ST. PAUL — You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with anything bad to say about Wild defenseman Brad Hunt.
It might be impossible.
“He’s awesome,” fellow defenseman Matt Dumba said. “He’s easy to get along with. You can chat with him about anything. He makes guys feel comfortable no matter what. Just a genuine dude.”
“He’s just one of those guys,” said blue line partner Nick Seeler. “He’s a good locker room guy. He’s always positive and brings the mood up. You need guys like that.”
Heck, the only ounce of criticism to come out of Monday’s practice wasn’t a criticism at all.
“He’s way too nice,” coach Bruce Boudreau joked. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he was definitely brought up the right way.”
Hunt’s infectious grin and boisterous laugh have been overshadowed somewhat by the fact that he’s emerged as a legitimate threat to put the puck in the back of the net. After blasting home a pivotal goal in a 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, Hunt is tied with Zach Parise and Jason Zucker for the team lead in goals (3) and tied with Ryan Suter for the team lead in points (5).
Not bad for a guy the Wild picked up last season as an extra body on the blue line. Minnesota sent a conditional fifth-round to pick to Vegas for Hunt and a sixth-rounder last January.
“Obviously, it’s been cool,” Hunt said of his recent success. “That said, the wins are more important, and last game was great for the guys to get back on their feet. It was good to put that in.”
It’s been a slow build for Hunt. He worked his way into the lineup shortly after his arrival, and as his confidence has increased, so has his play as a mainstay on the blue line.
“He’s been great,” Boudreau said. “He’s come in and done a great job.”
Especially on the power play.
Aside from being the living embodiment of the good parts of Minnesota Nice off the ice, the thing that stands out about Hunt on the ice is his powerful slap shot from the point. Dumba, whose slap shot is widely considered the Wild’s hardest, was asked Monday to compare his to Hunt’s.
“They are probably the same,” he said.
Hunt’s power-play one-timer from the above right circle tied Sunday’s game 3-3 early in the third period.
“He rips the puck, man,” Dumba said. “And the way he’s shooting it right now, his (shot) is probably better.”
Maybe the most impressive thing about Hunt’s one-timer is that he’s able to generate so much power from his 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame.
“You don’t expect that from smaller guys,” Seeler said. “He certainly gets some power behind that. You saw (against the Canadiens) what he can bring. He brings the heat.”
It’s something Hunt has worked on since he was a kid. He’s been uncorking one-timers for as long as he can remember. As for how he actually generates so much power, Hunt doesn’t know the science behind it, nor does he care too much.
“Maybe it’s mechanics or something,” Hunt said. “Just one of those things where I’m fortunate to have a hard shot. I’m not too sure what exactly goes into it. I just swing as hard as I can and hope it hits the net.”
There’s definitely some technique to it, though Dumba might have put it best when asked his opinion. “I think some guys just got it and some guys don’t,” he said.
It’s safe to say Hunt’s teammates are happy he has it; he’s been one of the bright spots amid a dreary, 2-6-0 start.
“It’s been awesome,” Dumba said. “Any team that needs to battle out of something needs other guys to step up. It’s the same every day with Huntsy. He’s awesome. He’s always got that big smile and brings that energy. You love that in the locker room.”
OK, honestly, is there anyone out there that has anything bad to say about this guy?
“Oh, I’m sure my wife would be able to say lots of things that are bad,” Hunt said with a laugh. “I don’t know. Just try to do the right thing all the time and be a good person; that’s what it comes down to.”