Jim Souhan
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Before someone handed him the puck with which he scored his first NHL goal, Brock Faber listed all of his friends and family members who attended the Wild opener on Thursday night.

This took a while.

Then he listed all of the people who wanted tickets but weren't accommodated.

That took longer.

During the Wild's 2-0 victory over Florida at the Xcel Energy Center, cameras caught St. Paul native and former Twins star Joe Mauer in the stands. Perhaps to remind Faber that, for all of the hassles of playing at home, the rewards can be great.

Faber grew up in Maple Grove and starred at the University of Minnesota. Thursday, his first NHL goal helped his hometown team win on opening night. His reaction was quintessentially Minnesotan: "Oh, yeah, just glad we got the win there. But it was a really cool moment for me, and my family. Yeah, it's really cool.'

The Wild went all-out for the opener. They upholstered a long runway so they could hold a "Green Carpet" ceremony for their players before the game, with fans lined up to cheer the combatants.

They handed out light-up towels that fans could wave during the pregame ceremony, invited Minnesota legend Natalie Darwitz to intone "Let's Play Hockey," and incorporated the rock classic "Born To Be Wild" into their introductions.

Then they went a step further, arranging for their most promising Minnesotan to score his first career NHL goal in the first period. Matt Boldy flicked a pass toward Faber at the blue line, he flicked his wrists and … waited.

"God, I can't remember what happened," he said. "Bolds gave it to me and I obviously had a lane and there were a bunch of screens in front. It was more of a shot just to get it down there not to pick a corner, but I got lucky. Everyone started skating toward me so I figured something good had happened."

It felt scripted, and well-written, and if you were looking for good omens for the Wild, Faber scoring would qualify.

The Wild are still paying Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to micromanage their schedules even though Parise and Suter are no longer here, which seems unfair, but those are the rules.

So the Wild need their young players to produce now, because they can't afford to sign big-name free agents.

Faber debuted with the Wild last year, following his final Gopher season, and made a good impression, but being asked to play a key role in a season-long playoff push is a different task altogether.

Faber seems up for it. He's playing alongside Wild veteran Jonas Brodin, essentially as a replacement for the departed Matt Dumba. Late in the first period, the arena cameras landed on Faber on the bench and asked fans to cheer his first goal. Faber didn't smile or blink.

Early in the third period, Faber broke up a scoring chance by Florida's Carter Verhaeghe in front of Wild goalie Filip Gustavsson.

Faber is 21, and looks it, with a baby face adorned by hockey hair.

That look played well in the Wild's advertising campaign. One ad features a bunch of Wild players waiting for a school bus, and Faber's mother rushes out to pop his glasses on before he leaves. He nails the "Embarrassed teenager" look.

Faber doesn't look or act like an enforcer, but he didn't hesitate when the Panthers' Uvis Balinskis roughed the Wild's Marcus Johansson in the third period. Faber was the first Wild player to react, getting into a scrum with Florida's Niko Mikkola and heading to the box.

Faber, Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy and Calen Addison are among the talented youngsters who may determine the fate of the Wild's 2023-24 season. If they're ready to star, and support still-young star Kirill Kaprizov, the Wild could prove to be deep and dangerous.

"He's a very intelligent hockey player," Wild coach Dean Evason said of Faber. "He's probably been like that his whole life, right?"