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Shaw comes full circle in Traverse City return

Prospect's season was ended in last year's tournament when he sustained a torn ACL

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Forgive Mason Shaw for getting a little emotional on Friday night when he stepped on the ice at West Rink at Centre Ice Arena. 

It was on this ice sheet almost one year ago to the date when his hockey career was turned upside down in this very tournament. 

"It's kind of nerve-wracking coming back here," Shaw said. "Hopefully, things hold up this time but I feel healthy and ready to go. But it is kind of bittersweet to be here."

In the Wild's second game of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament last year, Shaw went into the corner to chase down a loose puck, fell awkwardly and couldn't get up. 

Drafted by the Wild in the fourth round just three months prior, Shaw's season was over before it could get started. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament in his right knee was shredded and months of rehab would follow.

Shaw missed the next six months but returned for one game with Iowa at the tail end of last season, which was a nice reward following months of grueling rehab. 

Still, there was something therapeutic about jumping on the ice Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, akin to perhaps finishing one chapter of his career and hopefully beginning another.

Video: Back on track for Mason Shaw

"I think so, for sure. This is where things got halted last year, so it's good to come here and set things right this year and get this season off to a good start," Shaw said. "It's a great tournament and there's a lot of good players here. Obviously, it was disappointing with how things ended here last year, but that's behind me now and it feels good to be back on the ice with the guys."

The strength of Shaw's knee was tested a couple of times early in the game. Once came with him on the forecheck, bearing down on the same end of the rink where he was hurt. A Red Wings player tried a quick deke, but Shaw's knee held just fine. 

A few minutes later, he took perhaps his biggest hit since sustaining the injury. But as he has countless times after hits in his hockey career, Shaw hopped right back up no worse for the wear. 

"I think that's the biggest thing, is just getting that confidence," Shaw said. "I took a pretty good hit there along the boards and I felt fine after. It's been able to hold those tests and handle those tests, and that's definitely not something you can get in the summer. This tournament will be great for that."

With the weight of the injury off his shoulders, Shaw this weekend will now bear a little more weight on his chest, thanks to the 'A' stitched on his jersey near his left shoulder. 

Despite playing in just one game here last year and in one game with Iowa, Shaw's leadership ability has shown brightly in things like the team's development camp, where he was named the hardest worker in 2017. 

Iowa Wild coach Tim Army, named to his post after the 2018 development camp in July, met Shaw at team hotel on Wednesday in St. Paul and was immediately impressed by the maturity and the leadership qualities displayed by the 19-year-old Alberta native.

That's why he didn't hesitate when his assistant coaches, David Cunniff and Brett McLean -- holdovers from last year's coaching staff -- recommended to him that Shaw be given a letter for this weekend's tournament.

"Both Cunnie and Mac really think highly of him, they thought he would be one of the guys to wear an 'A' and I was very comfortable with it," Army said. "In the two days that I've seen him, there is an intensity to his personality and he's got some some life to him. You can tell he's a team guy and the guys gravitate to him, he works hard. 

"He's got those ingredients that make him a great leader and everyone I've talked to about him since I joined the organization has had nothing but great things to say about him."

Shaw said takes the responsibility of being a leader on this team very seriously, even though he's one of the younger guys on the roster. A member of the organization for just over a year now, with two games in a Wild jersey under his belt, the honor of being a captain hasn't been lost on him.

"It's probably what means the most to me, to be honest," Shaw said. "That's something I always try and do is to be a good leader and there's some games where things don't go your way. But you still have to lead by example and I'm very thankful that Minnesota thinks of me that way. I'm grateful for that and it's something I try to build my game around as I've gotten older."

The Wild knew Shaw had leadership qualities present when it drafted him 97th overall in 2017; he has worn an 'A' in the past with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League and will be counted on again in that role should he end up back there for the upcoming season.

"He's a high-character guy, he really is. He's a tremendous human being," said Brad Bombardir, the Wild's Director of Player Development. "We see that and his teammates see that. It's very evident and it's very obvious when he's around guys and around us that he's the type of guy you win games with and is a guy you can trust every day that he's going to give you everything he has. 

"He deserves an 'A' and I think every guy in that locker room knows he's going to be a leader for our team."


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