After every three or four shifts in a game, Wild rookies Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin and Ryan Donato examine their play by watching it back on an iPad from the team’s bench.
They assess their own positioning, but they also use the tablet to clarify specific questions that arise. That’s what the three did Friday when they looked at video to figure out how a Capitals player got behind them in the third period.
“It just goes to show we’re all learning together,” Donato said. “So it’s kind of fun to see. None of us had an idea of what happened, so we all had to go back and look to see what happened.”
These study sessions highlight the development process three of the Wild’s youngest players are still experiencing, but so did the entire weekend.
On the heels of that game in Washington in which their line scored twice to lead the Wild to a 2-1 win, they were on the ice for two of Carolina’s goals in a 5-1 romp by the Hurricanes Saturday — varying results in back-to-back games that amplify how the three are still working to settle into the NHL during the Wild’s up-and-down playoff pursuit that continues Monday against the Nashville Predators at Xcel Energy Center.
“That’s one thing about young players,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “There’s going to be inconsistencies. I’ve talked to all three of them about this at certain points. [Saturday] was one of those games. They left everything on the table [Friday] night. They tried. It’s just not every night things go well.”
While there have been lulls for the trio since their roles became magnified after the trade deadline and a slew of injuries, they’ve frequently shined under the spotlight.
Their performance against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Capitals is the most recent example.
Kunin notched his first career game-winner on a blistering shot that snapped a 10-game goal drought. After the game, Wild rookies ranked tied for fifth in the NHL in goals (24) and sixth in percentage of goals at .119.
“I just think he’s going to be a really good player,” Boudreau said of the 21-year-old Kunin. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He’s getting better all the time. He’s been in big games before, and it was a great shot for a guy who hasn’t scored in a while.”
Greenway, 22, had the other tally that game on a stellar individual effort that flexed his strength since he shrugged off a Capitals player en route to paving a path to the crease. It was the sixth time he’s opened the scoring, tops among NHL rookies, and his 12 goals are the fourth-most by a Wild rookie in franchise history.
“I saw a lane to the net and put my head down and put my knee out and just kind of put it in,” Greenway said.
Donato’s two assists capped off four points for the line against Washington, giving him 15 in his first 15 games with the Wild since joining the team in a trade from the Boston Bruins in February. That production ranked eighth among in-season acquisitions, with each player ahead of the 22-year-old playing at least a dozen more games with his new team.
“Individually, I believed in my abilities to do the things that I’m doing and maybe even more,” Donato said. “But I think for me I never came in with the mentality of I’m going to come in and do what I’m doing. No. I just wanted to come in and help the team win.”
All three have accomplished that so far but with six games left on the schedule, there’s still opportunity to do more — a push to the end that the three will make together.
“We’re all learning from each other, as well,” Donato said. “I think it’s kind of a good experience just because you don’t feel that much pressure from each other and when in doubt, we can talk to each other and give each other tips or pointers or any advice. I think we kind of grow from each other.”