After his first practice with the Minnesota Wild, Jason Zucker didn’t get the customary, congratulatory shaving cream pie to the face. It was probably because the media swarm around his stall was too large for anyone to sneak up and pie the Wild’s newest addition.
Signed to an entry-level contract yesterday, and despite not being able to sleep last night, Zucker enjoyed his first practice with Minnesota. He’ll need to get some rest as he’s slated to make his NHL debut tomorrow night as the Florida Panthers visit Xcel Energy Center.
With less than two weeks left in the season, the Wild’s second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft will gain invaluable experience with the big club, heading into the summer. All six of the Wild’s remaining games are against teams fighting for playoff positioning.
Today wasn’t the first time that Zucker has been on the ice at Xcel Energy Center. As a sophomore with the University of Denver, Zucker led the Pioneers to the championship game of the WCHA Final Five earlier this month. He said that he enjoyed his time at DU, but that it was time for him to make the next step. He made the decision to sign with the Wild on Monday, with the help of his parents. He also said that joining the club immediately played a large role in the decision.
It’s rare for a college player to jump right onto an NHL club after his season ends, but Zucker knows he has a great opportunity. Not only will he gain familiarity with the NHL game and Wild players, but also has an opportunity to make a positive impression within the Wild organization for next season. Wild TV has video of Zucker’s first day, here.
Head Coach Mike Yeo said Zucker looked good in practice and is excited to see what he can bring to the organization. Yeo expects Zucker to take these six games as a learning experience, not only to adjust to the NHL game, but also to learn the Wild’s systems. Wild TV has video of Yeo talking about Zucker, here.
With a new face at practice, the Wild loses a familiar one, due to injury, for the rest of the season. Matt Kassian has been diagnosed with a sports hernia and will likely undergo corrective surgery. Kassian will be shut down for the rest of the season.
Justin Falk was a full participant at today’s practice and is feeling better. He still is unlikely to return tomorrow, but getting closer.
Chad Rau has been reassigned to the Houston Aeros.