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Signing with Wild a Dream Come True for Menell

After signing a three-year, entry-level contract, defenseman has gone from unknown entity to Cinderella story

by Kayleigh Jackson /

ST. PAUL -- Three months ago, Brennan Menell was an unknown entity. Two months ago, he was invited to the Wild's Development Camp. One month ago, he played for Minnesota at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. Saturday, he donned a Wild sweater in his first preseason game.

Tuesday morning, he signed his first NHL contract. 

Menell, a 20-year-old from Woodbury, was cut from St. Thomas Academy's varsity team in his sophomore year. Determined to continue playing, he went to juniors and took his talents to the Western Hockey League. Though a defenseman, Menell posted 71 points in 70 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes during the 2016-17 season -- enough to draw attention from the Wild. 

Video: Brennan Menell Reacts to Signing

"It's a dream come true," Menell said after inking his three-year, entry-level deal. "I've put in so much effort and work and this was always the team I thought I'd want to be playing for growing up. This is the best-case scenario for me." 

Menell's style of play and path to the big leagues hearken back to a staple on the Wild's blue line: Jared Spurgeon. Undersized for a defenseman, Spurgeon was also invited to the Wild's training camp prior to the 2010-11 season after success in the WHL. Now, he's consistently one of the Wild's best defensemen. 

"I think the first practice, just being with Jared Spurgeon, he's always a guy I've looked up to," Menell said. "It's definitely a surreal feeling, going from watching him in the stands last year to now being on the ice with him. That was a big moment."

"He's very calm with the puck, he's confident out there," assistant coach John Anderson said. "Not a huge guy but he's not afraid." That much is clear from the way Menell has come in and taken the Wild brass by storm. 

Menell's story hasn't gone unnoticed by his training camp teammates, either. "I'm definitely happy for him," said fellow defenseman Carson Soucy. "It shows how he's willing to work." 

That work ethic and desire to improve is a big reason why Menell has come so far, despite the winding road to success. 

"It's the first step," Menell said. "I want to be a regular in the NHL and I know that I can't stop working hard now and if anything, I've gotta work even harder. I'm definitely not done." 

Menell will be heading to Des Moines after being assigned to the Iowa Wild on Tuesday, where he will compete for a spot on the American Hockey League roster out of training camp. 

"They told me to go home, spend some time with family before I leave. I'll probably go there, have dinner, celebrate a little bit, but then I gotta refocus and get ready for tomorrow," Menell said. "Family's always been important to me, so having them here for support is really huge." 

Menell credits his mom as one of his biggest supporters throughout his journey.

"I told my mom, she was definitely the first one, she's been through everything with me," Menell said. "She was the first call [after signing]." 

Though he's about to leave that support system behind in Woodbury, he knows that his friends, family and teammates will remain behind him -- no matter if he makes the Iowa roster or if he returns to the WHL. 

"[Making Iowa] is definitely my goal, but I know [the organization] wants what's best for my development. If they think I can get the ice time there, that'd be a great deal but if not, I always have a place back in Lethbridge." 

Either way, Anderson says this isn't the last the NHL will see of Brennan Menell.

"It just goes to show you, there's always a spot open for a guy who really stands out," Anderson said. "We're really happy for him, and we hope he progresses the way we project and he'll be in one of our uniforms very shortly."

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