Minnesota Wild Prospects: Is It Time To Sign Mario Lucia?


After finishing his junior season at Notre Dame, Mario Lucia has a chance to sign with the Minnesota Wild.

It’s NCAA tournament season, a joyous time of year. While most folks watch March madness until they’re blue in the face, Gone Puck Wild staff will be glued to our seats to bring you the best of NCAA hockey as we race towards the frozen four. Missing from the NCAA men’s hockey tournament this year is Notre Dame, which should come as no surprise given they finished the college season 18-19-5. Because of the Fighting Irish’s early exit, the Minnesota Wild has a chance to sign Mario Lucia. Of course, the decision comes down to Lucia, but is now the right time? Let’s take a look at his stats, history, and what the signing could mean for Mario Lucia and the Minnesota Wild.

Special thanks to David Mahoney for allowing us to use his photo of Mario Lucia. You can check out more of Dave’s work via Flickr


Born in Fairbanks, Alaska and raised in Plymouth, Minnesota; Mario is the son of Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Don Lucia. That alone should serve as an impressive hockey resume, but Mario Lucia forged a path of his own, potting 47 points (25G-22A) in just 24 games with the Wayzata High School Trojans in his senior season. He also spent time with U.S. National Development Team. Here’s what Jack Barzee of the NHL’s Central Scouting Service had to say about Lucia in his draft year:

"“He has the hands, head, size and reach that coaches love. He’s unselfish and smart, has good vision and a wicked release. When Mario Lucia has the puck on his stick, he makes everyone else better. When he’s got the puck inside the blue line, he’s a threat to score or set up a picturesque play … he’s that dangerous.” -Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting Service"

Mario Lucia was ultimately taken in the second round, 60th 0verall in the 2011 NHL entry draft. The Wild didn’t own a second round pick and sent its 3rd and 4th round picks in order to grab Lucia. You can take a look at his season-by-season scoring in this table provided by Elite Prospects

Following his draft year, Lucia played one season with the Penticon Vees of the BCHL before committing to play with Notre Dame, where his father also played. Lucia posted back-to-back 31 point seasons, including the 14-15 season where he potted an impressive 21 goals and 10 assists while playing alongside leading scorer Vince Hinostroza. Hinostroza just signed an entry level deal with the Chicago Blackhawks and will forfeit his final two years of NCAA eligibility.

Now that you’ve seen his history. According to beat writer extraordinaire Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Wild has extended an offer to Mario Lucia and the talented young left-wing can choose to sign this year. If he doesn’t the Wild mantains his rights until 6 months after he leaves college. This means that if he stays and finishes all of his class work, the Wild will maintain his rights. Let’s look at a few of those situations and how they may play out.

Mario Lucia Remains At Notre Dame:

Believe it or not, this is the scenario I’m most in favor of. Lucia has already decided to finish his spring semester of schooling, so even if he did join the Wild, it wouldn’t be until next fall.

With Hinostroza leaving for the Blackhawks, Lucia has a chance to play a featured role on a pretty good Notre Dame squad. Unless something changes, next year’s roster will include Sophmore Connor Hurley (BUF) and Senior Steven Fogarty (NYR), both touted NHL draft picks and Minnesota natives.

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Notre Dame isn’t in a slouch division, either. Playing in a tough Hockey East will serve to help Lucia grow in a fast-paced game and take on elite opponents including goalie Thatcher Demko and fellow Wild prospect Alex Tuch.

The thing we as fans also need to keep in mind is that Lucia is a smart kid and the education he’s receiving is invaluable. According to Quanthockey, the average NHL career length is 5.65 seasons, and though Lucia has the pedigree and skillset to make a career out of the NHL, we just don’t know how long he’ll last yet, and his education will have to carry him after his hockey career.

Mario Lucia Signs With The Minnesota Wild:

Lucia joins Nick Seeler ans Stephen Michalek as the only remaining draft picks from 2011 unsigned by the Wild. Seeler transferred schools in the NCAA and is still developing his game, so there’s no rush there. Michalek is headed to the NCAA hockey tournament with Harvard, but he has to be high on the Wild’s list. Jonas Brodin is playing big time NHL minutes, and Tyler Graovac is proving to be a late-round gem down in Iowa with the AHL Wild. From a housekeeping perspective, grabbing Lucia soon would be a nice thing to get out of the way.

I talked about it in my rundown of Grayson Downing, but the Iowa Wild is in desperate need of some help. The AHL Wild will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season and the talent pool is starting to thin. Lucia has NHL size at 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds and clearly has the skills to fill out that roster.

If Lucia does choose to sign with the Wild, he will also have to compete for a spot where the Wild is quite deep. Zach Parise and Jason Zucker will likely occupy the top-2 left wing spots for years to come. Thomas Vanek will stay for a couple more seasons, and Nino Niederreiter can play either wing.

In Iowa, Michael Keranen can play both center and left wing and still needs to develop a bit. Considering the struggles of Raphael Bussieres, Lucia does stand a legitimate chance at top-6 minutes with Iowa.

Everyone wants to hear about money, so I should get to that. If Lucia signs with the Wild rather than going to free-agency, he’ll be signed to a standard 3-year entry level deal worth $70,000  in Iowa or $700,00 in Minnesota his first season. That’s a huge raise from unpaid college student, but it’s not all about money.

I sincerely doubt Lucia goes to free agency. He’s a hometown kid with the chance to play in front of his friends and family in an organization that looks to be perennial contenders. What do you think, fans? Let me know with the poll below!

Next: Grayson Downing Stats, Analysis, And Potential Impact With The Minnesota Wild

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