Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Wild cut nine players Wednesday morning, Sept. 27, including goaltender Niklas Svedberg, who had been battling to be backup to goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Svedberg's demotion means South St. Paul native Alex Stalock, 30, will open the regular season on the roster, which now sits at 26. It must be down to 23 before the regular-season opener Oct. 5 at Detroit. Stalock played 50 games with the Iowa Wild last season.
ST. PAUL — As the national anthem protests expand across the professional sports scene, Wild alternate captain Zach Parise doesn't anticipate his team following suit. Asked whether he thinks members of the Wild will continue to stand for the national anthem once the regular season starts next week, Parise responded, "Yeah, for sure." Parise continued, saying he would "never" kneel during the national anthem, though he respects someone's right to do so. "You're not going to see me do it," Parise said. "It's a personal thing for me."
ST. PAUL — A whirlwind couple of months for Woodbury native Brennan Menell has culminated in an entry-level deal with the Minnesota Wild. Menell, 20, signed on Tuesday morning, Sept. 26, and was expected to join the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL) on Tuesday night. "It's a dream come true, for sure," said Menell, who immediately called his mother, Shannon, after signing the contract. "I've put in so much effort and work. This was always the team I wanted to be playing for growing up. This is the best-case scenario for me."
ST. PAUL — A year ago, South St. Paul, Minn., native Alex Stalock started blazing his comeback trail as nothing more than a feel-good story. He grew up about 15 minutes from the Xcel Energy Center rink, so his one-year, two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild seemed like an act of good faith more than anything else. A year later, Stalock is proving to be much more than that. He is the frontrunner to be the team's backup goaltender this season, meaning the hometown kid could play a pivotal role in the success of the hometown team.
ST. PAUL — As perhaps the only Wild player willing to drop the gloves at a moment's notice last season, there were times when 6-foot-2, 240-pound Chris Stewart was left out on an island by himself. Not that he would complain about it. "It's definitely second nature to me as a player," Stewart said. "You know, it can be a little harder sometimes if I'm on the fourth line and I'm only playing 10 minutes a night to be barking every other shift. ... It definitely helps to have someone else that can do the same thing."
ST. PAUL — Mikko Koivu very easily could have skipped town seven years ago. It would have been the easy way out. He was a highly regarded, 27-year-old center from Finland approaching his hockey prime, and the future of the Wild was very much in question after missing the NHL playoffs two years in a row. "He would have had an opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent" the following season, general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "He chose to sign here and to kind of be the rallying point for how we were going to rebuild."
ST. PAUL — Joel Eriksson Ek admitted that this time last year he took more of a "happy to be here" approach to training camp. Who could blame him? Eriksson Ek was a wide-eyed teenager vying for a roster spot — a roster spot which he eventually claimed — and was awestruck to be skating with some of the players he grew up watching. No longer is that the case. "Now I know how it works around this organization," Eriksson Ek said. "That has helped me a lot so far."
ST. PAUL — Goaltender Niklas Svedberg could walk around the Twin Cities in broad daylight and easily go unnoticed. He isn't exactly a household name around these parts after spending the past two years playing in Russia. That said, there's a chance the 28-year-old Swede could be the solution to the backup goaltender problem that plagued the Wild all of last season. Coach Bruce Boudreau was frustrated with the erractic play he got from last year's backup, Darcy Kuemper, who signed with the Los Angeles Kings in the offseason.
ST. PAUL—As soon as the Wild unloaded Marco Scandella's fat contract via a trade in the offseason, the door immediately swung open for up-and-coming players like Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly. While both players have been given ample opportunity to prove themselves earlier in their careers, neither has been able to turn that into a full-time position. Olofsson has struggled through a constant stream of injuries, while the NHL game has looked too big for Reilly at times.