Zach Parise is a 10-year NHL veteran, but that doesn't stop him from continuing to be a student of the game, and finding additional ways to be even more successful.
"You learn different things," Parise said. "There are different things you try on the ice as far as making the defense uncomfortable, or as far as trying to draw two guys to you and trying to find the open guys. It's about making more space for you."
Space can be hard to come by when you have scored 274 career goals. Of those, 80 have come in a Wild sweater, where Parise said his offensive role hasn't changed.
"As far as me personally, last year I scored more than I have in a few years," Parise said. "Scoring is down now compared to when I had those 45 and 38 [goal seasons in New Jersey]. You're probably not going to see 100-point guys with the lack of power plays, and how hard it is to score 5-on-5. The game has changed a lot in six years. That's just the way it is."
It all ties into how Parise processes and digests hockey. In an ever-evolving NHL, adapting to the game's changes is paramount.
"You go back to how defensive teams play," Parise said. "Everyone is collapsing now, and they're playing low forwards. You're trying to find different ways to open things up and expose things. I'm always trying to analyze different ways to make space and create scoring chances all the time."
As Parise has grown in Minnesota, so has the Wild. It's been part of what he's noticed most since coming to the franchise in 2012.
"For me it's been fun to see us improving every year," he said. "When I came here, it was [Mikael Granlund's] first year, [Charlie] Coyle's first year, and just to see them then compared to where they are now, and you see them develop, it's neat."
And though he's at a different stage in his career, Parise continues to develop as well. Take last summer, when Parise read a study about the disadvantages of dumping the puck into the zone and chasing.
"You're going to create more on offense than just wrestling the puck in the corner to get zone time," Parise said. "You try to get in the zone with clean entry, and set up your offense like that."
All of this knowledge gained and desire to continue to learn keeps Parise on the top of his game, but there's only one thing at the top of his to-do list.
"I want to win. It doesn't matter—you do all the individual stuff, but ultimately, you want to win, and be a part of a team that's got a chance to win every year," Parise said. "That's what we're working toward, and we're getting to that level."
It was in 2012 that Parise reached the Stanley Cup Final as a member of the New Jersey Devils. He lost that series in six games, another experience that has added to his perspective.
"Once you do get there, and you don't win, you're dying to get back, and you want to get back so bad," Parise said. "You understand how hard it is to get to the Finals. I've had 10 years, and that was my only sniff; 10 years."
There's a lot at play for Parise. He not only harnesses the competitiveness and winning-desire of all NHL players, but he also, as a hometown player, has a deeper connection to the organization.
"It is a special thing growing up here, and then getting the chance to play here," he said. "You try to be a role model and make an impact off the ice, and do the right things. It feels like not too long ago I was on the other side, and looking up to the all the North Stars. Now the roles are reversed, and you try to do the right things, and make an impact off the ice."