Duhaime wins battle for roster spot, earns new number in the process
Grinding winger did a bit of everything during impressive training campby Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com
Don't be confused on Friday night when you flip on your television and see a white Wild sweater with the No. 21 on the back.
Minnesota will not have acquired a new player by then (we don't think). It's not Carson Soucy flying around the ice in a replay of a game from last year.
That white No. 21 jersey now belongs to Wild forward Brandon Duhaime, who officially won the battle for the final spot on the Opening Night roster after a strong training camp.
To the victor go the spoils, right?
In this case, the spoils means a new number and the permanent retirement of Duhaime's career in his rookie No. 65, issued to him at some point between his first development camp a week after he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL Draft and Sunday afternoon, when he appeared on the ice at TRIA Rink in St. Paul, five days before he's scheduled to make his NHL debut at Honda Center, with new digits on the top of his white helmet.
It was that camp that helped build a foundation for Duhaime, who spent three years at Providence College before turning pro and playing the last two years with the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League.
Video: Duhaime on making the team
"I think I just progressed over the years from when I was drafted," Duhaime said. "I think I was just taking steps in the right direction every year, just doing what I needed to do whether it was in the weight room or on the ice, just taking care of myself and keep progressing forward."
Duhaime scored six goals and had 20 points in 63 games with Iowa two years ago, his first as a pro. He equalled that goal total in just 24 games last year and was well on pace to surpassing his points total too.
But beyond the offense, Duhaime has shown big-time speed, a grinding style that should complement the Wild's bottom-6 perfectly, a willingness to finish checks and kill penalties and even drop the mitts, as he did twice during the preseason.
Duhaime got better each of his three years at Providence and did so in two years at Iowa. Now, he'll aim to make that progression in Minnesota as well.
Video: Wild GM Bill Guerin talks training camp cuts
"My past two years pro I think were definitely steps in the right direction in my development, and now I'm here," Duhaime said. "But I just want to keep moving forward."
Duhaime has fans in both coach Dean Evason and GM Bill Guerin.
It's hard not to be a fan of his game.
At 6-1 and 203 pounds, Duhaime can absolutely motor around the ice. He plays a style of game that is fun to watch, and as he showed in a preseason game against the Blues last week, he's also got some sneaky offensive skill.
"He's done everything to put himself in a position to make our hockey club," Evason said. "Big, strong, skates, good teammate. I'm looking forward to having him on our team."
Guerin could see Duhaime was motivated to make a push from the roster from the very first day of camp.
"Right away, we could see it like, 'Wow he means business. He's ready,'" Guerin said on Saturday. "And then just the impact that he can have on our lineup with the youth and the speed and quickness and strength. He plays a physical brand which we really like."