Wild development camp has a population of 30-plus prospects, a group of mostly junior players, some college athletes and more than a few minor leaguers.
Then there’s Brock Faber, who finished last season skating for the Wild in the playoffs.
“I’m only 20,” the defenseman said Friday at Tria Rink in St. Paul. “So, I’m still trying to learn. All these guys are guys I can learn from. They’re all great prospects, great players.
“I’m glad to be here. I’m happy to be here and just coming in with an open mind and doing what I can to soak it all in [and] learn as much as I can going into next season.”
Considering how seamlessly Faber debuted in the NHL, it’s easy to forget he is still fresh out of college.
The Maple Grove native was playing for the Gophers as recently as April, the junior helping them advance all the way to the NCAA championship game. After they lost to Quinnipiac, Faber signed with the Wild and was in action the next day.
A week later, he was on the ice when the team kicked off a first-round series against Dallas, and that’s when Faber’s poise on defense really shined; the Stars never scored during the almost 90 minutes of ice time Faber logged through six games before the Wild were eliminated, according to Natural Stat Trick.
“It was hard obviously, but it’s also something I’ve trained my whole life for, too,” said Faber, whom the Wild acquired in the Kevin Fiala trade with Los Angeles last summer. “I credit a lot of it to my former coaches, my family, former teammates, and obviously all my teammates here, just allowing me to step right in and letting me know that I deserve to be here and to play confidently.
“That really helped me. It allowed me to play my game.”
Faber should start next season where he finished last, penciled into the Wild’s lineup, but that doesn’t mean his development is over. The NHL schedule is more than double the games Faber suited up for in college, an uptick already on his radar.
“The pace and the game style is a whole lot different here than it was in college,” Faber said. “But I know I’m ready for it.”
Faber isn’t the only player with NHL experience at development camp.
Sammy Walker is also in attendance after the Edina native and former Gopher was called up from Iowa in the American Hockey League to appear in nine games with the Wild last season.
“It’s nice when you get a taste like that,” said Walker, who scored his first NHL goal in his fifth game. “Now you want the whole thing. You want to stay up here. That’s the goal. That’s what I’ll be working for come this fall.”
Like Faber, Walker joined the organization last year and since then, the number of Minnesotans in the Wild’s pipeline has continued to increase: Rosemount’s Charlie Stramel was the first of three locals added at the draft last month, with the Wild also selecting Hermantown’s Aaron Pionk. (fifth round) and Edina’s Jimmy Clark (seventh).
“I was actually on the ice at the time,” Clark said of getting drafted. “I kind of went about my day normally. I had a workout, skate. Didn’t want to look at it too much.
“Obviously, when I got off the ice, I was super excited.”
Pionk was chosen by the Wild after he switched from forward to defense only a year-and-a-half ago, the same position his brother Neal plays in the NHL for Winnipeg.
“Definitely watching him my whole life I’ve picked up moves and things he’s done,” Pionk said. “Now I’m starting to realize I do a lot of things he’s done. It’s really cool.”
Center of attention
Rasmus Kumpulainen is in Minnesota for camp after watching the draft on TV in Finland with his family, the Wild calling his name in the second round at No. 53.
“It was great that it was the Wild,” he said.
The 6-3 center is coming off a productive season in Finland’s junior league where he racked up 34 points in 41 games, but a move to the Ontario Hockey League could be on the horizon. Oshawa recently picked Kumpulainen in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, and Kumpulainen thinks he’ll play there next season although he isn’t 100% sure yet.
“It’s really hard to say how long it takes [to be NHL-ready],” he said. “But it’s just getting more strength and better skating and just improving all over the ice.”