See more of the story

Wedged inside an industrial pocket of Hamilton, Ontario, is the Grainger Training Centre, a hockey development school that's also a laboratory for goalies.

The ice is smaller, only 75 feet long by 30 feet wide, and it's the kind of rink that's sweltering in the summer and frigid in the winter.

This is where Cam Talbot works on his game in the offseason, sometimes facing 600 pucks in a five-day span. At each hourlong session he goes through about 200 reps, multi-shot sequences in which Talbot has to be clean on every attempt in order to move on to the next one.

No rebounds. Nothing sloppy. Just saves.

"He's on his last wind, but he won't give up," said longtime goalie coach Pat Di Pronio, who has mentored Talbot since he was a 10-year-old minor-hockey player. "He wants to complete the drill properly and get it done right."

A self-described late bloomer, Talbot has always been a go-getter, which helps explain how he went from obscurity to a record-breaker in the NHL.

His attitude is also why he isn't about to ease up now that he achieved his goal of re-establishing himself as a starting goalie, an opportunity the Wild gave him when the team signed him to a three-year, $11 million contract in October to replace Devan Dubnyk.

"Nothing's ever been handed to me," said Talbot, 33. "I've always had to go in there and kind of take it. So, that work ethic, that mentality, it's never going to go away. The day that I lose that is the day that I'll retire. That's just the way I approach things.

"I know that there's so many good goalies in this league that if you take your eye off the ball for a second, there's someone else trying to take your spot. I was that guy. I am that guy."

Under the radar

Talbot grew up in Caledonia, Ontario — 15 minutes south of Hamilton — Talbot was hardly a must-watch prospect.

He didn't get drafted to major junior and instead accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Not until the final few weeks of his college career did Talbot think he'd get a chance to turn pro, but he did get a free-agent contract with the New York Rangers in 2010.

After three years in the minors, he joined the Rangers and became Henrik Lundqvist's understudy.

"We almost won every game he played," recalled winger Mats Zuccarello, who was with the Rangers then. "We trusted him as much as we trusted [Lundqvist] at that time."

His nickname was "Calm Talbot," a nod to his cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor between the pipes.

"He never panicked," Zuccarello said. "He never got mad at anyone. He just did his job."

And following two stellar campaigns in New York — he had a .941 save percentage and 1.64 goals-against average through 21 games in 2013-14 and went on a 21-9-4 run in 2014-15 — Talbot earned a No. 1 gig, getting traded to Edmonton.

"I was happy to see [him] get a starter job," Zuccarello said.

Ups and downs

Talbot's second season with the Oilers was his best; not only did he tie for the most wins in the NHL (42) but he also set the Oilers record for victories in a single season, surpassing Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr's 40.

Overall, he started 73 regular-season games and helped Edmonton reach the Western Conference semifinals.

But after another 30-plus-win season in 2017-18, Talbot struggled and the Oilers moved on — trading him to Philadelphia, where he played sparingly to close the season.

"I knew I could still be a starting goalie," Talbot said.

In 2019, Calgary brought Talbot in on a one-year deal to help support budding goaltender David Rittich, but it was Talbot who ended up seizing control of the crease. He was the team's starter when the season resumed last August with the playoffs, posting an impressive .924 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average to go along with a pair of shutouts through two rounds.

"I was healthier last year than I'd been in a season or two," Talbot said. "I think that played a big role in it. But just getting another opportunity to show that I can still be a starting goalie at this level and the more games that I played last year down the stretch going into the playoffs, the more comfortable you get, the more confidence you get, and the better I played."

Starting again

The Wild became the next to reward Talbot, linking up with him on the first day of free agency.

Talbot believes he'll be a fit because of the defense that'll be working in front of him, a stingy structure that would seem to complement Talbot's poise.

"Any time you can be calm and at the top of your crease and just as patient as possible, you're going to set yourself to be in a good position to make that first save," said Talbot, who has settled in the Twin Cities with wife Kelly and 4-year-old twins Landon and Sloane. "Obviously, any time after that, you just track the rebound and battle it out from there."

That's what Talbot works on in the downtime between seasons, connecting with Di Pronio for those sessions where the margin for error is zero. Even if he's solid on the first two shots and a shooter misses the net on the third, Talbot still must redo the set to make three stops before it can count.

"That's the kind of mentality that Cam has to the point that it's almost working to be perfect," Di Pronio said. "It's not easy to be perfect, but that's kind of what he does. He's a workhorse."

So, even though he's scored a new lease on his career, Talbot isn't about to hit cruise control.

He never has.

"I don't take anything for granted," Talbot said. "I am here because of my work ethic and I never let my foot off the gas. I'm here to help this team win. That's my goal. Night in and night out my goal is to give this team a chance to win every night.

"It's not always going to happen. There's going to be nights where [it's] not going to go our way. But if I make the saves I'm supposed to make and a couple every game I'm not supposed to make, we're going to be in pretty good business."