel like I can have a real good year this year, and I'm going to do that."

In fact, Yeo said, "I don't see why there's a reason he can't have his best year ever in the NHL."

Heatley has talked with new teammates Nick Schultz and Josh Harding and exchanged messages with captain Mikko Koivu, a private in the Finnish army who's due to be promoted to infantryman Friday.

"I think he's one of the best centermen in the league," Heatley said of Koivu, his likely linemate when training camp opens Sept. 16. "I think being an outsider and seeing him from afar, I think he's an underrated guy. But playing against him over the years, I think he's a real good player and I'm excited to be on his team."

Heatley talked about how much he loves playing in Xcel Energy Center and how the former University of Wisconsin star even plans to take in a Gophers game or two ... "if the Badgers are in town."

Yeo is excited about the upcoming season, especially a group of forwards with skill in the top six and a lot of grit and tenacity in the bottom six.

Heatley and Setoguchi are two big reasons for this new-look Wild team.

"We're going to be a fast team, and I know that's the way Mike wants to play," Setoguchi said. "He wants to be fast, north-south, and that's the way I like to play. And that's when the fans like to watch is when it's nice and fast."

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