Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Every so often the thought still pops into Jason Zucker’s head: What if he had chosen a different floor? In those moments, the memories come rushing back for Zucker, who can still recall some of the most specific details from that day. He walked in the entrance of the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital with teammate Jared Spurgeon, turned right in the lobby, and approached the elevator, completely unaware that his life was about to change.
ST. PAUL -- There’s a lot the Minnesota Wild can learn from the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, especially considering the two franchises aren’t much different in the grand scheme of things. While the Wild look like a team that has no business being mentioned as a Stanley Cup contender next season, neither did the Blues this time last year. After six consecutive playoff appearances for St. Louis, a disappointing season then had the Blues watching the NHL playoffs from home last season as the Washington Capitals went on to hoist the Stanley Cup.
ST. PAUL - After starring with the North Stars at the start of his Hall of Fame career, Mike Modano is finally back in Minnesota. He was hired by the Wild on Thursday afternoon and will serve as an executive adviser in the front office. In his new role, Modano will work directly with owner Craig Leipold and president Matt Majka on a number of initiatives that include team sales, corporate partnerships and community relations. He starts on Sept. 1.
ST. PAUL -- For a couple of hours this season, as far as Charlie Coyle was concerned, he wasn’t on an NHL team. He remembers getting the call on Feb. 20 from Wild general manager Paul Fenton. He remembers being told he had been traded. He remembers his mind racing after getting few details outside of that.
ST. PAUL — Wild forward Luke Kunin has been added to the Team USA roster and will join the team at the World Championships in Slovakia. He was the final addition to the roster which is now at the maximum of 25 players allowed. Kunin, 21, recorded 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) in 49 games with the Wild last season while bouncing up and down the lineup. It was a big step forward for Kunin, who spent last offseason recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Most players in the Twins clubhouse had at least heard about the drama surrounding Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and his bat flip against the Kansas City Royals. There’s been quite a buzz on social media since Wednesday afternoon when Anderson crushed a two-run home run off Royals pitcher Brad Keller in the bottom of the fourth inning, then launched his bat like a javelin toward his own dugout before he ran the bases.
ST. PAUL — For the first time in his life, Jason Zucker had trouble tuning out the noise. Whether it was the constant questions from reporters or the fact that he watched as his friends got shipped out of town one by one, Zucker couldn’t ignore the trade rumors any longer. “It was the first time for me that it had ever been to that magnitude,” Zucker said. “I had to almost come to the realization like, ‘This is happening.’” Then it didn’t.
ST. PAUL -- Paul Fenton joked that he would have been “doing some hand stands” if the Wild won the NHL Draft Lottery, and with it, the ability to draft one of the two best prospects available, American Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko of Finland. No gymnastics necessary for the Wild’s 59-year-old general manager. Not only did the Wild miss out on a chance to select either of those top amateurs, they actually moved back a spot back to the No. 12 pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft.
ST. PAUL -- It’s hard to determine whether Wild general manager Paul Fenton is simply a good politician or if he truly believes the words coming out of his mouth. Nonetheless, during Tuesday’s locker-room clean out, when Fenton wasn’t schooling reporters on how to do their job with a 400-plus-word soliloquy about how they should report injuries, he was trying to convince them, and maybe himself, that the Wild can be a playoff team as early as next season.
ST. PAUL -- If the lingering knee injury didn’t make playing hard enough, Wild star Zach Parise was battling much more as he attempted to will his team into the NHL playoffs in the final weeks of the season. As it turns out, Parise hadn’t been 100 percent since he blocked a shot during a Feb. 26 road game against the Winnipeg Jets. “I broke my (right) foot on that,” Parise confirmed at Tuesday’s locker room clean out. “That didn’t feel too bad, I guess. I think it’s one of those that will just eventually heal on its own.”