Hockey season is officially underway with Minnesota Wild players going through physical evaluations today (Thursday) followed by the first practice of training camp on Friday.
Two names to watch as camp gets started are Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. They're in their first year with the Wild after being traded from Buffalo in June for Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella.
Dubnyk loves Ennis and Foligno
"We're definitely going to miss Pominville and Scandella, but I'm very excited to see Ennis," Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk told GoMN. "He's incredibly skilled and shifty. Same with Foligno. He's a big man, a big strong boy and he plays hard. Minnesota fans are going to appreciate that."
Trading for Ennis did more than help the Wild clear Pominville's contract from the books so the Wild could sign Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter to extensions. It also adds to Minnesota's already-deep scoring depth.
Ennis, all 5-foot-9, 170 pounds of him, put up back-to-back 20-goal seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15 before injuries derailed him each of the last two seasons. In 2015-16 he missed 60 games because of concussions and last season a groin injury limited his natural shifty abilities. If he's healthy, he's capable of putting numbers on the scoreboard.
Foligno is a beast
At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Foligno just turned 26 and he's coming off his fourth consecutive season in which he upped his points (23 last season on 13 goals and 10 assists).
"Marcus Foligno is a young man that scored 13 goals last season and is amongst the leaders in hits, he's a big physical presence," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told NHL.com this week. "He can kill penalties, he's strong on the wall and can battle against the bigger defenseman in our division and our league."
Foligno finished fifth in the NHL in hits last season and was more physical than a couple of guys that have bullied the Wild in recent years, David Backes (now with Boston) and Ryan Reaves of the St. Louis Blues.
Foligno isn't signed yet, although that could happen as soon as Thursday or Friday.
Dubnyk keeping expectations in check
Minnesota finished second in the Central Division with 106 points last season, just three points behind division winner and Western Conference No. 1 seed Chicago.
"We need to continue to go. We had a great regular season last year," Dubnyk told GoMN. "Obviously, the goal is always to make the playoffs. Making the playoffs is not an easy thing to do, you can't ever look past that. It's a long hard season and we want to make that next step come playoff time. But, there's 82 games and we'll concentrate on Game 1 and move forward to make sure we make the playoffs, and from there we have the ability to take that next step. We got a great group. I'm excited to get going again.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau told the Pioneer Press earlier this week that Luke Kunin, Joel Eriksson-Ek, Landon Ferraro, and Kyle Quincey are other rising stars who could make an impact this season.