On a day off for most of the Wild players, the team’s front office stayed busy Monday by adding two players to its stable of prospects. The Wild announced it has signed Minnesota State Mankato defenseman Zach Palmquist and Vermont goaltender Brody Hoffman to entry-level contracts for the 2015-16 season.
Palmquist, who played at South St. Paul High School, will go to the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout agreement for the remainder of this season. An alternate captain for the Mavericks, he finished a fine college career when MSU lost to Rochester Institute of Technology in its opening game of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. Palmquist played all 160 games during his four seasons — a school record — and is the highest-scoring defenseman in the Mavs’ Division I era with 96 career points.
Scouts have praised the 6-0, 175-pound Palmquist for his intelligence, smooth skating, sound play in all three zones and ability to move the puck up the ice and join the rush. He was an all-WCHA first-team selection in each of the past two seasons.
Hoffman, of Wilkie, Saskatchewan, is leaving Vermont after going 34-33-9 in three seasons. This season, he recorded a goals-against average of 2.06, second-best in Hockey East, and a save percentage of .922 while finishing 13-6-2. Hoffman played 78 games for the Catamounts and compiled a career GAA of 2.45 and save percentage of .914.
At 6-4, Hoffman has good size, and scouts also have noted his ability to cut angles down and control rebounds.
Also on Monday, the Wild recalled defenseman Christian Folin from Iowa. Folin had been scratched in five consecutive games with the Wild and was sent to Iowa so he could play. He was plus-1 in Iowa’s 3-2 loss at Chicago on Sunday.
The honors just keep on coming for Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who was named the NHL’s first star of the week Monday for leading the team to four victories from March 23-28.
Dubnyk finished the week with a 1.22 goals-against average and .962 save percentage as the Wild defeated Toronto, the New York Islanders, Calgary and Los Angeles. This is the fourth NHL honor this season for Dubnyk, who also was the league’s first star for the week ending Feb. 9, its third star for the week ending Feb. 2 and its first star of the month for February.
Dubnyk is the first player in Wild history to be among the league’s three stars of the week three times in a season.
On the mend
With an unusual four-day break between games, most Wild players continued resting Monday. A handful took part in an optional practice at Xcel Energy Center, including three who are recovering from injuries.
Matt Cooke, Jason Zucker and Kyle Brodziak were among 11 players on the ice for the low-key workout. Cooke, who has been sidelined since Feb. 1 while he recovers from sports hernia surgery, said he will participate in Tuesday’s full-roster practice as he continues to gauge his readiness.
Cooke said he has not felt at full strength since the second game of the season. He played the first eight games before missing the next 22 with a hip-flexor injury, then returned in December to play another 19 games before getting hurt again against Vancouver.
“I’m going to practice [Tuesday] and see how it reacts, and move on from there,” said Cooke, who had surgery on Feb. 6. “It’s frustrating. It’s hard. But injuries are a part of it, and you have to be able to deal with it and move on.”
Cooke said he had “a few other issues” in addition to the sports hernia and wants to make sure those are healed before playing again. Brodziak, who has missed three games because of an upper-body injury, said he has been cleared to play, while Zucker continues to await word on when he can rejoin the lineup after surgery to repair a broken collarbone.
Other players were happy to have four days off from competition to allow minor injuries to heal and weary bodies to rejuvenate. “Rest is a weapon,” defenseman Jordan Leopold said. “It’s something that’s key this time of year, and we’re lucky to have the break.”