Wild rookies bonding, maturing under fire of playoffs

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 7, 2013 - 11:28 AM

Three Wild rookies are making big contributions on the ice — and forging an important bond off it.


The loneliest part of being an NHL rookie is actually when you leave the arena.

Inside the sanctuary of the locker room, you have your teammates, and Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin are fortunate to have personal mentors.

Zucker has the Wild’s eldest statesman, Matt Cullen, always in his ear. Coyle has linemates, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, leading the way. And Brodin has the perfect role model in defense partner Ryan Suter always an earshot away.

But when veterans punch out for the day, they go home to their lives. Rookies head home to their humble abodes.

“That’s why we’re lucky to have each other,” Coyle said.

When the Wild’s three rookies leave Xcel Energy Center, they usually don’t leave each other’s sides.

They have neighboring apartments. They carpool everywhere together, go to dinner together, see movies together, make Target runs together and even recently chipped in on a pingpong table.

“It’s just nice to have guys on the team your own age,” Coyle said. “I think it would be hard to be the only guy. We can do this together, experience this together, lean on each other.”

As the Wild looks to even the Western Conference quarterfinals at two victories apiece Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, Zucker, Coyle and Brodin continue their indoctrination in their first postseason together.

So far, so good. They haven’t played like wide-eyed, intimidated rookies.

Zucker, an overtime master who scored three in college at University of Denver and tied for the American Hockey League lead this past season with three, delivered the Wild a Game 3 victory with an OT winner. Coyle has two assists, including winning a race and a battle to set up Parise’s third-period goal Sunday. And Brodin, still a teenager who can only dream of growing a playoff beard, ranks fifth in the NHL at 28 minutes, 54 seconds a game.

No matter how far the Wild goes this postseason, this valuable taste of NHL postseason should prove beneficial to Zucker, Coyle and Brodin in the future and thus the Wild as well.

“They’re such huge parts of our team,” Cullen said. “We need them to learn fast and I think that they have. I’ve been very impressed with the way that the young guys have handled the pressures of playing in the playoffs, especially going to a place like Chicago, a team that’s as good as Chicago, and the season they’ve had.”

It’s scary to say, but Cullen, 37, has become, well, “that old guy. You can say it. It happens so fast. I still remember being a rookie in Anaheim with [Paul] Kariya and [Teemu] Selanne. It goes so fast.”

Zucker has credited Cullen all season long with helping with his development. When he returns to the bench, Cullen is always in his ear, giving him tips about puck placement and positioning and the little things that can help make Zucker and the line, which includes Devin Setoguchi, more successful.

The maturation of all three this year has been impressive. Even Coyle himself sees it.

“Look at Brods,” Coyle said of the 19-year-old. “I was looking at some of those old ‘Becoming Wild’ videos and you see his English back then, and he’s grown so much, it’s awesome. He’s so much more comfortable around here. He used to be shy and quiet. Now we can’t shut him up.”

  • related content

  • Scoggins: When opportunity knocks, Leipold isn't afraid to listen

    Monday April 8, 2013

    With trade for Pominville, Wild owner shows he’s ready to win now.

  • Read the replay: Wild Game 4 chat with Michael Russo

    Tuesday May 7, 2013

    See what Michael Russo was talking about with Wild fans before Tuesday's Game 4 of the Wild-Chicago playoff series.

  • Brodin left off short list of Calder Trophy finalists

    Tuesday May 7, 2013

    Voters for Calder Trophy finalists passed on 19-year-old Jonas Brodin, part of the Wild’s top blue-line duo.

  • Eden Prairie's Leddy improving with Blackhawks

    Tuesday May 7, 2013

    Eden Prairie’s Nick Leddy is thriving in Chicago, but state-title memories refuse to fade.

  • Veilleux comes revved up for action

    Tuesday May 7, 2013

    Stephane Veilleux, always “naturally wired,” as coach Mike Yeo said, didn’t need any extra Red Bull in the minutes leading...

  • Wild-Blackhawks Game 4 preview

    Tuesday May 7, 2013

    WILD VS. CHICAGO • 8:30 P.M.XCEL ENERGY CENTER • FSN, 100.3-FMJosh Harding is expected to make his fourth consecutive start...

  • Rookie Charlie Coyle found a great landing spot with the Wild — on the No. 1 line with proven veterans Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise showing the way.

  • Jason Zucker

  • Jason Zucker and Jonas Brodin are close-knit rookies.

  • Jason Zucker was the Wild’s Game 3 hero Sunday, but a valuable rookie lesson for him is not to dwell too long on the past — even successes.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New Orleans 7:25 PM
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 6:00 PM
Detroit 7:00 PM
New York 7:00 PM
Utah 7:30 PM
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Boston 6:00 PM
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Los Angeles 6:00 PM
Chicago 6:30 PM
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Arizona 6:30 PM
San Jose 7:00 PM
Anaheim 7:00 PM
St. Louis
NY Islanders 8:00 PM
Montreal 9:00 PM
(2) Florida State 6:30 PM
Troy 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:02 PM
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 7:00 PM
Red Bull New York
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question