While sharing a line with fellow Russian Andrei Svechnikov last season in juniors, Wild prospect Dmitry Sokolov’s objective was clear.
“The game plan was just give [Svechnikov] the puck,” Sokolov said.
Svechnikov’s talent made him a no-brainer target for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, as he went on to get drafted second overall by the Hurricanes last month.
But Sokolov also had a nose for the net, tying for the league lead in goals with 50 — a prowess that makes him one of the Wild’s most intriguing prospects.
“He’s got an incredible ability to score goals,” director of player development Brad Bombardir said. “It’s uncanny. You watch him play junior hockey, he’s a smart offensive player. He finds spots where the puck’s going to go.”
Sokolov split last season with Barrie and Sudbury, scoring 30 of his 50 goals in 29 games with the Colts after getting traded. In all, the 20-year-old accumulated 96 points — the fifth-highest total in the OHL — and tied for second in game-winning goals with nine.
It’s likely Sokolov plays pro next season, a transition that will be interesting to watch since the Wild is hoping to see more growth in Sokolov’s game.
“We need him to really dedicate himself to get in shape and find that fitness level where he can operate at that next level,” Bombardir said.
Road to recovery
Center Mason Shaw is “really close” to being 100 percent after suffering a torn ACL in September.
Shaw was on the ice last week at Xcel Energy Center, and the 19-year-old expects to be back to full strength in time for training camp.
Injured while playing in the Traverse City tournament, Shaw missed last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League but did log one game, his first pro action with Iowa in the American Hockey League, on April 10.
“It was definitely nerve-racking,” he said. “But nonetheless, I gained a lot from it. I got to spend quite a bit of time down there at the end of the year, and it’s very beneficial.”
Despite being idle for so long, the down time wasn’t completely fruitless. Shaw gained a deeper appreciation for hockey and mental toughness.
“You can’t control what happened, but you can control how you respond,” Shaw said. “I thought I responded pretty well.”
Defenseman Louie Belpedio was one of the more experienced faces at development camp. It was his fourth appearance after getting drafted in the third round, 80th overall, in 2014.
But the 22-year-old will classify as a rookie in the fall when he begins his first full-length season as a pro.
“It’s different,” Belpedio said. “It’s my job now, which is pretty exciting. Any kid growing up would love to say they’re a professional hockey player and they’d like to do that for a living. But it is different.”
Belpedio finished up his college career at Miami (Ohio) in the spring and eventually joined the Wild. He played only one game, the regular-season finale, before skating as a Black Ace during the playoffs.
“My four years at Miami were the best four years of my life so far,” said Belpedio, who had 25 goals and 58 assists in 135 games with Miami. “So I think I just gotta keep that same mentality — work hard, just do whatever I can do to make the team out of camp.”
Center Jack McBain made an impression on Wild brass during his first camp, as he was named the hardest worker after getting drafted in the third round (No. 63) in June.
“He just likes to work,” Bombardir said. “He loves the game, and he likes to work in every part of it.”
Defenseman Gustav Bouramman, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2015, was recognized as the most improved.
“He always comes in good shape, but this year he came in really good shape,” Bombardir said. “He added probably 10, 11 pounds of muscle.”