| Shawn Belle won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Tournament i n 2005, and a silver in 2004. |
When talk of the future of the Minnesota Wild’s blueline begins, names like Nick Schultz and Brent Burns are omitted these days. Those guys are now the present. They are expected to play like NHL veterans next season, and the time for growing pains has passed.
The future blueliners are now names like Thelen, Stoner, and perhaps the most talented defensive prospect, Shawn Belle.
Belle was the key ingredient the Wild acquired last March in a trade with Dallas for Willie Mitchell. Belle switched organizations while skating for the Iowa Stars of the AHL. He finished the year with the Houston Aeros and was a solid contributor during Houston’s playoff push.
A gold medal winner for Canada’s World Junior Team, Belle has experienced some pinnacles, but his ultimate goal is to reach the NHL. He hopes that chance comes with the Wild, as he mentioned in a sit-down with WILD.com.
First off, how has the transition gone for you as you’ve gotten acclimated to the Minnesota Wild organization?
Pretty good. I thought I had a future in Dallas, but I ended up getting traded and I wound up with a good organization here with the Minnesota Wild. A lot of people talk about how good the Wild are as an organization. They’ve got a good team in Houston too, and I got a chance to play on a first-place team. I fit in pretty quickly because there were a lot of good guys down there.
Houston had a great regular season and rolled through the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. What happened in the Milwaukee series?
Overall, the experience went well. We lost a couple key guys at end of the season with (Erik) Westrum and (Josh) Harding going up. That hurt the team a little bit, and we hit a rough patch there near the end. But we got out of it and got real hot in that playoff series with Peoria. We couldn’t do anything wrong and things just went our way.
When we played Milwaukee, it was just the opposite and everything went against us. They played real well.
You were a key component of that deal that brought Martin Skoula to the Wild in exchange for Willie Mitchell. How did that trade resonate with you when it happened?
It kind of boosted my ego, knowing that it was for a player like Mitchell. When I got traded, I didn’t really know why. You always wonder why you got traded. It weighed on me for a little bit, but after awhile, it’s good to know there’s a team that wants you.
Did the Wild organization tell you that they were happy to have you following the trade?
Yeah, Doug Risebrough called about an hour after the trade to welcome me to the organization and told me he thought I’d fit in well. He said they were happy to have me.
The Wild roster is pretty stacked with veterans and its no secret that prospects are going to have a tough time making the team. If the team opts to fill the final spot with a defenseman, do you feel you’re ready to make that jump?
I’m not really sure yet, it’s still early. Playing in the NHL has always been my dream. It looks like there’s one spot open, and a lot of guys will be battling for that spot.
You’re a big guy, but you’ve won a Fastest Skater competition in junior hockey. What is it like to be on the end of full-speed hit by you?
Well, I don’t know but I hope it hurts. I try to play as physical as possible and that’s my game. I try to keep it simple and if I can, jump up in the play.
In juniors, I used to score quite a bit. The last year was kind of an eye-opener for me, trying to adjust to playing a more simple game.
You’ve been sitting out the contact drills during this week’s camp because of shoulder problems. What exactly is the story with the injury and when do you expect to be fully recovered?
I don’t really know what happened. Over time, it just kind of wore down a little bit. I don’t know if it was a hit or anything like that, but it was just kind of nagging me all season.
I finally had it checked out and it was a torn labrum. I had surgery about six weeks ago and that went well. I should be ready to go for the start of the season.