Yesterday, the Minnesota Wild inked one of the most highly sought after college free agents on the market. Minnesota signed defenseman Christian Folin to a two-year entry-level contract beginning this season.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman will join the Wild as the team travels to Chicago. He can skate in the team’s final six regulation games, but is not playoff eligible per National Hockey League rules, as he signed after the Trade Deadline.
“It's a big jump, certainly, I'm sure there'll be some a bit of a learning curve like there might be for any young man leaving college and turning pro,” Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said. “But he'll come and join our team and practice with us on Wednesday. He'll provide some depth for us this season and we'll see what happens.”
The 23-year-old recently completed his sophomore season at UMass Lowell, where he led River Hawks defensemen with 20 points (4-16=20). The Gothenburg, Sweden native helped the River Hawks win the Hockey East conference tournament before ending the season with a loss to Boston College in the NCAA Northeast Regional Final.
“He's a big mobile defenseman,” Fletcher said. “He has a heavy shot, moves the puck well, and is probably stronger defensively than offensively. But again, a guy that can really shoot the puck hard.”
Along with his physical attributes and NHL frame, Folin is a right-handed shooting defender, a commodity in the League. However, Fletcher said that the club likes his game regardless of which way his stick is curved.
“I think we would have liked him if he was a left-shot, but the fact that he's a right-shot is a bonus. It's harder to find right-shot defensemen. Certainly, when you look at the physical attributes he possesses, he's physically ready to compete in the NHL right now.
Folin recorded 21 points (6-15=21) in 38 games during his freshman season, ranking sixth in scoring amongst Hockey East defensemen and Hockey East freshmen in 2012-13. Fletcher said that the organization began to take notice of Folin during his freshman season.
“(Scout) Brian Hunter does a great job for us scouting the college free agents,” Fletcher said. “Brian was on him last year. We invited him to our summer camp and he chose not to go to any, but certainly he's been aware of our interest for well over a year.”
The blueliner is familiar with the State of Hockey. Before joining the River Hawks, Folin played two seasons in Minnesota with the Austin Bruins of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), totaling 41 points (12-29=41) in 87 games. In 2011-12, he recorded 31 points (11-20=31) and a plus-45 rating and 50 PIM, being named to the NAHL’s All-Central Division Team.
He’s another addition to the growing stable of young defensemen in the organization. Minnesota recently signed its second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Gustav Olofsson to an entry-level deal, which kicks in next season.
The Wild’s prospect pool includes notable blueliners like Matt Dumba, currently in the Western Hockey Leauge, and college defensemen John Draeger, Nick Seeler and Carson Soucy. But unlike his counterparts, Wild fans might get a chance to see Folin in NHL action as soon as Thursday against he Chicago Blackhawks.
“We think he'll certainly help us going forward, but we think we're a good fit for him too with our group of young NHLers that are already here,” Fletcher said. “He can fit into that group age-wise and maturity-wise and grow with those young players.”
In speaking with the PONDcast, Folin noted the decision to leave UMass Lowell and sign with the Wild was probably one of the biggest in his career so far, but he's looking forward to joining an organization that he feels will strongly help his development.
"They've done a great job with their young players, developing them into professional hockey players," Folin said of why he signed with the Wild. "That fact that they're doing a great job with their players and the chance to come back and play in the State of Hockey."