The Wild had their first test of the preseason Sunday, winning 4-3 at Colorado, and Calen Addison was in their lineup.
That didn't happen much toward the end of last season.
But after a summer of training in the Twin Cities and signing a new contract just last week, the defenseman will have the rest of camp to show he can handle more responsibility on a regular basis.
"I want to prove to myself and to them that I want to be here because I do," Addison said. "I love this place. I love my teammates. I love this organization. So for me, it's just about coming in with that mindset that I want to be here."
Addison, 23, was in a much different situation a year ago.
Acquired in the Jason Zucker trade with Pittsburgh in 2020, Addison was an intriguing prospect who not only made the team out of training camp but snatched a seat in the top six on the Wild's blue line.
He played the first 25 games, mostly contributing as the quarterback of the power play. His 26 assists set a franchise record for rookies, and 18 of his 29 points came on the power play to lead all NHL rookies.
By December, though, Addison's momentum stalled, and he was benched because of his defensive play.
When he returned, he rattled off a bunch more games before he was back to being a spectator in mid-February. Then after the Wild brought in a veteran defenseman and power-play specialist in John Klingberg at the trade deadline, Addison suited up just five times the rest of the season. He watched every playoff game, too.
"You shut your brain off for a second, you lose a guy, and it's a backdoor tap-in," said Addison, who secured a one-year deal for $825,000 last Tuesday. "That's how good this league is. At times, I've learned that the hard way."
What the Wild want to see is Addison's competitiveness and willingness to succeed on the power play trickle over into his game at 5-on-5 or when he's on the penalty kill, a message that's been relayed to him.
"He has come back motivated to prove that [he's] going to be the best hockey player he can be," coach Dean Evason said. "We know he can do that. He just has to apply himself, which he's done right here from Day 1."
Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime have been skating with trade addition Pat Maroon in camp, but Dewar and Duhaime were on a line with Jujhar Khaira on Sunday and Khaira scored in the third period on the power play.
Khaira was a late offseason pickup, signing a one-year, two-way contract on Sept. 17, and the 29-year-old could land on the roster as depth at center or be a call-up option.
A gritty forechecker with a defense-first style with 300-plus games of NHL experience, Khaira said last week he feels "very healthy" after a rash of injuries in recent seasons with Chicago, including back surgery.
"I'm here to prove to everyone that I'm durable and I can play in this league and continue to play the way I do," Khaira said.
Year 2 for Wallstedt
Jesper Wallstedt was in net for the Wild against the Avalanche, finishing with 40 saves.
The goalie is preparing for his second pro season since leaving Sweden after a 18-15-5 debut year with Iowa in the American Hockey League.
Those 38 games were more than Wallstedt logged in any of his previous seasons in the Swedish Hockey League, and the 20-year-old focused on improving his conditioning over the summer.
"I feel great," said Wallstedt, the No. 20 pick in the 2021 NHL draft. "I definitely think I'm here to prove that I can do these long practices, these intense practices. I can prove that I can play games at this level, but I feel like I don't want to only be good. I want to be great at that level."