I’m headed into work, but here’s what the Star Tribune’s good Mr. Michael Russo has to say on the surprising turn of events.
The Wild has assigned Jason Zucker and Jake Dowell to Iowa of the American Hockey League, trimming its roster to 22 players this morning.
Obviously disappointed, Zucker left the Xcel Energy Center with his bag and sticks and declined to comment.
Again, as the Wild has said over and over this camp, in its mind, whoever didn’t make the opening-night roster simply won’t be in the lineup opening night vs. L.A. on Thursday. It’s not, “not making the team.”
With Iowa in such close proximity and so many players on contracts that allow the Wild to send them up and down freely, this could happen for some time.
Zucker will be back at some point. But against big, tough L.A., coach Mike Yeo must feel he needs rugged Zenon Konopka in the lineup, meaning one of the kids will be scratched.
Zucker would be that guy. He’s admitted to feeling sore since his groin injury, Mikael Granlund has also had a quality camp and the second power play has two shooters in Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. Zucker is a shooter, Granlund a puck distributor.
We haven’t talked to Yeo or GM Chuck Fletcher, but to send Dowell down and go below the maximum 23, the Wild is likely looking to save precious salary-cap space since Dowell would be the clear extra forward. This also would allow the Wild to sign David Steckel at any time if it wants.
So, as of now, UMD-Bulldog Justin Fontaine is on the team. Same with Granlund, Niederreiter and Matt Dumba.
And of course, Coyle.
By the way, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding are practicing today here at the X, as well as Torrey Mitchell. The Wild heads to Duluth for two days after practice.
Opening Night roster as of now (must be submitted at 4 p.m. Monday)
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville
Dany Heatley-Charlie Coyle-Justin Fontaine
Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Torrey Mitchell
Mikael Granlund-Zenon Konopka-Nino Niederreiter
(If it were me, I’d switch Fontaine and Niederreiter, but Fontaine’s been on that line most of camp, so I’ll put him there for now)
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Jared Spurgeon
Keith Ballard-Matt Dumba
Clayton Stoner-Nate Prosser
I have to admit that I am surprised both Dowell and Zucker were sent down when they only had to cut one. I can’t help but think the Wild brass may be looking to sign a big body like Steckel to add to the size and overall grit of the team.
For Zucker, he just needs to go to Iowa, keep playing his game and he’ll be back with Minnesota by the end of October. It’s difficult to stomach missing the opening night roster, especially after scoring the overtime game-winning goal in Game Three of the Wild’s Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup against the Blackhawks last spring. It’s something he’s going to have to get past. Nothing is going to be given to him, but his NHL career is very much far from being over. Iowa Wild fans better enjoy watching Jason Zucker while they can, they’re not going to be able to do so for long.
Follow Dakota Case at Twitter.com/Dakota_case