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Youngsters Earn Spots With Wild

by Mike Doyle / Minnesota Wild

The media poured into the Minnesota Wild locker room after practice and flooded around defenseman Matt Dumba. On the day that the team’s final training camp roster cuts were announced, reporters were intent on getting a few words with the rookie, who was one of the players fighting for a roster spot. As the moat of cameras and microphones surrounded Dumba, they spilled in front of the stall of his defensive partner from today, fellow first-year blueliner, Christian Folin. While Dumba was asked about making the team, Folin sat as calm as still water across the room in Nino Neiderreiter’s stall until a lane was cleared so he could hang his equipment and field questions himself.

Folin, who has been floating between the visitor’s dressing room and various spots in the Wild’s room throughout camp, might’ve forgotten where his stall was. More likely (and good for the Lighthouse), he hasn’t learned to use his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame to elbow reporters out of the way. While he hasn’t learned to paddle media members aside, he found out something much more important today before practice.

“They didn’t tell me anything,” Folin said. “I just came here and worked out this morning and I got my jersey in my stall and saw my number was on the board.

“I put everything out there that I had and I thought I did well. I was happy with my performance. After the Saturday night game, I thought to myself, ‘There’s nothing else I can do.’ I was hoping for the best.”

Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said the pair, along with Jason Zucker and Stu Bickel, who also are penciled in the team’s roster, earned their spots. However, things can change as quickly as it takes to pull a sweater over a player’s head.

“There’s usually nothing final about final cuts, that’s the one thing,” Yeo said. “We feel that the guys that are here deserve to be here, whether it’s younger players or older players. We had a good camp, guys did a good job and we’ve seen some people be rewarded for that.”

In Yeo’s eyes, Dumba’s goal and assist performance in the team’s final preseason game against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday solidified the decision to keep the 20-year-old in Minnesota.

“He had a good camp before (Saturday) but he had a real strong game again there,” Yeo said. “Maybe before that game we maybe had some decisions to make, where as after the game there was no decision to be made.”

Wild GameDay

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Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, Jason Zucker
Mike Yeo

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Charlie Coyle, Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, Jason Zucker and Mike Yeo

Folin and Dumba saw time together on Saturday and we’re partners in practice today. Their individual styles turn out to be cohesive, as Dumba can create offense from the blue line, while Folin plays a steady positional game in the D-zone. With the Wild’s top four of Ryan SuterJonas Brodin and Marco ScandellaJared Spurgeon established, there’s a chance the pair will be together when the Wild opens the regular season on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center against the Colorado Avalanche.

“It’s a very good possibility,” Yeo said. “Those guys ended up playing quite a bit at the end of the last game together, and I thought they did a really good job.”

Dumba knows well that things can change overnight. He skated in 13 games with the Wild last season before being reassigned to Canada’s World Junior Team. The defenseman was much more confident in camp this year and his play showed. But he’s not satisfied to merely be here on opening day.

“It feels good, but nothing is set in stone, I know that. I got to come to the rink every day keep growing and keep improving my game,” Dumba said. “I’m so hard on myself, and I just push myself as much as I can. You kind of reach one goal and kind of move on to the next. It’s playing in the next game and making the next play and all those little things that go into it.”

Up front, Bickel and Zucker skated on the fourth line on the wings with Kyle Brodziak. Last season, Zucker was one of the last players cut out of camp. He spent time with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild, and in Minnesota. He appeared in 21 games last season before having season-ending surgery.

“I’ve learned a lot over the past two years of being up and down being in the A and here, and different off seasons,” Zucker said. “I just want to come out and play hard and show that I belong here and have earned my spot. 


“I know that just being here today doesn’t make me satisfied in any way.”

With the Wild’s top six forwards clearly established, Zucker had to show another side of his game. In the preseason he killed penalties, played strong in tough areas like along the walls and in the corners, was smart with the puck and impressed the team’s brass beyond showing a scorer’s touch. Yeo noted it was a much better all-around camp from the speedy wing.

“He scored, which is nice, but if he scored and he didn’t do other things, then he wouldn’t have made the team,” Yeo said. “He did the things, where he’s going to factor in where he’s going to find a place in our lineup on day one.

“Maybe this is an opportunity for Zuck to prove that he can be in the lineup consistently, and play in different roles and play different positions. For young guys that’s quite often how they end up working their way in full time.”

Bickel started the camp as a defenseman, but found himself on the wing, something he previously had done during his time with the New York Rangers. At 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, the Chanhassen native brings a physical element to the team’s lineup.

“If we decide that we’re looking for a certain degree of toughness in a particular game then he’s a guy that could factor in and he’s shown that he can play the game, too,” Yeo said. “We don’t want somebody who is going to go out there and play two shifts necessarily; we want someone to bring some momentum and try to be physical on the forecheck.

“He certainly understands that part of the game, plus he’s there to stick up for his teammates when needed.”

Between the Lines

Here’s what the lines and D-pairs looked like today in practice: 



Pominville–Granlund–Parise

Cooke–Koivu–Vanek

Niederreiter–Haula–Coyle

Bickel–Brodziak–Zucker

Fontaine

Suter–Brodin

Scandella–Spurgeon

Folin–Dumba

Prosser–Ballard

(No) Net Gains

Yeo wouldn’t say if he favored either Niklas Backstrom or Darcy Kuemper as the team’s game one starter. When asked about the goaltending situation, he cryptically responded, “Not right now. After game one, yeah. Both guys, I’m not going to say ones is ahead of the other. Obviously I think, the writing may be on the wall with that if you want to look at it that way, for game one, but that’ll be something we’ll evaluating every day.”

When asked what the writing on the wall may say he smiled: “We’ll get to that. You’ll have to wait until game one.”

Fontaine Skates

The team placed forward Justin Fontaine on Injured Reserve, retroactive Sept. 27. Today, he skated with the team, but won’t be rushed back into the lineup. However, Yeo said there’s a chance he’ll be ready for opening night, but wants to proceed cautiously.

“I would say there is a chance, I’ll be cautious with that one,” Yeo said. “We have to make sure that we’re making the right decision, that we’re a hundred percent confident that he’s ready to go.”

I-35 Transactions

The Wild has placed forwards Cody Almond and Stephane Veilleux on waivers. The team also assigned forwards Joel Rechlicz and Kurtis Gabriel to the Iowa Wild, Minnesota's American Hockey League affiliate.

The club also released goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from his pro tryout.

Magna Carter

The Wild agreed to terms with forward Ryan Carter on a one-year, two-way contract. The White Bear Lake native has skated in 360 NHL games with Anaheim, Carolina, Florida and New Jersey, totaling 68 points (31-37=68) and 341 penalty minutes.

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