For many Wild fans, Marco Scandella
's name is synonymous with a glut of potential, yet also a very raw talent. But the 21-year-old is riding a wave of impressive play - dating back to last season’s playoff run with the Houston Aeros - which might have him seeing considerable action with the Minnesota this season.
“It's funny how guys get their opportunities,” Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “Some guys wait and wait, but the opportunity never really comes. But here is a guy that we talked about, maybe, potentially having a top four role, and here is an opportunity for him right off the bat.
“But, with that, you have to take advantage of that opportunity.”
Scandella knows how close opportunities can be missed. Last season, skating with the Aeros during the team’s playoff run, the team fell just short of a championship, losing to Binghamton in the finals.
“It’s too bad we didn’t win,” the rangy defensman said. “We went through some really good battles with teams, a couple Game 7’s and it was a tough playoff run, but you learn a lot in those situations.
“You get to know yourself and how you play when you’re tired. Next time I get into a situation like that, I will know what to look forward to.”
Scandella said playing meaningful hockey in June helped him come into camp well prepared, and ready to make a run of his own: To make the big club.
“He came into camp in great shape,” Yeo said. “He started off day one with a great skate and built a lot of momentum up from there.”
Scandella’s preseason opportunities have opened, thanks, in part, to injuries with other blueliners. But the Montreal native also has taken advantage of knowing Yeo’s system.
“Those guys (Scandella, Jared Spurgeon
and Justin Falk
) have the benefit of knowing our system,” Yeo confirmed. “So they may look like it’s more of a habit or the way we want to play the game.”
The blueliner also benefited from 20 games with the Wild last season, contributing two assists. The familiarity of last season has helped him come into camp more prepared.
“I felt like I was more ready,” the defenseman affirmed. “I feel like my game has improved a lot.”
That improvement has led to more confidence on the ice, and more playing time. During the preseason, Scandella was inserted into important situations, including power play and penalty kill.
“I’m not scared to make mistakes any more,” Scandella said. “I’m young; they’re going to happen.
“The coaches are giving me confidence, making me play in those key situations.”
And even though there is a certain pressure that comes with playing – and trying to make an NHL team – the D-man mused that it’s still just hockey, and that he has played in pressure situations throughout his budding career.
Nonetheless, he isn’t getting too comfortable or losing focus.
“(The NHL) is the best league in the world,” Scandella said. “So, you’ve got to be ready when you’re on the ice.”
If Scandella continues to play with the poise he has displayed during the preseason, he will have to be ready to play in a Wild sweater a lot more often.