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Lodnia aims for crack at Wild's NHL roster this fall

Third-round pick in 2017 draft made pro debut in Iowa late last season

by Jessi Pierce / Special to Wild.com

Video: Ivan Lodnia continues to make strides

ST. PAUL -- Ivan Lodnia sent a congratulatory text to his 2017 development camp roommate, Luke Kunin, after each of his two NHL goals with the Wild last season. Watching Kunin get a crack at the NHL for 19 games before an ACL injury derailed his season was inspiring to Lodnia.

Now Lodnia, a third-round selection by Minnesota (85th overall) in last summer's NHL Entry Draft, hopes it's his turn to be on the receiving end of that text soon.

"Your big goal is to make the big team," Lodnia said. "[Seeing Kunin make it] last year, I was really happy for him because I saw how hard he worked on and off the ice and he deserves it a lot.

"Now I just want to take a huge step forward this year and kind of show everyone who I am as a player."

Coming into his second year at Wild development camp, Lodnia entered Xcel Energy Center with a sense of comfort and an even stronger dedication to showcasing how far his game has come.


[RELATED: News, video and more from the Wild's 2018 development camp is available at Wild.com/developmentcamp].
 

Lodnia, 18, started at center this season, his third year with the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters. A natural winger, the 5-foot-11, 183-pound forward from Los Angeles said there were definitely some adjustments to the position change. 

But in observation, the biggest change was in how much playing center improved his game on the wing.

"I thought that really helped his game because that kept him moving, kept him getting pucks with speed through the neutral zone then he could kind of pop pucks out into the offensive zone and getting pucks back and I really like that," said Wild Director of Player Development Brad Bombardir. "I was there for his first game when he went back to wing in Niagara, and that was the best I've ever seen him play, so I thought that was a good building year."

Lodnia finished the season with 22 goals and 59 points in 62 games with Erie. Halfway through that season, on Dec. 17, he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Wild.

One step closer to the NHL dream.

"My family is the reason I'm here today, so to sign a contract means a lot for all of us together," Lodnia said proudly. 

The signing led to six games in Des Moines with Iowa, where he finished a plus-2 in six games. He was recalled by the Wild as a black ace during its playoff push in April. 

Bombardir acknowledges that Lodnia's game has made strides. He notes that this is a big year for him. Not quite make-or-break, but a chance to separate himself among the others, with some things to work on. 

"He needs to take another step," Bombardir said. "He's a hard-working kid … He's gotta get stronger and add a little size. Size probably comes after strength, but at some point he'll probably add that, but we want to make sure he's strong. That's where he really needs to focus on."

Now Lodnia is gutting it out to garner at least a considering look for a roster spot this season. 

"Last year, I was trying to get my feet wet and try to learn from the older guys," he said. "But this year, I'm kind of one of the older guys and show who I am as a player and hopefully make the big team this year."

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