This is Michael Russo's 18th year covering the National Hockey League. He's covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005 following 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. Michael uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.
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Erik Haula -- The Wild will let him decompress and then talk to him to see if he wants to sign. If so, the contract would start next year almost certainly and the team would look to sign him to an amateur tryout with Houston.
Nate Schmidt -- From corresponding with his advisor today, everything is too early and fresh after today's loss. They will talk over the weekend about his future.
In terms of the Wild, yes, the Wild has interest, but so should many teams and know this: I do get the sense from talking to people that Schmidt may look to avoid playing at home.
Schmidt will also have to be smart and analyze each team's depth chart to see where he'd fit if he chooses to leave school and where there's a clear route eventually to the NHL.
You don't want to get trapped behind six cemented defensemen and a horde of prospects. Lots of teams need good, young D (especially in the East), not just the Wild. Also, I think most teams will view Schmidt as somebody who needs time in the minors to grow. NHL scouts feel he has certain qualities that are very NHL ready -- one, namely, his shot -- but other things that must be groomed in the minors.
As you know, from covering him during the lockout, I'm a big fan. I think he's a quality player, terrific kid and a GREAT quote. But if you're a Wild fan, I wouldn't get your hopes up.
One correction: I wrote a few times this week the Wild had a season-high 42 shots in Dallas on Monday. They actually had 43 against Edmonton on March 3.
Lastly, again: if you didn't see this afternoon, I decided to make my Sunday Insider on the Jarome Iginla trade. The blog Q and A, barring something unforeseen, will appear in Monday's paper.
I will be on Beyond the Pond Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. and also on Fox Sports North Saturday night.
Gophers freshmen defensemen Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei were two of 27 players selected this morning to the U.S.A. preliminary roster for the upcoming world junior championships.
Also selected was Alaska-born but Wayzata-raised Mario Lucia, the 2011 Wild second-round pick, Notre Dame freshman and youngest child of Gophers coach Don Lucia.
The full roster can be found here.
Lucia has four goals and an assist in six games for the 11-4 Irish. Lucia is coming off a 2-goal performance in a pounding of Lake Superior State and was named the CCHA Rookie of the Week. He was second on the champion 54-5-2 BCHL Penticton Vees last year with 42 goals and 52 assists for 94 points in 56 games. He had 14 power-play goals and was winner of the Bruce Allen Trophy as the Interior Division's Rookie of the Year.
From the Gophers' press release:
A 2011 fourth round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets (98th overall), Reilly leads all Minnesota freshmen with eight points this season and tallied his first career goal on Nov. 11 in a 5-1 win over Vermont. Prior to joining the Gophers, Reilly helped the Penticton Vees set a North American junior hockey record with a 42-game win streak en route to RBC Cup and Doyle Cup championships last season. The Chanhassen, Minn., native led all BCHL defensemen in goals (24), assists (59), and points (83) and won the BCHL Interior Conference Best Defenseman Award. Reilly previously skated for Shattuck-St. Mary’s and the Academy of Holy Angels.
In 14 games this season, Skjei has recorded two points for the Gophers including his first career goal on Oct. 13 against Michigan State. A 2012 first round draft selection by the New York Rangers, Skjei spent two years with the U.S. National Development Team Program in Ann Arbor after two seasons at Lakeville North. The freshman defenseman already has plenty of international playing experience, having helped the U.S. win gold at the 2012 Under-18 Men’s World Championship and bronze at the 2012 Under-18 Five Nations Cup. The Lakeville, Minn., native also competed in several international tournaments with the U.S. Under-17 team.
The U.S. coaching staff is mostly Minnesotan. Phil Housley is the head coach. Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki and Gophers assistant Grant Potulny will serve as Housley's assistants, as well as University of Denver assistant David Lassonde.
The tournament is Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia. Training camp is Dec. 16-18 in Tarrytown, N.Y. and continues in Helsinki Dec. 19-23. The final roster will be announced Dec. 23.
Also, I wrote a Wild notebook for Tuesday's paper. That can be read here.
There's some good quotes from Zach Parise and Matt Cullen on the lockout and their optimism or hope of a deal getting done.
I've gotten a lot of questions as to which players are still skating here. Off the top of my head from Monday at least: Parise, Cullen, Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, Mikko Koivu, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Darroll Powe, Matt Kassian, Justin Falk, Nate Prosser, Stephane Veilleux, Andrew Alberts, Jack Hillen, Matt Hendricks, Ryan Carter, Ryan Jones, Erik Johnson, Keith Ballard, Kyle Okposo, Chris Porter, Jim O'Brien, Matt Carle, Tim Jackman and Stu Bickel.
There were others, but that's all I can remember. I know guys like Dustin Byfuglien and Paul Martin have been skating as well, but I at least didn't see them Monday.
Welcome to Day 46 of the NHL lockout. We’re a day or so from the Winter Classic being axed off the schedule, but reportedly the NHL and the NHLPA No. 2’s had another long conversation yesterday.
The Gophers men’s hockey team, No. 1 in last week’s USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, is now the top-ranked team in the nation in both polls considered to be the guide to college hockey.
This is thanks to annihilating Michigan State by a 12-2 combined score in consecutive wins Friday and Saturday. In the USCHO.com poll, the Gophers moved from No. 2 to No. 1. Defending NCAA champ Boston College, the previous No. 1 team who lost to Northeastern Saturday, fell to No. 3, while the University of North Dakota moved to No. 2.
In the new USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, it also goes Minnesota, North Dakota and Boston College. Minnesota-Duluth is ranked 13th.
For the fifth time in the past six years, the Gophers opened the season with a win, beating Michigan State, 5-1, last night. Five different players scored goals, and Nick Bjugstad, Zach Budish and Mike Reilly had two points apiece.
Mike's brother, Ryan, will make his collegiate debut tonight as the Gophers look for the sweep.
Ryan Reilly will play on the fourth line with Tom Serratore as coach Don Lucia comes back with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. That means A.J. Michaelson and Jake Parenteau will be scratched.
Justin Holl, scratched last night, will play and is listed right now as an extra defenseman, not a forward.
Unless something changed from last night, freshman Adam Wilcox will make his college debut in nets.
No. 7 Kyle Rau- 27 Nick Bjugstad- 26 Christian Isackson
11 Sam Warning- 19-Erik Haula- 24 Zach Budish
16 Nate Condon- 22 Travis Boyd- 17 Seth Ambroz
14 Tom Serratore- 9 Ryan Reilly
4 Seth Helgeson- 10 Ben Marshall
5 Mike Reilly- 20 Mark Alt
2 Brady Skjei- 29 Nate Schmidt
12 Justin Holl
32 Adam Wilcox
1 Michael Shibrowski
31 Ryan Coyne
8 Chris Forfar- 25 Brent Darnell- 21 Anthony Hayes
18 Kevin Walrod- 22 Lee Reimer- 86 Greg Wolfe
92 David Bondra- 20 Michael Ferrantino- 10 Tanner Sorenson
12 Ryan Keller- 19 Matt DeBlouw- 27 Matt Berry
42 Jake Chelios- 7 John Draeger
5 RJ Boyd- 14 Nickolas Gatt
4 Travis Walsh- 23 Matt Grassi
37 Will Yanakeff
32 Nathan Phillips
30 Jake Hildebrand
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