Carson Soucy’s emergence for Wild coming at expense of Nick Seeler
DALLAS — Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau took Nick Seeler under his wing toward the end of Monday’s practice at TRIA Rink in St. Paul, offering words of encouragement to a player that has slowly been phased out of the lineup.
“I just told him to hang in there,” Boudreau said. “It has nothing to do with him.”
Instead, it has everything to do with how well Carson Soucy is playing.
After earning the final roster spot out of training camp, Soucy has emerged as a regular on the blue line through the first month of this season, surprising everyone, including himself, along the way.
“It’s been a little surprising just coming from last season when it was a little bit of a slower start for me,” said Soucy, who entered Tuesday’s matchup with the Dallas Stars leading the team in plus-minus. “I’ve been taking it game by game trying to be consistent. I just want to be someone they can rely on, and hopefully I can keep that going.”
Perhaps the biggest motivator for Soucy so far has been the simple fact that Seeler is lurking. While both players described it as a healthy competition, it’s clear neither wants to give up his spot in the lineup.
“We play a similar game, so it definitely pushes me knowing that we have an extra guy ready to go,” Soucy said. “I’m getting more comfortable making plays. Not just throwing it away. I’m also getting more comfortable with the guys, and that helps on the ice and off the ice.”
And that comfort level appears to be growing every game.
“I really like where my game is heading,” Soucy said. “I want to be able to bring a little more offensively. That’s probably the next step for me. Ultimately, I just want to keep up my play on the back end. If I can play big and play strong, I think I’m doing my job.”
Kevin Fiala watched Tuesday’s game from the press box, marking the second time this season he has been a healthy scratch.
“I just think we expect more from him,” Boudreau said. “He’s a guy that we’re counting on.”
As much as Boudreau is trying to send a message with the benching, it also provides Fiala an extra day to recover from a lower-body injury. He has missed the last three games.
“He’s getting better,” Boudreau said. “He could have played if this was a playoff game.”
Obviously the hope is that Fiala takes this personally and comes out motivated as soon as he’s back in the lineup.
“We need him to be one of our most offensive players,” Boudreau said. “It hasn’t worked so far. But I think the message has gotten through. He will be back in the lineup really soon. We could use the offense. There’s no doubt about it.”
Acquired at the trade deadline last season, Mats Zuccarello played 15 games for the Stars, most of which came in the playoffs.
While it wasn’t a lot of time, Zuccarello endeared himself to the locker room with his infectious personality, and was happy to see some familiar faces before Tuesday’s game.
“I had a good time here,” Zuccarello said. “We had a good playoff run. I made some good friends on the team so that’s always nice. It’s cool to be here and see all the guys and stuff but we’re here to try to win a hockey game.”