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Overcoming devastating injury only the start for Wild's Shaw

Torn ACL in Traverse City shortened forward's season last year, but didn't ruin it entirely

by Dan Myers @DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- In an instant, Mason Shaw's hockey career took an unexpected -- and unfortunate -- turn for the worst.

After a dream summer, one in which he was drafted, participated in his first NHL development camp (where he was awarded the Hardest Worker On and Off the Ice award) and the IIHF World Junior Summer Showcase, Shaw put the Wild jersey on for the first time at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

Playing on a team featuring first-round picks Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin, Shaw might have been Minnesota's best overall player in the first game of the tournament.

Midway through the second contest, however, it all came crashing down.

On a routine play in the corner, Shaw hit a patch of bad ice and lost his edge. An opponent hit him at the most inopportune time, and Shaw hit the ice writhing in pain.

"It was a pretty harmless play," Shaw said. "I remember the ice wasn't very good and I caught an edge. Right away, I felt a pop. The referee kept asking me if I was alright and I was telling him to blow the whistle pretty fast."

His right ACL was torn, and his season -- for all intents and purposes -- was done before it had ever truly begun.

"I knew after the game and before the MRI was done that it probably wasn't going to be very good," Shaw said. "Being told the news, I was pretty devastated. I had so many things to look forward to that year."

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

Among the things Shaw was prepping for was a return to Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League, where the Tigers were expected to have a pretty good team. A potential spot on Team Canada at the World Junior Championships was also lost.

Instead, Shaw was about to begin a grueling six-month rehabilitation that would test his mettle like no other challenge he's faced. Still just 18 years old, Shaw was going to be forced to find a way to continue his development without ever setting foot on the ice.

He went about doing it like he does everything else: Full bore, straight ahead, no questions asked.

"He's just non-stop," said Iowa Wild coach Derek Lalonde. "At this age, you can still teach competitiveness as a habit. That's been engrained with him, and that's probably his best attribute, his compete, his will."

Shaw says the injury forced him to develop the mental aspect of his game. But it wasn't easy. Between stops in Medicine Hat and in the Twin Cities while rehabbing the injury, Shaw was forced to watch a lot of hockey, something that had never before been taken away from him.

"It was definitely something that was tough," Shaw said. "Something I gained out of it was mental toughness. I improved in that aspect, and getting the game taken away from you from injury [stinks]. But I think it lit another fire underneath me moving forward.

"It's all how you respond to something. I couldn't control the situation that happened and I felt I responded pretty well. I'm back and I'm almost pretty healthy right now, so I'm grateful for that."

Within four months, Shaw was recovered enough to be back on the ice. By the end of the season, he had gained enough strength to be back in game action, suiting up and playing for Iowa once before the team shut him down for the rest of the season.

It was a great carrot for several months worth of work, and made sure his 2017-18 season wasn't a total loss.

"That was just another challenge for him," Lalonde said.

"I remember early on, when I mentioned to my doctors that I wanted to get back at the end of the year, they tried to kind of pull the reigns on me," Shaw said. "But it was definitely very rewarding at the end of the season to get a game in. I worked very hard for those six months to get back into game form and although it was only one game, it was very rewarding and satisfying. It helped me cap off that season and move into my summer training."

Now in his second development camp with the Wild, Shaw is ready to build on the initial waves he made last summer and prove that his injury is a thing of the past. His goal is to make a positive second impression, continue that build through the summer and into Traverse City, where Shaw is expected to play this fall.

After that, he'll come to training camp intent on making the jump to professional hockey, where he's already told Lalonde he expects to be despite holding a final year of eligibility in Medicine Hat.

"He's the kind of kid who when he says that, you believe him," Lalonde said. "I think he's a special player." 


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