ST. PAUL -- Wild forward Ivan Lodnia is participating in his third development camp with the team that drafted him in the third round two summers ago in Chicago.
After entering camp with a broad set of goals -- including making the NHL club as an 18-year-old in 2017 -- Lodnia arrived in St. Paul this week on the precipice of a new chapter in his hockey career: One way or another, Lodnia will in all likelihood be a professional when the puck drops on the 2019-20 season this fall.
"Every year you come into rookie camp and training camp, your goal is to make the [NHL] team," Lodnia said. "The first two years, there was obviously a pretty high chance that I'd be heading back to juniors. But this year, I think I have a really good chance of making it in Iowa.
"Or Minnesota ... that's the goal."
Since he was drafted 85th overall in the 2017 Draft, Lodnia hasn't been shy about what he wanted to accomplish. Still a teenager -- he turns 20 at the end of August -- Lodnia has set a high bar for himself.
Nevermind the longest of odds, Lodnia had his eyes fixed on making the NHL roster just a couple of months after being drafted. He had the same set of goals last fall, even earning ice time in one preseason game with Minnesota, before eventually being shipped back to the Ontario Hockey League, where he had been traded from the Erie Otters to the Niagara Ice Dogs.
And if you think that goal will chance when the team reconvenes for training camp this September, you're crazy. Lodnia will have the same goal of making the NHL club, even if it's far more likely that he'll end up in Iowa.
That in and of itself will be a big leap for Lodnia, who got his first taste in the American Hockey League two years ago when he played in six games with Iowa at the tail end of the 2017-18 season.
"That's a big step forward," Lodnia said. "It's definitely different and it's a new chapter in my life. This year, having that hope and having that honor of playing pro hockey, that's already a huge step."
Lodnia is also showing the maturity expected of a veteran of his third development camp. He's leading more by example, and his attitudes toward reaching his goals have evolved as well. While starting the season in Iowa isn't his main objective, he certainly sees the benefits of being patient and being able to develop his game at his own pace.
"There's nothing wrong with going there and developing with a lot of great older players there," Lodnia said. "Coach Army is a really good coach, so hopefully I'd be able to learn a lot."
Lodnia is coming off a frustrating season in Niagara after sustaining a high-ankle sprain in December. His trade from Erie left him energized and excited after the disappointment of being sent back wore off and he got off to a good start until a freak injury set him back two months.
Lodnia said that he could have continued to play, but after consulting with both Niagara and the Wild, they came to the conclusion that rest and getting his ankle fully healed would be the best for all parties involved.
After scoring 17 goals and 45 points in 41 games during the regular season, Lodnia got healthy and scored four goals and 15 points in 11 playoff games before Niagara's season came to an end in the second round of the OHL playoffs.
Lodnia joined Iowa during its own playoff run as a black ace but did not get into an AHL game this season.
Now, as he sets to embark on the pro portion of his hockey career, Brad Bombardir, the Wild's Director of Player Development, said Lodnia need not look far for a player to emulate as he transitions to the AHL next season: Fellow 2017 draftee Mason Shaw, who played three years in Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League before missing nearly an entire year because of a knee injury sustained in Traverse City two years ago.
He went on to play in 76 games with Iowa last year, scoring eight goals and 33 points, putting himself firmly on the radar with Minnesota's leadership group. Unfortunately, a knee injury sustained during the Calder Cup Playoffs will likely keep Shaw out until at least the holidays, so his ascent up the Wild's depth chart will have to wait.
Lodnia starts the upcoming season at about the same spot Shaw did last year, with a similar opportunity to put himself on an NHL track in the future.
"Only time is going to tell and how quickly he adapts to the NHL game is he going to tell us that," Bombardir said. "It's going to take him some time just to cycle through down there, and if it turns out he can, then he can [be in the NHL mix]. But if it takes time, it takes time."