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'State of Hockey' Holds True Meaning For Three Wild Prospects

by Kelly Erickson / Minnesota Wild

It started out slow.

Thirty minutes into the first scrimmage of the 2015 Development Camp, the score was 1-0 in Team Green’s favor. But as the clock restarted, both teams consistently connected, resulting in a 6-3 win for Team Green over Team White.

While the prospects relished the first scrimmage — finally skating in front of fans — the afternoon was extra special for three in particular.

Defensemen Mike Reilly, Zach Palmquist and Jack Sadek are quite familiar with the Wild’s home ice. Before any of them were Minnesota prospects, they each skated at Xcel Energy Center at various levels, forging early memories. Stepping out on that ice for Saturday’s scrimmage wearing a Wild sweater was simply the next chapter in their State of Hockey residency.

“It’s unbelievable,” Palmquist said. “Every time coming back here, it’s always a blast. Playing in front of my hometown, friends and family, I couldn’t be happier with the spot that I’m in.”

Palmquist and Reilly each played multiple college tournaments in the arena with the Mavericks and Gophers respectively — notably last year’s North Star College Cup in which they faced off, with the Mavericks winning 4-2.

Meanwhile, the last time Sadek competed on Xcel Energy Center ice, he won a state title as Lakeville North capped a perfect season with a Class 2A Championship. A few months later, he was drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft — a dream pick, according to his mother Renee.

While Sadek grew up in Lakeville and is set to play for the Gophers this fall, Palmquist and Reilly followed similar paths through the Minnesota hockey system, eventually each signing as free agents with their hometown team.

Palmquist, a product of South St. Paul, skated in all 160 possible games of his college career with Minnesota State Mankato, signing with the Wild in March after MSU’s season came to a close.

“It’s been a long journey, but a fun one. There’s been so many people that have helped me along the way — South St. Paul High School, the Waterloo Blackhawks, Mankato for four years. Now with the Wild, it’s a dream come true. Every little kid dreams that and I just feel very blessed.”

Reilly skated with Chaska’s youth association before playing at Holy Angels followed by a year at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. The former Golden Gopher forewent his senior season and entered free agency, deciding to not sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets who originally drafted him in the fourth round in 2011. Reilly kept it local and while his mom, Lisa, says they left the decision up to him, she may have put in a few words for their favorite NHL organization.

“In the end he’s the one that has to play,” Lisa said. “It’s hockey, but it’s his job. He has to figure out where he can excel and play the best for him and what would be right for him. He knew the Wild would be great.

“It still hasn’t sunk in. It’s hard to believe he’s actually going to play here. In my office there’s a picture of all my kid’s with Wild jerseys on down at a Wild game. It’s funny that he’s actually going to be on the ice."

With a few days of development camp under his belt, including Saturday’s scrimmage, Reilly is already easing into the organization. The defenseman picked up two assists in the afternoon’s tilt, including a feed to former Gopher teammate Sam Warning, who is at camp on an invite.

Palmquist, Reilly and Sadek each grew up cheering for the Wild. All three, from mites to high school to college, have honed their game on Minnesota ice. All three can call themselves members of their hometown team.

“We just have that connection, with being from in the State of Hockey, of just a natural love and passion for the Wild,” Renee Sadek observed.

“A lot of people would probably like to be in my position,” Jack Sadek said. “It’s the Minnesota dream.”

Quick Hits

Zack Mitchell tallied two goals for Team Green during Saturday’s scrimmage. Here’s his first on a feed from 2015 first round pick, Joel Eriksson Ek, which opened scoring. Reid Duke also netted two goals for Team Green, matching Mitchell.

Eriksson Ek added a goal of his own later in the scrimmage on a pass from his fellow 2015 Draftee Jordan Greenway.

Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr noted that, while they don’t expect to see everyone’s best in mid-July, it was a nice afternoon.

“I thought it started slow for a few of them but then they got going as time went on, which is expected this time of year” Flahr said. “I thought some of the young guys stood out too and I thought some of the tryouts played hard and showed what they can do. Overall — we don’t expect miracles this time of year — it was positive and fun to watch.”

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