The first two state hockey championships for Eden Prairie High School came with its girls’ teams in 2006 and 2008. Kelly Seeler was a sophomore defenseman on the first title team, and a senior on the second.
The first two (of three) championships for the Eden Prairie boys came in 2009 and 2011. Nick Seeler was a sophomore defenseman on the first title team, and a senior on the second.
What hasn’t been settled officially was the all-time championship on the ice-covered sport court in the Seelers’ backyard in Eden Prairie.
“I would have to say that Nick won most of the games we played on the backyard ice,’’ Kelly said. “And if I ever did beat him, he would stay out there skating and practicing, so it wouldn’t happen again.
“One of the games was who could be the first to hit all three posts at the end of the ice. We would argue if the puck actually hit the post, or who was the first to hit the last one.
“We’re both very competitive, not good at losing.’’
Kelly played four seasons for the Gophers after high school and won an NCAA championship in her senior season of 2011-12. Nick was spending that first season out of high school playing junior hockey in Muskegon, Mich., and Des Moines. He did so as an NHL draftee.
The 2011 draft was held in late June in St. Paul. Lee Smith, the Eden Prairie coach, was there on Friday night as a guest of Wild officials.
“The Wild took Jonas Brodin in the first round,’’ Smith said. “They were talking about the need for a player who was going to be outstanding on the defensive end, and I said, ‘You guys should really look at drafting Seeler. He can skate, he can move a forward off his spot, he can move the puck. He’s strong and he’s passionate about the game.’ ”
Smith paused and said: “I didn’t realize the Wild already were interested in Nick.’’
The Wild took Seeler in the fifth round the next day. Seven years later, Brodin was out of the Wild’s lineup with a broken hand, and that was among the reasons that Seeler was summoned from the Iowa Wild to make his NHL debut on Feb. 13.
For family and friends and his Eden Prairie coach, this was an event they had been anticipating with great hope. For many others, the reaction was, “Seeler, Nick Seeler … the kid that played one winter for the Gophers? I’ll be danged.’’
Pat Micheletti watched Seeler in 2015-16 for the Gophers, after Seeler had transferred from Nebraska-Omaha.
“From what I saw, he basically just threw the puck off the boards with the Gophers,’’ Micheletti said. “And his first season with the Iowa Wild [2016-17], I didn’t see that much, either.
“Then, I saw him with Iowa last season and he was a completely different player in terms of overall skill. [Coach] Derek Lalonde did a great job with him. Derek told me, ‘Nick listens, and he’ll go through a wall for you.’ ”
Seeler came to the NHL in the middle of February, and he was able to stay off the Des Moines shuttle that most Iowa recalls face. He played 22 games in the regular season to a plus-10, and all five in the Winnipeg playoff blowout to a plus-2.
Famously, he had a fight with Detroit’s tough guy, Luke Witkowski, on March 4 and earned the admiration of coach Bruce Boudreau. Seeler now has a contract and an early place among the Wild’s top six defensemen.
“He realizes his limitations,’’ Micheletti said. “For the most part, he’s going to stay home, block shots, move bodies, and he’ll take on a guy 6-foot-8 if he has to. He’s one of the players who makes everybody on the team a little tougher.’’
That’s seconded by Smith, the appreciative coach from Eden Prairie:
“You could see all the way through our youth program that Nick was going to be really good hockey player. He had skill, but he also had the internal drive that you can’t coach.
“Sometimes with Nick, that drive could get a little out of control … running guys, slamming sticks.’’
Smith’s review about his hot temper on the ice was mentioned to Seeler. “He said that, huh?’’ said Nick, laughing. “I guess that’s fair. I’ve never been a good loser.’’
Not even when shooting at posts vs. his sister on an ice-covered sport court in Eden Prairie.