ST. PAUL — Several new faces were interspersed with familiar ones as the first day of Wild Development Camp got underway at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday.
Among the players on the ice were 24 forwards, 14 defensemen and four goaltenders split into two teams.
Both groups worked with Wild Assistant Coaches John Anderson, Scott Stevens and Darby Hendrickson, Iowa Assistants David Cunniff and Pascal Rheaume and Iowa Head Coach Derek Lalonde.
Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s Director of Player Development, played a large role in coordinating the camp, including the inclusion of 16 invitees to the camp that are not affiliated with the club.
“Brad did a very good job with the diversity in the camp,” Lalonde said. “We started with just skating in the morning, there’s been some off-ice with the stick handling and with our strength and conditioning, then we had a fast quality practice.
“It kind of eased into everything today, it wasn’t overwhelming, it wasn’t a two-hour grind-type practice. I thought it was well-thought out and produced a very good skate today. It was a lot sharper and a lot cleaner than I’d expected, especially on a day one.”
The on-ice portion of day one began with Team White skating for an hour, working a number of skills drills, including passing and shooting. They also worked on odd-man rushes.
Among those on the ice first were Alex Tuch and Sam Anas, who often skated together.
That was the plan, according to Lalonde, and fans in Iowa should get used to the idea of the two playing together. Both Tuch and Anas will enter training camp in September with a chance to win a roster spot in Minnesota, but both are realistic about the fact that each will likely spend some time in Iowa first.
Tuch said he is more comfortable now in his third camp and has also assumed more of a leadership role.
“Comfort is a huge thing. And along with comfort comes confidence,” said Tuch. “I’ve been here three years now and am friends with the trainers and stuff. The relationships just continue to grow and hopefully I’ll be able to spend some more time around them this year.”
Team Green was on the ice second and featured 2016 first round selection Luke Kunin along with familiar names, draft picks Mario Lucia, Avery Peterson and Jordan Greenway and camp invitee Justin Kloos.
The practices were remarkably similar in terms of structure and plan as the coaching and front office staffs continue to assess how players have improved since they last played, and in the case of camp veterans, since they were here last summer.
“There’s a lot of different kids at different stages of their development,” Wild Assistant GM Brent Flahr said. “It’s a lower pace, but you get to see where these kids are at. You see some of the first-year guys for the first time and it’s always exciting to see where they fit in. But it’s almost more exciting to see where kids have come in the year since last year. You see some dramatic improvements, especially physically, and it shows on the ice.”
Both teams will be back at Xcel Energy Center for more on-ice work on Wednesday morning before the first scrimmage of camp on Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The scrimmage is the first of two that will take place this week; both are free and open to the public.