The first of two Wild prospect scrimmages this week is in the books — Team White scored three goals in the final two minutes of regulation, then outscored Team Green 6-4 in a shootout to win 10-8. The shootout would have happened regardless of the score, but it added to a good show witnessed by far more people than the Wild were expecting.
The team had to open gates to the Xcel Energy Center 20 minutes early after fans packed the lobby, and the 1,000 free Ryan Suter T-shirts it was giving away were gone within minutes. The Wild announced 6,500 fans attended Thursday’s scrimmage, and they had to open up a handful of extra sections to give fans room to stretch out.
Minnesota’s prospects gave the crowd plenty to enjoy, from Mikael Granlund’s gorgeous breakout pass that set Jason Zucker up for the first goal of the game to Tyler Graovac’s surprising two goals in the final minutes. Here are a few observations and notes on the night in general:
–As we discussed yesterday, Granlund’s ability to control the puck is something special. He fell face-first on his shootout attempt when he made one too many moves, but the fact that he was on the ice had the crowd murmuring, and his breakout pass to Zucker couldn’t have been better. He also made a nice move later in the first half, intercepting a pass and skating along the boards, waiting for supporting players before he fired a pass to the edge of the offensive zone. We’ll see plenty of him this season.
–Brett Bulmer brought plenty of energy to the game, making a handful of end-to-end drives, including one that set up a faceoff before Bobby Farnham’s early goal. He got nine NHL games last year, and he’ll be in contention for a roster spot this fall. Charlie Coyle plays a hard-charging game, too, and the Wild could have an impressive pair of power forwards in the waiting.
–Speaking of forwards, Raphael Bussieres continued to show he’s got more touch than you’d expect from a player who’s supposed to have a straight-line style. He displayed soft hands around the net, though he’d do well to find a better penalty shot move than the one he used, trying an unconvincing head fake while he kept the puck stationary on his stick.
–Matt Dumba wasn’t about to lay anyone out in a scrimmage, but he showed more restraint and maturity in a few other situations than you’d expect from a 17-year-old known for his open-ice hits. He had a chance to pinch in the first half of the game, but started skating backward on the edge of the offensive zone. That turned out to be the right decision after Team White won the puck; Team Green had the numbers to snuff out a breakout attempt, largely because Dumba was in the right spot.
–The surprise of the night, as we said before, was Graovac, who scored twice and added another shootout goal. He showed plenty for a seventh-round pick, and could be worth watching this season.
–Marco Scandella wasn’t on the ice tonight, but considering he had finger surgery after the season, that probably shouldn’t be a surprise. He might not be cleared for contact yet, and there’s not much point in putting him on the ice in this kind of situation.