WOODBURY -- For Kyle Rau, it still hasn't sunk in yet that he's Minnesota Wild forward Kyle Rau.
Introduced during a Q & A with about 100 kids at Wes Walz's Hockey School at HealthEast Sports Center as a member of the Wild is still surreal for the Eden Prairie native, who grew up watching the Wild before starring with the University of Minnesota.
A third-round pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2011 NHL Draft, Rau spent parts of three seasons with the Panthers organization, playing in 33 games with Florida during that stretch, before signing with his hometown Wild on July 1.
"It's cool. It's definitely different," Rau said. "Even coming here to a place like this and being introduced by Wes Walz... I grew up watching him. When I got the text to see if I wanted to come out here on behalf of the Wild, it was just a surreal moment."
After he knew he wouldn't be returning to the team that drafted him, Rau's attention turned to free agency and a chance to return to Minnesota, where his on-ice resume stacks up with just about anyone.
He led Eden Prairie to the 2011 Class AA state championship, a season in which he scored 33 goals and 69 points in 25 games, by scoring the title-clinching goal in the third overtime at Xcel Energy Center. He also won a state championship with the Eagles as a sophomore in 2009.
The following year, he made the rare jump from high school straight to college, scoring 18 goals and 43 points as a freshman at Minnesota. He played four remarkably consistent seasons with the Gophers, scoring between 40 and 43 points each season for the Maroon and Gold, rolling up 164 points and earning All-American honors as a junior. A two-time team captain, Rau is 18th on the school's all-time scoring list and helped lead the Gophers to four conference championships in his time in Dinkytown.
"I think when I show up at the [Xcel Energy Center] to play in a game or practice and not watch a game, that will be when it truly sinks in for me," Rau said. "It definitely will be a dream come true."
Rau spent the early part of the offseason in a boot after breaking his foot late last season. He's been around the arena, however, making an appearance at the Wild's Development Camp last month while getting treatment for his injury.
He's out of the boot now, however, and began skating again earlier this month. He said the foot feels 100 percent, and while the injury limited his ability early in the summer, he'll spend the remainder of his time before training camp begins getting back into a normal routine.
"It put me on the sidelines for a couple weeks, but it wasn't anything serious, just time," Rau said. "It's all good now. Obviously, it's not ideal, but it's part of the [situation]."
Once camp begins in September, Rau will go about establishing himself as a reliable option for his new organization.
Rau scored two goals and had an assist in 24 games with the Panthers last season, but has been very good in each of the past two AHL seasons.
After signing a two-way contract with the Wild, Rau understands he could find himself in Iowa to start the season, but wants to show that he's ready to be one of the first options available should his services be needed in Minnesota.
"My goal is just to have a good camp. You never know how things will shake out with injuries or what will happen," Rau said. "If I'm down in Iowa, I'm gonna try to start the year strong and on the right foot, get some confidence going early and hope that you're one of the first few call ups. But all you can handle and control is training camp."