February 7, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser (39) celebrates a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Prosser: Minnesota Wild Bottom-Pairing Blue Liner or Reserve Defenseman?

On February 6th, 2012, the Minnesota Wild signed Nate Prosser to a new two-year $1.65 Million contract. The very next game, he scored his first career NHL goal. At the end of the season, Prosser was tied for third with Marco Scandella in point scoring from the Wild blue line with 12 points (a goal and 11 assists) and a negative-17 rating in 51 games. The next season, he would notch a plus-4 rating while playing a key shutdown role in allowing just two goals against in his 17 games of action.

With the departure of Tom Gilbert and Justin Falk, and the signing of Minnesota native Keith Ballard, it appeared there was room for Prosser to finally claim a permanent spot on Minnesota’s bottom pairing with Clayton Stoner. However, with the emergence of Marco Scandella and the possibility of 2012 7th overall pick Mathew Dumba blowing down the doors in camp, it appears he could be back to his previous role of reserve defense. Throw in the fact that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has expressed a desire to add another defenseman in free agency, things are looking very glum for Mr. Prosser.

Those are the factors pulling against him. Fortunately, there are a lot of factors pulling in his favor, too. He’s a sizeable blue liner at 6’2” and 205-pounds and, for a real nice guy, plays with a bit of a mean streak when he has to. And, don’t be fooled when your copy of NHL 13 says he’s an offensive defenseman—he’s not. While (for now) he is one of just two right-shot defenders on the roster, the fact that he is most comfortable playing on the right side prevents the Wild from using him on the point on the second power play unit.

The author, right, with Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser.

Prosser seems to have found his game as a more physical “Nick Schultz Jr.”, blocking shots, shutting down opposing forwards, munching as many minutes as the Wild brass will give him and just being a pain in the butt to play against. What’s more, Wild fans never stop hearing about how much Wild head coach Mike Yeo loves Prosser’s attitude and game. Nate doesn’t take any second of any shift on the ice for granted. And why should he? From going undrafted to playing for the hometown Minnesota Wild, he’s just happy he’s there and wants to do whatever he can to help the team. His play last season may just have been enough to prove he can handle being Minnesota’s 5th-6th defenseman from now on.  It’s time Yeo puts his faith in Nate to action.

Maybe it’s the fact Prosser was captain of the local USHL team, maybe it’s because he’s a Minnesota-born player or maybe it’s because I’ve gotten to know the guy and his heart and character personally over the past year. Regardless of the reasons, every fiber of this hockey writer’s being wants to see this guy succeed, because he can live up to the standard of being a legitimate defenseman in the National Hockey League.

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