Six days before the official start of the 2021-22 NHL regular season, the Minnesota Wild has its team that will head west to Southern California next week.
The Wild made a couple of roster moves on Saturday ahead of its final preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks, and those moves essentially decided who will be on the club when the puck drops on the season Friday night in Anaheim.
The bottom line: Brandon Duhaime has made the NHL club and will embark on his first season in the League, likely beginning the year on the left wing of Nico Sturm and Nick Bjugstad on the club's fourth line.
Adam Beckman and Marco Rossi - two higher profile scoring prospects were sent to Iowa to begin the season in the American Hockey League as they begin their first full professional seasons.
Matt Boldy, who was injured in the latter stages of Minnesota's preseason game on Thursday in St. Paul, has a fractured ankle and will miss the first 4-6 weeks of action.
Wild GM Bill Guerin and coach Dean Evason have indicated in recent days that the decision to keep Duhaime in Minnesota and start the others in Iowa certainly wasn't made lightly.
Video: Wild GM Bill Guerin talks training camp cuts
Beckman has been one of the most impactful offensive players in the preseason and has endeared himself to veterans and coaches with his infectious attitude and heavy shot.
Rossi showed off the tremendous ability that made him the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and was arguably the team's best player in the pre-camp Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase.
Boldy was good in the showcase too and was still in the NHL roster mix until his injury.
But Duhaime won out, thanks to a number of factors. Most notably, Duhaime has two years of pro experience with Iowa under his belt, but he showed in practice and in exhibition games that his speed is a potential game-changer.
"He's in unbelievable condition. He provides us with speed, with grit. He's a disruptive player and he proved it every time he was in the lineup. He scored a beautiful goal the other night. But it's more just the complete package of what he did and his development process has been exactly what we're talking about," Guerin said. "He's a mid-round pick. He went to college, he developed there, he came and played in Iowa for a couple years and he just keeps getting better and he keeps developing and that's it. It doesn't happen overnight for a lot of guys, so just the fact that he went through the process and just kept working and working and working and now he finds himself here."
Duhaime's role on the club is also more easily defined.
While Evason likely wouldn't admit it, playing a highly-skilled winger like Boldy or Beckman, or a high-end center like Rossi in a potential fourth-line role wouldn't be ideal for any of their developments.
Video: Training Camp: Bill Guerin update
And that's not to say Duhaime doesn't have skill ... his gorgeous third-period goal on Wednesday night against the Blues sparked a late rally in a game Minnesota would go on to win in overtime.
But as Guerin said, Duhaime's role is more clearly defined.
He uses his speed and plays a physical, grinding game. He can defend, he can kill penalties, he can move up and down the lineup in a pinch he can fight and he can also chip in a little bit of offense.
Duhaime, at age 25, also a professional maturity about his game in that he better understands exactly what he has to do to be at his best for the Wild right now.
"Right away we could see it like wow he means business. He's ready," Guerin said. "And then just the impact that he can have on our lineup with the youth and the speed and quickness and strength. He plays a physical brand which we really like."
That's not to say Beckman and Rossi didn't make a very strong impression on the Wild GM.
Quite the contrary, actually.
I think they understand the process, the development process. For us, like, we don't want them sitting out, we don't want them playing, when they're here, they need to make an impact. They can play. They can all play. They can all play in the league right now. There's no doubt. But we need them to be impact players," Guerin said. "And in our opinion right now the best thing for them is to go to Iowa and play a ton, play in all situations, play as much as possible. That will help them get to where they need to be to be impactful.
"They all had great training camps. They all made positive impacts on the team and their own situations. This is just part of the development process. That's it."
In terms of Boldy, he'll remain in the Twin Cities for the next few weeks as he rehabs his injury. Missing a month is certainly not preferred, but Minnesota may have dodged a bullet in terms of an injury that could have kept the 2019 first rounder out for a longer period of time.
"You just don't like seeing your players get hurt. You feel bad for them because he was doing so well and it's just a little hiccup though. It could have been a lot worse," Guerin said. "This could be a blessing in disguise for him. This is just something that he's gotta grind through now and be mentally strong to get through it and go from there. But you gotta look at things in a positive manner. It could have been worse and he'll just have to work his way back."
Despite a loss in Chicago in the exhibition finale, Guerin says he's confident in the group that will go to Duluth for the next few days for a team bonding trip before coming home for a single practice ahead of back-to-back games to open the regular season.
"I'm confident in these guys," Guerin said. "I like our group like I've said all along I'm confident in them. They're all super excited to get the season going and I like this group a lot."