Call it a full-circle homecoming for Wild defenseman Carson Soucy.
When he sustained an upper-body injury in Edmonton in late February, it was believed the rookie blue liner might miss, at a minimum, the remainder of the regular season. A return in the postseason seemed possible, but at that point in the calendar, the playoffs were far from a sure thing.
The Wild played the next 2 1/2 weeks without Soucy before COVID-19 put a halt to the 2019-20 regular season, and the 137-day stoppage between then and now has more than allowed Soucy's injury to heal, allowing the Irma, Alberta native a proper chance to finish what was an outstanding first full season in the NHL.
And not only finish the season, but do it with a completely clean bill of health.
"It's nice that it's fully healed," Soucy said. "If you're coming back and you're trying to get back as soon as you're cleared to skate, it never feels as good as it's supposed to. But with the full recovery, it's a little more exciting to be back and it's exciting that we have this chance to finish what we started.
"It's a good way to look at it, knowing I get to finish this season and we have a chance to make a run in the playoffs here."
Ten months ago, Soucy came out of nowhere to win a job on the NHL roster out of training camp, outlasting Louie Belpedio, who himself had a strong camp.
Soucy played in five regular season games in 2017-18, then in four more during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but was unable to earn a call up last season after a disappointing performance at 2019 training camp.
The 2013 fifth-round draft pick of the Wild, who spent four seasons at the University of Minnesota Duluth, had a good year in Iowa in 2018-19, but few could have predicted the kind of breakout he'd have in Minnesota this season.
Soucy, rarely known as a big offensive contributor, posted seven goals and 14 points in 55 games. The seven goals were the most he's scored in a single season since 2011-12, when he skated for the Lloydminster Bobcats U-18 AAA team.
Video: MIN@EDM: Soucy whips top-shelf wrister past Koskinen
But perhaps more importantly that the offensive numbers was the consistent, physical presence he provided in the defensive end, an area of the game that has long been his forte.
Getting that back after such a long layoff won't be easy, but it's something Soucy is focused on doing.
"It's been a long time off for everyone, not just me," Soucy said. "Just to get that comfortability back and that timing in the first game and even the first period ... it starts that exhibition game against Colorado. Just try to get comfortable playing with [Brad Hunt] again and hopefully we pick up right where we left off when the team was rolling at the end of the season."
At 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, Soucy is the most physically imposing defenseman on the Wild's roster, and his plus-16 -- while not a perfect stat -- was the best on the team.
All of this as a 25-year-old rookie getting his first real, extended look as an NHLer. Soucy celebrated day one inside the Edmonton bubble by celebrating his 26th birthday on Monday, just a stone's throw from family and friends but unable to do much about it, other than talk on the phone or via FaceTime.
Video: Carson Soucy mic'ed up on the road
"I know a few friends who are even out, checking out the bubble right now. My brother is in town," Soucy said. "But it's weird, they're sending me pictures of stuff outside, and you can't really go out and see them. That's kind of weird, but it's still comforting to know that you're close to family. Hopefully we can make a good run here and they can come watch the games if we make it to the conference finals."
For the Wild to do that, it will need to find a level of comfort inside its new surroundings ... familiar ones for Soucy, even though this tournament is nothing like he, or anyone else, has experienced before.
"Right now, for the most part, it just feels like a regular road trip," Soucy said. "We get checked into a hotel, come and have our meals. I think maybe once we're a few weeks in, it'll start to feel a little different, but right now, it kind of just feels like a road trip. We're in a hotel, we're with the team and we're here to play some hockey."