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Continued: New Wild defenseman Folin goes from obscurity to NHL

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 10, 2014 - 12:24 AM

Folin made an instant impact, scoring 12 goals and amassing 41 points in 87 games over two years. Yet there wasn’t much recruiting interest. College coaches thought he didn’t skate well enough, he didn’t break pucks out well enough, he wasn’t strong enough.

“I’d be like, ‘What do you want him to do, he’ll do it,’ ” Tok said.

Finally, two schools pursued Folin — UMass-Lowell and Robert Morris.

“I chuckle to this day,” Tok said. “He turned down Robert Morris because their stick budget was only eight or nine sticks. He said, ‘Coach, how am I going to get better if I can only break seven sticks?’ ”

Plenty of options

Folin attended UMass-Lowell beginning in 2012. He needed time to adjust. After his first game against Vermont, River Hawks coach Norm Bazin didn’t even take Folin to a trip to Denver and Colorado College. But when Bazin called to check up on Folin, he was told they couldn’t get him out of the gym and off the ice.

Bazin was impressed. Folin played the next game against Boston College and never looked back. He helped lead the River Hawks to the Hockey East championship this season, and had 42 points in 79 college games. He became the hottest college free agent this spring.

Thirty teams showed interest. Philadelphia and the Wild were the finalists.

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher met with Folin last summer and was immediately impressed. Folin and his agent, Dan Plante, set up a plan.

“We had a couple meetings before the season and then said, ‘I don’t want to be bothered at all so I can focus on college,’ ” Folin said. “I even changed my [cell] number. A lot of teams really stuck to that [rule], especially the Wild, who stayed off me until my season was over. I really appreciated that. We lost Sunday [March 30] and we signed Monday night.”

Folin called Tok twice to seek advice.

“I said, ‘Christian, you know I’m not going to tell you what you should do,’ ” Tok said. “Selfishly, we wanted him to sign with Minnesota because we can go up and watch him. But he really thought this over, believes Minnesota offers him the best opportunity and said, ‘It’d be great to play back in the State of Hockey.’ ”

Thinking big

Wild coach Mike Yeo loves what he sees.

Folin has an NHL-caliber shot and he snaps the puck crisply when he passes. And he has shown no sign of nerves, despite being parachuted into an intimidating NHL locker room in the midst of what was a tense playoff push.

Folin is committed to becoming an NHLer. In fact, his father, Martin, who works for Volvo in Sweden, has gotten a transfer to their Hagerstown, Md., plant. Martin, wife Susanne and soccer-playing 15-year-old son Ludvig are moving to the United States in August. Another brother, Niklas, plays for Omaha in the USHL.

Christian Folin is the definition of a late bloomer, yet most feel he can step right into the NHL.

Wild fans should be patient, Tok says.

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