The Wild on Monday signed Clarkson forward Nico Sturm, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, to a one-year, entry-level contract. Sturm might play in Thursday’s home finale. Here's a look at a handful of Wild free-agent signees who finished their college seasons, then made their debuts late in the NHL season:
Travis Roche, D, North Dakota, April 8, 2001: Less than 13 hours after North Dakota’s season ended in an NCAA title-game loss to Boston College, the defenseman was in the Wild’s lineup. With about only 40 minutes of sleep, Roche played 15 minutes, 22 seconds and was paired with Brad Bombardir, another former UND blue-liner, in a 4-2 loss to Colorado in Minnesota’s regular-season finale. Roche, who spent most of his career in the AHL, played in four Wild games in 2001-02 and five in 2002-03, registering one assist.
Casey Wellman, C, Massachusetts, March 19, 2010: With the Wild thin at center, GM Chuck Fletcher signed the highly sought-after Wellman, who had 23 goals for the Minutemen as a sophomore. He had an assist in his NHL debut and played 12 games for the remainder of the season, notching a goal and three helpers. Wellman would play in 29 games for the Wild over the next two seasons, spending most of his time in Houston of the AHL. He eventually was traded to the Rangers organization and played in only 13 more NHL games with Washington in 2013-14.
Christian Folin, D, Massachusetts-Lowell, April 10, 2014: Because the Wild was in a playoff race, the big defenseman didn’t make his debut until the season’s next-to-last game, and he responded with an assist and a plus-3 rating in a 4-2 win over St. Louis. Folin would be one of the team’s best late-season college free-agent signings, with four goals, 19 assists and a plus-15 rating in four years with the Wild. He has played 26 games with Philadelphia and 16 with Montreal this season.
Nate Prosser, D, Colorado College, April 5, 2010: The Elk River native has turned out to be the most impactful of the late-season college signees. After finishing his senior season at Colorado College, Prosser made his debut in a 4-1 loss at Edmonton. He had an assist and was a plus-1 in 19:31 of play. “I was pacing in my hotel room, and I was sweating bullets before the game. But after a shift or two, I kind of got in a rhythm and started playing my game,’’ said Prosser, who has played in 353 games with the Wild, notching 10 goals and 37 assists. He’s still with the organization in Iowa of the AHL.