Sep 6, 2018

By Tom Witosky

Follow @toskyAHLwild

The first step.

That’s what new Iowa Wild head coach Tim Army would like to accomplish this weekend as he and the AHL Wild coaching staff directs one of the strongest rosters sent by Minnesota to the 2018 NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.

The tournament, which marks its 20th year in 2018, will pit the top prospects of eight NHL teams in a four-game tournament beginning Friday. Following the tournament, players from those teams will then head to NHL training camps, which begin later next week.

“This is a serious event,” Army said. “We want to play well and we want to win games. The most important thing is to get comfortable with the surroundings and have a good event so that you can build some momentum going into training camp.”

Wild players gathered in St. Paul at midweek to get in one practice under the direction of Iowa’s coaching staff before traveling to northern Michigan for its first game Friday night against the Detroit Red Wings. Saturday the team competes against the New York Rangers before closing out the round-robin portion with a contest against the Dallas Stars Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, the Wild will play one more game, with the opponent to be determined after the round-robin stage.

Headlining the Wild roster is forward Jordan Greenway, who began last season playing for Boston University and the U.S. Olympic team but ended the season on the ice for Minnesota in its one series in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In five playoff games, the Wild’s second-round draft choice in 2015 scored a goal and added an assist as he impressed Wild coaches with his quick adjustment to NHL competition.

Greenway’s inclusion on the tournament’s roster might have surprised some Wild fans, but Army said such a move by a team to put top prospects likely to go directly to the NHL on the roster isn’t unusual.

“A lot of teams bring top prospects to that event,” Army said. “It’s not uncommon for top prospects even with a little NHL experience to be playing in the tournament. It is really good and a great opportunity for everyone to see them in that environment.”

Joining Greenway on the roster is 12 Wild draft picks: Defenseman Louie Belpedio (2014, 3rd round), forward Shawn Boudrias (2018, 6th round), defenseman Gustav Bouramman (2015, 7th round), forward Connor Dewar (2018, 3rd round), forward Damien Giroux (2018, 5th round), defenseman Jacob Golden (2017, 5th round), goalie Kaapo Kahkonen (2014, 4th round), forward Alexander Khovanov (2018, 3rd round), right wing Ivan Lodnia (2017, 3rd round), center Mason Shaw (2017, 4th round) and right wing Dmitry Sokolov (2016, 7th round). In addition to the 12 draft picks, 2017 free-agent signees goalie Dereck Baribeau and defenseman Brennan Menell will join the team in Michigan.

Kahkonen, who played the past two seasons in Finland’s top league, participated in the Wild’s prospects training camp in July and said he was anxious to get his North American professional career underway.

“My goal is to get myself ready to compete wherever I end up,” Kahkonen said. “I am going to compete for a spot in Iowa. That is the first priority for me. I have played for three years in the pro leagues in Finland and now it is time to take on this challenge.“

Similarly, Shaw said he also is ready to compete for a spot on the Iowa roster, though he could return to junior hockey for one more year. Shaw missed nearly all of last season after an ACL injury sidelined him, but said he believes he is ready to take the next step.

“I want to make as much noise as I can so I can a good shot at Iowa,” he said. “I am training to play pro hockey and that is my goal for the next season.”

For Army, his goal is simply to get his first season in the Wild organization off to a successful beginning.

“I think we are in a good spot as we get ready for the season to start, which begins with the Traverse City tournament,” Army said. “We will do some coaching and some video. We want them to put their best foot forward.”

Below is a schedule of the Wild’s games at the NHL Prospects Tournament. All times are Central.





Friday, Sept. 7

6:30 p.m.

Detroit Red Wings


Saturday, Sept. 8

5:30 p.m.

New York Rangers


Monday, Sept. 10

2:30 p.m.

Dallas Stars


Tuesday, Sept. 11





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