Oct 15, 2018

By Jacob Born

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Forward Mason Shaw had one thing in mind when he entered Minnesota Wild’s training camp in mid-September; he wanted to play professional hockey.

Shaw spent three seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, where he posted 163 points (47g, 116a) in 161 games. He had spent his time in junior hockey and now it was time for him to set his eyes on the professional game.

Being 20 years old and missing the entire 2017-18 season with a knee injury, however, there was a possibility of him returning to juniors with an overage year. After Iowa Wild’s first three games, though, Shaw’s game made it clear he was ready for the American Hockey League.

Shaw played in both games during opening weekend, where the Wild battled the Manitoba Moose, one of the top teams in the Central Division last season. Not once did he look out of place.

In the second of the two games, Shaw made his presence known, both on the ice and on the scoresheet. A feature of his game, Shaw played bigger than his 5-foot-9, 179-pound frame, battling defenseman six inches taller than him in the corners and coming away with the puck. He also notched a goal and two assists, his first AHL points. Against Texas the following week, he added another assist, giving him four points (1g, 3a) in four games.

“I thought he played really well last Sunday, more than just his three points,” said Iowa Wild Head Coach Tim Army. “We used him in penalty kill situations and he was really good. He’s a very smart player. He’s a guy when you see him live, you like him and then when you watch him on video, you always like him even more. He had a really good weekend and as a result, he got rewarded with the goal and two assists Sunday afternoon.”

Shaw finished the game as the Wild’s leading point scorer in the game and he’s currently tied for the team lead in points with defenseman Ryan Murphy and forward Gerry Fitzgerald. Shaw also became the first player since forward Luke Kunin to have a three-point game when recording his first career AHL point.

“It felt good to get that out of the way and to get my first AHL points,” Shaw said. “More importantly though, it felt good to get the team win. Having that little personal success was nice, but we got two big wins this past weekend and played really well. It’s something to build off of.”

Not bad for a kid who spent nearly all of last season rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered at the 2017 NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Mich.

Shaw’s injury could have been a setback in his development, but he turned it into a positive. After spending the whole season focused on getting back on the ice, Shaw made his professional debut on April 10, 2018 against Rockford, then spent the summer continuing his work out plan to come back stronger and ready to make the leap to the AHL.

“Coming back from the knee injury, sometimes it takes a full year to recover,” Army said. “We recognized it was going to take some time for him to get comfortable again. But since we broke camp on Sept. 24, he’s played really, really well. It’s an everyday process; checking in with him, coaching him in certain areas.”

Army said he hasn’t seen any bumps in the transition from the junior game, where Shaw was one of the older players, to the AHL, where Shaw is competing against players sometimes 10 years his senior.

“The transition hasn’t affected him whatsoever,” Army said. “He’s a guy that can adjust quickly because of his intelligence. He’s been around enough, the dynamic of the game and because he’s such a good kid, he acclimates quickly. He’s been very comfortable coming in here, being the younger guy and just doing your thing, working hard every day and being a good teammate. His transition has been seamless.”

Shaw also recognizes the differences between the two leagues, but thanks to a tight locker room, the transition has been minimal.

“It’s a job, there are jobs on the line,” Shaw said. “So far the transition has been good though. The locker room is good, there’s a lot of guys that make me feel at home here.”

Now Shaw’s focus is to constantly grow his game. Being a rookie, Shaw has learned to lean on the veterans and coaches to help him continue to navigate the professional game and transition to the Wild’s systems and style of play. Thankfully, it’s one that suits him.

“So far the coaching has been really great for me,” Shaw said. “Coach is implementing some things that are new to me but I think slowly I’ve been catching on. They’ve been really helpful and as a young guy, I’m all ears for what the coaches and veterans have to give me for advice.”

One piece of advice the coaching staff has given to Shaw is to model is game after a prominent Minnesota Wild player: Zach Parise.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is having ‘Zach Parise’ in his game,” Army said. “When Zach is at his best, he’s all around the net, he’s in traffic, around the puck. And that’s what we keep encouraging Shaw to have, that ‘Zach Parise’ in his game. Play around traffic, play in front of the net because he’s got good hands. He’s strong on the puck, he’s good in tight areas and it’s where he’s the most effective. He bought in and he’s found his rhythm, he’s found his confidence and now the game is starting to open up for him.”

When the season started, Shaw set out to make the Iowa roster and three games into the season, he accomplished it. For Shaw, the next step is to put his head down and work hard.

“I’m just excited to come to the rink every day and try to get better,” Shaw said. “That’s the plan and the rest will take care of itself.”

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