Carson Soucy said he has recovered from an upper-body injury and is ready to play for the Minnesota Wild in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
The Wild were 35-27-7 (.558 points percentage) and will enter the qualifiers as the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference. They will play the No. 7 seed, the Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, .565), in one of eight best-of-5 series. The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery.
Soucy, a defenseman, was injured against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 21 after scoring earlier in the game. He missed the final nine games before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
"It felt like a long time, especially when you're not really able to skate," Soucy said Tuesday. "I was cleared to skate the day after we all got shut down, so I was just gearing up to get back on the ice, and then this whole thing happens and I'm not allowed to skate for another three months. I was disappointed to not be able to finish that game in front of some friends and family (near his hometown). ... Now it's fully healed, so it's good to go."
Soucy, who turns 26 on July 27, said he spent multiple months in his hometown of Irma, Alberta, during the pause but has since returned to the Wild practice facility, where he gained access to their trainers last week. He said more of his teammates are being tested this week and that the Wild are expecting a bigger group to report Wednesday and Friday.
Training camp, part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, is scheduled to open July 10. Qualifier games as part of Phase 4 will begin at a later date, and two hub cities -- one for each conference -- are to be determined.
"It's felt good being back on the ice, so I'm looking forward to [training camp]," Soucy said. "Just the comfortability I think of being on the ice again [and] the mobility. When you're off skates for a while, it kind of feels a little different; your hands feel a little shaky. I just want to get as many reps as I can before training camp and feel comfortable going into it."
The Wild were 8-4-0 in their final 12 games of the regular season under Dean Evason, who replaced Bruce Boudreau as coach Feb. 14. Soucy, who was out for most of Minnesota's turnaround, said he's excited to try to help the Wild pick up where they left off.
"It was awesome to watch, but it's also [tough that] I was watching from home some games," Soucy said. "You don't feel like you're a part of it as much when you're injured. It's great to see the team do well, but you miss out on the locker room atmosphere and the ups and downs that go with a winning streak there."
The Wild won two of three games against the Canucks, who were eighth in the NHL in goals per game (3.25) and fourth on the power play (24.2 percent).
"I think we've matched up with them pretty well during the season," Soucy said. "We're going to definitely be looking at a lot of film coming up here on those guys and what we need to do to shut them down. We're going to have to be solid on the [penalty kill] and try to stay out of the box as much as we can."
Soucy, who scored 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 55 games, can become a restricted free agent after this season.
"I have to get a certain amount of games in to be an RFA, but I love it here in Minnesota," Soucy said. "This is where I want to play, so I can definitely see myself coming back here."