ST. PAUL, Minn. - When Nick Seeler woke up on Monday morning from what little sleep he got Sunday night, he expected to end the day in another city, he just didn't know where.
Placed on waivers by the Wild on Sunday, the Blackhawks officially acquired the 26-year-old blueliner just after 11 a.m. CT while the team itself was en route to Minnesota ahead of Tuesday night's game at the Xcel Energy Center. When they arrived for practice Monday afternoon, Seeler was waiting and took the familiar ice with his new club.
"It's been kind of a crazy day. You go from not knowing if you're going to get picked up somewhere to getting picked up by the team the Wild are playing the next day," he said. "Didn't have to travel very far and just thankful and grateful for being picked up by Chicago. I'm extremely excited to be part of this great organization and it was nice to get the first practice under your belt and get to know the guys just a little bit."
"It was good to get him out there right away, sort of rip the band-aid off as far as getting in the group and feeling comfortable. That's what you want," head coach Jeremy Colliton said after Seeler's first practice. "I just had a quick conversation today for that same reason, just to start to get that process going as far as feeling comfortable. We want to have fun here. We want to be excited about the opportunity we have to play big games and he's no different."
Video: Seeler joins Blackhawks in Minnesota
A native of nearby Eden Prairie, Seeler was drafted in the fifth round by his hometown team out of high school in 2011 and made his NHL debut at the end of the 2017-18 season, appearing in 22 regular season games and another five in the postseason. Last year, he became a consistent member of the Wild lineup, playing in 71 games.
This season though, Seeler fell down the depth chart with rookie Carson Soucy and veteran Brad Hunt seeing consistent action. He's played in just six games - the last on Dec. 7 - and recently spent a two-week conditioning stint with the AHL's Iowa Wild, where he was destined to return if he cleared waivers.
"Last year was a really good year in terms of getting games and getting experience under my belt and this year's just been different," Seeler said. "It's been challenging both mentally and physically. Sometimes change is good and I think it was the right time for change and really thankful for the opportunity here."
"(He's a) hard-nosed defenseman. Plays a simple, direct game. Obviously some physicality, some toughness," Colliton said of what the Blackhawks see in Seeler. "We felt like it was a chance to add some depth to our group ... he's an NHL player."
The Xcel Energy Center has been home to many important moments in Seeler's hockey career, from attending Wild games as a kid to winning two high school state championships in the building to hearing his name called at the 2011 NHL Draft there and, eventually, making his NHL debut on Feb. 13, 2018.
It could also be the venue where he plays his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, though Colliton said the team might opt to take their time integrating him into the group.
"It's hard to forecast, but certainly the guys who have been in (the last few games) have been doing a really good job," he said. "We'll see. We'll set the lineup tomorrow, but it could take him a little time to get into the group and get up to speed with how we're playing."
"They've obviously been playing really well. I think I can bring that grittiness and toughness in the D zone and in front of the net and on the PK, I think I can block shots and stuff like that and add that element, that physicality," Seeler said of how he hopes to help Chicago down the stretch run. "When I get in, if I get in here soon, I'm looking to bring that and just contribute any way I can to help these guys. Obviously they're a tight-knit group and just want to fit in and show what you can bring. I'm looking forward to doing that."