Goaltender Alex Stalock finished last season as the Wild’s backup, but there’s no guarantee he will resume that role when the team embarks on 2018-19.
Stalock will vie with recent signee Andrew Hammond for the No. 2 spot, a challenge he’s embracing.
“I think you look around every organization has that, whether it’s three, four, five goalies that are pushing each other,” he said. “I think it’s awesome. Any time you have competition pushing you, it makes you better. It should make the others better, too, that are pushing, and I look forward to it. I know he’s played awesome hockey in this league. I think it’s only great for the organization to have depth in that position.”
Last season was the first Stalock spent exclusively in the NHL, earning understudy duties after signing a two-year extension in February 2017. He made 28 appearances, with nine of those coming in succession while No. 1 Devan Dubnyk nursed an injury, and Stalock went 10-10-4 overall with a .910 save percentage and 2.85 goals-against average.
“I think there were maybe one or two games where it got away from me,” said the South St. Paul and Minnesota Duluth product. “but other than that, every night I felt like we were in there every game.”
That experience equipped Stalock with confidence, which he will carry over into training camp, when he wants to show new General Manager Paul Fenton he belongs.
“Every year you’ve got to go in and prove that you can play,” he said, “and it’s not only out of camp. It’s November, December, January still playing strong games all the way late into the year.”
Eric Fehr was drafted in the first round by the Capitals in 2003 as a scoring winger, but that’s not the role the Wild acquired him to fulfill when he signed a one-year contract July 1.
“I kind of morphed into a checking centerman which specializes in the penalty kill,” Fehr said. “It’s a complete 180.”
This change happened in Washington, with Fehr and coaches recognizing that being defensive-minded might suit the forward. And after a “steep learning curve” since he hadn’t played center yet, Fehr settled into the niche — which helped him corral the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016.
“Once you’ve won, you kind of realize a few things,” said Fehr, 32. “You always change your game a little bit to adapt to what it takes to win, and you try to carry that mind-set into the dressing room.”
Defenseman Greg Pateryn signed a three-year, $6.75 million contract with the Wild on July 1 after completing his first season in the NHL as a regular with the Stars that stoked his confidence.
“It gave me the chance to prove myself and show not only the league but my teammates and the other players around the league what I can do, and it was a good role for me and I feel like I really thrived in it,” Pateryn said.
In 73 games with Dallas, Pateryn chipped in a goal and 12 assists while averaging 19 minutes, 37 seconds in ice time.
“I think that’s a strong suit of mine, breaking the puck out and also being able to defend against the top players out there,” he said.
Forward Jordan Greenway finished last season with the Wild after leaving Boston University to turn pro, and it’s possible he debuts 2018-19 in the NHL, too.
“Philosophy wise, you want to start people in your system and you want to make sure that you’re developing a winning atmosphere in there,” Fenton said. “Jordan’s kind of a unique case in the way he kind of developed his game. … Seeing him play in the Olympics and elevate his game even higher and then coming here and playing very well in the playoffs and just showing the maturity he has, my instincts tell me he’s ready to play. So we’ll see how that goes.”