Wild owner Craig Leipold sprung out of his seat in celebration after Marco Rossi scored in the first period, a quick one-timer after Mats Zuccarello shuffled a Blackhawks turnover to the front of a net to a wide-open Rossi.
"I don't think there's any question that he fits on this team," Leipold said during an intermission about Rossi, the ninth overall draft pick in 2020. "He's an NHL player, a quality top-six player."
To be clear, Leipold wasn't announcing that Rossi had made the team.
But the 21-year-old's case to be in the opening night lineup is only getting stronger.
"He's going to be a fun player for us to watch," Leipold said. "He's an easy guy to really cheer for."
Centering the top line between Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov, Rossi added an assist after his goal to help the Wild dump the Blackhawks 4-1 on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in the team's second-to-last preseason tune-up.
Through five exhibition games, Rossi has a team-high eight points.
The Wild's final dress rehearsal is Saturday vs. Dallas before the home opener Oct.13 vs. the New York Rangers.
"It was awesome," Rossi said. "Incredibly good players so for me it was a big honor and for me before the game, my mind-set was just to get open and try to help them as much as I can and just to get open and just get the puck and find them, too."
Sam Steel, whom the Wild signed to a one-year contract in free agency, also had a goal and assist vs. Chicago.
The rebound off his breakaway attempt was buried by Frederick Gaudreau in the first, just 13 seconds after Rossi opened the scoring.
After Jack Johnson tallied the Blackhawks' lone goal in the second period, Zuccarello capitalized on a breakaway set up by Kaprizov before a tap-in by Steel in the third. New Wild backup goalie Filip Gustavsson totaled 25 saves.
This was Kaprizov's first action since taking a puck off a foot in the Wild's first preseason game on Sept. 25.
Leipold called Kaprizov's situation over the summer when it was unclear if he'd make it back from Russia to Minnesota before the season "concerning."
Kaprizov needed a work visa, but there was also uncertainty surrounding Russian NHLers while the war in Ukraine continued.
Asked about next offseason for Kaprizov, Leipold said, "We will make it as inviting for him to want to stay and hopefully his family will get here. But right now it's not on our radar. It's probably on somebody's radar, but it's not on mine. But we definitely would like to keep him here, so we don't have to go through that issue next summer."
In the meantime, there's plenty of hockey to play and Leipold is targeting a different outcome for the franchise.
"Our expectation is to get out of the first round," he said. "I think that's a fair expectation to have. I think we have a team that can do it. A lot of good things have to happen. We know that, and we have to work hard enough so those good things happen to us."
Not since 2015 have the Wild advanced, a six-series rut that's put an asterisk next to every step of progress.
Never more has that been true than last season: the Wild had the most successful performance in team history with 53 wins, 113 points and 305 goals. But that spark flickered in a first-round series against St. Louis that wrapped in six games.
"We had a better team than that," Leipold said. "It didn't happen. We didn't win the games we needed to win."
Management's response to that letdown wasn't to go out and spend lavishly in free agency.
Frankly, the team couldn't with a chunk of its budget covering the escalating costs of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts.
Instead, 30-goal scorer Kevin Fiala was traded. And the buyouts will go up again next year, to almost $15 million.
But Leipold is excited for the future.
"We are a cap team," he said. "We are committed to win, and the cap is not going to stop us. We'll take it up to the cap. We're going to spend the money.
"I just think it's going to be a fun time when we have the ability to go out and get some UFAs and supplement them with young players that we're developing now."