Wild host NHL hopefuls at Development Camp

It might have been 80 degrees with mostly sunny skies in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, but it felt like hockey season at TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul.

With the NHL Entry Draft in the books, more than two dozen players were at Minnesota Wild Development Camp on Tuesday for the first of three days of workouts. The week culminates with a 3-on-3 All-Star Game Friday night that's free and open to the public.

The camp features players from the entry draft, free agents and players the team invited. Two of the big names on the ice Tuesday included first-round pick Matthew Boldy and second round pick Hunter Jones.

It's been a whirlwind few days for the prospects, who have three days to showcase their talent with the Wild front office on hand. Head coach Bruce Boudreau, General Manager Paul Fenton and others were all watching Tuesday's workouts from the perch above center ice on Tuesday.

For Boldy, it was the first day he saw his Wild jersey hanging in the locker room. The first time it hit that he's now an NHL prospect.

"It's hard to take in everything that's happened in the last couple days but to put it on today was pretty cool. I think walking into the locker room and seeing it hung up and stuff like that, you've kind of just got to make the most of it and take it all in," Boldy said.

Boldy turned 18 back on April 5, and is currently committed to play college hockey at Boston College.

Goalie Hunter Jones was a second round draft choice over the weekend and was wide-eyed Tuesday when talking about stepping onto the TRIA rink for the first time with several NHL hopefuls.

"It's a really surreal experience being here and finally getting to go on the ice today with the Minnesota jersey on, it was pretty awesome," Jones said.

The 31 prospects in attendance went through a fitness test Tuesday, and hit the ice for various agility and speed drills through obstacles. Players also got the chance to fire pucks on net, which is always welcome.

Former Wild player Brad Bombardir is running the camp, but he's got help. After 11 seasons in the NHL and playing for the Wild last year, Matt Hendricks retired but is now the assistant director of player development.

He was on the ice Tuesday, and pointed out the abundance of talent on the ice.

"There's a lot of talent out there though, wow. Something new for me, though, it was a different experience with that kind of skill," Hendricks said. "It was a lot of fun to be able to see these guys. I was real proud and excited for them in this time of their career. Their work ethic was great, their attention to detail was great. I just tried not to screw it up."

The Wild Development Camp has plenty of local flavor in prospects. Former Gophers Tyler Sheehy, Mat Robson and Jack Sadek are participating, as are Edina native Dylan Malmquist, Eden Prairie native Louis Roehl and Lakeville native Nick Swaney.

Sheehy, who recorded 149 career points with the Gophers, has been going to NHL development camps since before his days with the Gophers. He remembers being immature before college, and how he grew with the Gophers program.

"I can't say enough about the program at Minnesota and how much I've grown from there. I think I'm ready to take the next step and play professional hockey, and I think Minnesota is a huge reason why I'm ready for that," Sheehy said.

Players spoke mostly on Tuesday about embracing the opportunity they have this week with the Wild, and having fun. After all, they play hockey because they love being on the ice and competing.

"All the guys, we play hockey because we love it. Sometimes we forget it, it's a business and you need to perform. In the end, we play it because it's fun. You can't forget that, I think that's the most important thing," said defenseman Filip Johansson, a first-round pick last season. "Of course we need to perform and it's our job to perform, and I think you need to have fun. If you don't have fun, you can't perform."

Other Wild notes:

  • The Wild on Tuesday extended qualifying offers Louis Belpedio, Ryan Donato, Joel Eriksson Ek, Kevin Fiala, Carson Soucy, Nico Sturm and Hunter Warner.
  • Among players not to get a qualifying offer was Pontus Aberg, who becomes a free agent.
  • The Wild announced its 201920 regular season schedule. They open the season at Nashville on Thursday, Oct. 3. They open with a three-game road trip before the home opener on Saturday, Oct. 12 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wild has 17 of its first 26 games on the road.