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Seeler ready to take next step in NHL evolution

Defenseman played in 71 games this season, his first full season with Minnesota

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

ST. PAUL -- When Nick Seeler arrived for his NHL debut late in the 2017-18 season, he did so without thinking too much about it.

A fifth-round pick of the Wild in 2011, Seeler had just over 100 games of experience in the AHL and was one of Iowa's most improved players during that span. But he'd never been a big offensive contributor at any level prior, so he didn't arrive in the NHL with much fanfare.

It's appropriate, considering what Seeler's game looks like.

The low-key, hard-nosed defensive-minded defenseman is at his best when his game goes unnoticed. And that's sort of how his introduction to the NHL was.

But that's not how it remained.

Seeler was so effective in a 22-game stretch at the end of the season and in five playoff contests against Winnipeg, that he earned himself a three-year, one-way contract, and for the first time in his pro career, entered a season with some serious expectations.

His play the season prior and his new contract dictated that Seeler would be counted on to, not only start the season in the NHL, but to be a solid contributor on Minnesota's third pairing.

"Coming up last year, I wasn't really sure what to expect," Seeler said. "I just tried to play my game and stick here and stay here, and thankfully I did. I was able to sign the contract last summer and have the full year up here with this team. It was a great experience."

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Seeler, who had four assists and was a plus-10, in his first 22-game cup of coffee in the NHL, added two more helpers and was a plus-1 in the playoffs. 

The experience of both playing in the NHL and suiting up in the postseason was invaluable for him as he prepared to come back to Minnesota on a full-time basis last fall.

"Being able to be up in the NHL for that part of the year was a great experience for me," Seeler said. "I was able to learn a ton about the game and just get games, confidence and know that I was able to play at this level."

That experience didn't make his first year in the NHL any easier though, as the Eden Prairie native and former Golden Gopher experienced some of the growing pains any young rookie defenseman might have.

Still, Seeler's first full campaign has to be encouraging for Minnesota moving forward. He suited up in 71 games, scored his first two NHL goals and had his share of memorable moments.

Video: MIN@STL: Seeler beats Allen for first NHL goal

His first career NHL goal on Nov. 3 in St. Louis, was also his first career game-winning goal. 

His minus-4, while not sparkling, was actually second-best among Wild defensemen, with only Jared Spurgeon's minus-1 ranking better.

A bulk of his team-leading 64 penalty minutes came as a result of his willingness to defend his teammates, while his dirty work in front of his own net has endeared him to his coaches and his teammates.

The prime example of this came in Minnesota's final game before the All-Star break, when he laid in front of three shots on a single shift.

Tweet from @mnwild: Way to sacrifice Seels 💪#MINvsCOL

 Moments later, Minnesota scored a huge goal that shifted momentum in a win at Colorado.

"The one thing you can control is how hard you work and the attitude you have," Seeler said. "Every day, if you bring that positive attitude and that work ethic, good things will happen."

Known in Iowa as a player who had a sponge-like ability to retain information and knowledge and return months later at the same spot he left, Seeler's new challenge will be coming back to training camp in the fall ready to become even more consistent.

Those are his new expectations.

"I think I'm gonna continue to do what I do in the summers, improve, work hard and just keep working on the little things in my game that I will always need to improve on," Seeler said. "I'll come in ready and prepared for next year, and having this experience under my belt, I'm able to know what I need to work on moving forward."


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