ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nico Sturm is heading into Minnesota Wild training camp in September with high hopes of making the 23-man roster after playing two NHL games last season.
Until then, the 24-year-old center, who signed with the Wild as an undrafted free agent on April 1 following three seasons at Clarkson University, knows there's plenty of work to be done to improve his chances.
"Of course, there's some pressure heading into camp," Sturm said during Minnesota development camp in June. "But I'm trying not to put any pressure on myself. I know what I need to work on in order to be ready for September. I'm not there yet, but there's a lot of time. I want to take that time, come to the rink, the ice and the weight room and get better. I'm going to be 100 percent focused on making that roster."
In the meantime, the Wild have put their faith in Sturm; they re-signed him to a one-year contract on July 16.
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said he liked what he saw from Sturm (6-foot-3, 207 pounds) in his two games with the Wild; he did not have a point but had seven shots. Boudreau wants to see Sturm elevating all aspects of his game.
"I think this season we're going to look to guys like him to take on bigger roles," Boudreau said. "He got in two games last year which, you hope, helps his confidence and will make him come in with a real determination this year."
Born in Augsburg, Germany, Sturm joined the Wild after scoring an NCAA career-high 45 points (14 goals, 31 assists) in 39 games his junior season. The Clarkson co-captain was named the ECAC's best defensive forward for a second straight season, was a finalist for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and a finalist for the 2019 Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the best NCAA men's ice hockey player. He had 103 points (36 goals, 67 assists) in 118 games in three seasons at Clarkson.
He capped off the season by reaching the NHL.
"I think it was good to kind of get that out of the way … and to know what the expectations are and what the level of hockey is like," Sturm said of making his NHL debut in a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on April 4. "And then, obviously it's a huge motivational factor for me … When you work out in the summer at 8 a.m., it's tough, but you think back to those 2-3 weeks I was here [with the Wild] and you have the boost.
"I couldn't be more excited for my first season as a professional hockey player. I enjoyed playing college hockey, it was a cool time, but I'm ready to take the next step. There's going to be some differences for me, adjustments playing an 82-game schedule all of a sudden, but I'm just excited. It's something new.
"New is always exciting."