Elk River's Nate Prosser: From 'runt' to Wild scoring hero

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 21, 2014 - 7:09 AM
hide

Wild defenseman Nate Prosser celebrated after scoring the winning goal on Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen in overtime Saturday.

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Whether it comes from a friend or just a random beer-leaguer who used to play pickup hockey at the Handke Pit, Nate Prosser hears this weekly: “Out of all the kids growing up in Elk River, I can’t believe you’re the one that made it.”

Prosser’s reply: “Tell me about it.”

The always-smiling Prosser — walking on air after becoming the first defenseman in Wild history to score back-to-back game-winners — never takes for granted any morning he gets to walk into an NHL locker room. That’s because a decade ago nobody could have predicted that the kid even his brother, Luke, says was a “little runt everyone disregarded” would make a living playing hockey.

“I was the late bloomer. I didn’t go through puberty until late,” Nate says matter of factly. “I was never close to making any selection teams. I was never the guy who was a higher-skilled defenseman or anything like that in the state.

“Everyone just pushed me aside. ‘Maybe you’ll make it to college, maybe not. Too slow. Too small.’ ”
Prosser isn’t exaggerating.

“I was probably 5-2, 5-3 until I grew like a foot when I was a junior in high school,” said Prosser, 27.

He still remembers piling into his dad’s minivan with buddies for long road trips to Grand Rapids and Fargo and Brandon, Manitoba. Everyone who played hockey as a kid has similar fond memories: overtaking a motel’s pool, learning to play poker with change, playing knee hockey in the hallways.

But then the real hockey games would start and Prosser’s father and AAA coach, Chris, would “be scared for me. We’d be playing against guys who have beards and I’m the little guy out there trying to get better. He feared for me.”

Slowly Prosser, now 6-2, grew as a player. He got invited to junior hockey tryout camps, and halfway through his senior year at Elk River, Sioux Falls of the U.S. Hockey League asked if he would consider leaving.

Prosser was a captain at the time. There were only a dozen games left. He calls it one of the hardest decisions he ever had to make but the “best decision I’ve ever made.”

Prosser left for Sioux Falls, played there three years and, as captain, led the Stampede to a league championship in 2005-06. He received a full ride to Colorado College.

Still, there were obstacles. He didn’t play regularly, and suffered a bad concussion.

“It felt like the world was coming down on me,” Prosser said.

But Prosser came back healthy his sophomore year, paired with current Washington Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen.

Undrafted, he got a family adviser, Neil Sheehy, who is now his agent. Prosser attended development camps with the St. Louis Blues and New York Islanders and eventually signed a free-agent contract with the Wild after his senior season.

At the Pit
Elk River’s Handke Pit, site of Saturday’s Hockey Day Minnesota outdoor high school game, was “perfect little dream setting for kids,” Prosser said. “Growing up, it was like, call anyone, they were going to the Pit.”

The Pit was formed by glaciers and has been a hockey haven since 1920, although the rumors among Elk River children is that a “meteorite came and smoked it,” Luke Prosser said.

Nate’s siblings, Luke and Steph, are older. Starting when Nate was in third grade, Luke, in sixth grade, was assigned the duty of dragging him to the Pit.

“To my friends, Nate was constantly the extra little brother who was just there. He was just that annoying little kid,” Luke Prosser said. “We usually stuck him back [on defense] because he wasn’t fast enough to skate with the forwards, or we’d put him in net.”

  • related content

  • Backstrom, Harding both sidelined

    Monday January 20, 2014

    Wild coach Mike Yeo described the unusual state of his team’s goaltending Monday as a “day-to-day situation where we just evaluate it every day and figure out where we go...

  • Wild-Dallas game preview

    Monday January 20, 2014

    7 p.m. at Dallas • American Airlines Center • NBCSN, 100.3 FMPreview: After a five-win December, the Wild is 7-2...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

LA Angels 5 Top 6th Inning
Baltimore 6
Seattle 5 Bottom 6th Inning
Cleveland 2
Chicago WSox 2 Bottom 6th Inning
Detroit 2
Washington 0 Bottom 6th Inning
Miami 0
Philadelphia 6 Top 7th Inning
NY Mets 0
Milwaukee 1 Bottom 7th Inning
Tampa Bay 1
Toronto 3 Top 6th Inning
Boston 1
Arizona 0 Bottom 7th Inning
Cincinnati 3
Colorado 3 Bottom 2nd Inning
Chicago Cubs 1
NY Yankees 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Texas 3
Minnesota 0 Top 3rd Inning
Kansas City 0
Oakland 0 Top 4th Inning
Houston 1
Atlanta - A. Harang 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - J. Beckett
St. Louis - L. Lynn 9:10 PM
San Diego - T. Ross
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 9:15 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
NY Giants 8/3/14 7:00 PM
Buffalo
Winnipeg 7/31/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Toronto 8/1/14 6:00 PM
Montreal
Brt Columbia 8/1/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Saskatchewan 8/2/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Connecticut 80 FINAL
Atlanta 89
Washington 71 1st OT 5:00
New York 71
Chicago 37 3rd Qtr
San Antonio 48
Seattle 36 3rd Qtr
Tulsa 35
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close