Day 3 of the Minnesota Wild Training Camp was a little bit different than the first days. For one thing, they hosted a Puck Drop fan festival that packed Tria Rink to the gills with fans. For another, they debuted the new 78’s jerseys that will be their alternate jersey this season. But best of all, everyone on the ice was skating their hearts out, and it didn’t escape the notice of coach Dean Evason.
“Our prospect pool, I don’t even know how you rank it and all that stuff,” Evason said. “It’s gotta be up there because these guys are showing extremely well.” And he’s right. The Wild prospect pool has consistently been at the top of the rankings. The scouts work extremely hard, and their diligence shows. Evason commented on the fact that many times in a training camp, there will be players who stick out because they are out of their element. This year, everyone is up to the challenge.
Pat Maroon is Happy to Help
After losing Ryan Reaves to free agency, the Wild picked up Maroon in a trade for a 7th-round 2024 draft pick. Maroon brings a winning pedigree that he earned by winning the Stanley Cup three years in a row on two different teams (the St. Louis Blues and the Tampa Bay Lightning). And he’s happy to help, mentioning a few times in his interview that he is open to questions from anyone on the team.
“It’s a core group that’s been here for a long time, and they know each other,” Maroon said. “But it’s about getting over the hump now.” The hump, of course, means the first round of the playoffs. After going through the long grind of an NHL season, along with a full postseason three years in a row, Maroon knows just how hard a team has to work. He sees potential in the Wild and is excited to pitch in from the fourth line.
Playing with Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime, Maroon is ready to push hard and set things up for the next line. But he also wants to “be a line that can make plays too.” Maroon joked that skating with Dewey1 and Dewey2 makes him feel young again.
At the end of the day, Maroon says that everyone needs to buy in from day one. Evason says that Maroon is already making a “huge difference,” which is good to hear, considering the Wild lost a few glue guys (Matt Dumba and Reaves, notably) during the offseason.
The Prospects Have Shown Up to Show Out
There are three groups of players during training camp that don’t correlate with the three practice groups. There are the players who know they’re on the team, the players fighting for a spot, and the players who are just happy for the experience. And Evason is happy to show that last group exactly what it takes to be on an NHL team and build things up.
In a training camp where three of the best Wild prospects aren’t in attendance (Liam Ohgren is playing in the SHL while both Danila Yurov and Marat Khusnutdinov are playing in the KHL), there are still lots of young guys to rave about. Evanson commented specifically on Riley Heidt, Hunter Haight, and Rasmus Kumpulainen and how good they looked on the ice.
Ryan Hartman, who has been nursing an upper-body injury, has been able to take full practices without too much physicality. Evason hopes he’ll be fully good to go in the next few days.
Tomorrow is the first Wild preseason game, and it’s also the first day where the Wild start making cuts to the roster. Without going into specifics, Evason indicated that numbers would be cut before the full team scrimmage on Monday.
Last year, the Wild had a disappointing start to their regular season. Part of that could be attributed to the fact that the full roster didn’t play together as much as they should’ve during the preseason. This year, Evason is changing things up. All regular roster players will play at least three preseason games with their line or defensive pairing. Even Hartman, who is currently injured, is expected to play at least 2 games. The full scrimmage on Monday could also count as a game. Evason said there will be refs, and he wants the scrimmage to be “heated.”