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Setbacks Don't Deter Wild Draft Picks

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

Tanner Faith
did not hear his name called at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. It wasn’t for a lack of attention; he simply was neither in the building nor the state for that matter.

Faith had just arrived at a golf course for a day on the links when his phone started to buzz with a deluge of notifications — the Minnesota Wild had just selected the defenseman in the fifth round, 139th overall.

Faith still played his round, but the utter shock of what had just happened had a lasting effect.

“It was terrible,” Faith said with a wide grin, but also noted that getting drafted was better than a hole-in-one.

The Terrace, B.C. native was shocked when he heard the news. That season, playing for Kootenay of the Western Hockey League, Faith had played in exactly ten games after suffering a shoulder injury.

Even though it was his draft year, he didn’t expect any organization to take a chance on him that early. Adding to the shock was the fact that Faith had never previously conversed with the Wild.

“It was crazy,” Faith said. “I only played ten games this year so I didn’t expect anything, especially the fifth round.”

Faith played seven games at the start of the season before dislocating his shoulder. After some rehabilitation he returned for another three games, and then dislocated it again, requiring surgery that put an end to his season. During what little playing time he did have he picked up an assist and nine penalty minutes.

“After only playing ten games in your draft year, it’s kind of a downer,” Faith said. “But it’s a boost of confidence knowing that they took a chance on you.

“It’s crazy how motivated you get after you get that recognition. It just makes you want to go work out and get better.”

Time and again, players will simply tell you that injuries are a part of the game. Therefore, it’s no real surprise that the blueliner wasn’t the only 2014 Draftee who had suffered such a set back. One of Minnesota’s three sixth round picks, Reid Duke, missed ten games at the start of the season with an upper-body injury.

“You always want to get off to a good start but unfortunately I ran into some trouble early on,” Duke said. “At the same time I don’t want to use that as an excuse.”

Over 62 games played with Lethbridge of the WHL, Duke tallied 40 points on 15 goals and 25 assists, which ranked third in scoring on the Hurricanes. He also racked up 91 PIM as Lethbridge struggled through the season to a 12-55-2-3 record and 12th place finish in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

Taking the injury and his team’s struggles into account, getting drafted was a pretty good compliment, according to Duke.

“Our team didn’t have the best year; it was pretty rough all year long,” Duke said. “To get drafted in the circumstances that I was in, I take that as a positive. I obviously have a lot of work on still but I’m proud of that accomplishment.”

Duke, unlike Faith, took in the entire Draft experience with his family — something he said he won’t forget. That being said, even though he was there, he also missed hearing his name called.

At the time, the Calgary, Alberta native was listening closely to the teams he had met at the Combine just weeks before. When the Wild came on the board, the forward sat back and stopped paying attention, having never talked with Minnesota previously.

“I was shocked,” Duke said. “My family stood up and I was still wondering what was going on. It caught me by surprise but I was excited.”

Once again, the Wild had made a statement to one of their young draftees. With no sign of earlier interest, Minnesota showed some faith in a young player’s potential.

For Duke coming to an organization with which he had no contact is simply a fresh challenge that he’s ready to embrace.

“It’s a nice change of scenery,” Duke said. “You get a fresh start with a new team and it’s in the NHL. That’s pretty cool. It’s hard to explain but it’s a new opportunity to prove myself. They haven’t seen me a whole lot so it’s refreshing.”

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