Former Elk and Colorado College player Nate Prosser, signed by the Minnesota Wild after his college season, saw action in the last three Wild games, and looks forward to competing for a spot on next year's team.
Former Elk skater Nate Prosser carried the puck during the Wild's regular-season finale at the Xcel Center against Dallas. (Photo by Rick Ordorf)
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
When Nate Prosser signed with the Minnesota Wild late in the NHL season, fresh out of college, he figured it would be a great opportunity just to practice with the pros for a few weeks.
The experience turned out even better for the former Elk and Colorado College defenseman. He played in the Wild's final three games for about 20 minutes each, and made his way unto the stat sheet, too, with an assist for his first NHL point.
"I was just expecting to work out with the team, so getting into three games, that was awesome," said Prosser, 23. "It's exactly what I wanted. Having some game time will help me tremendously to prepare for next season."
Prosser was signed as a free agent May 18, shortly after CC's season, and his four-year college career, ended with a playoff loss at UM-Duluth. The Wild had 12 games left.
With defensemen Nick Schultz and Marik Zidklicky injured, the Wild found some ice time for Prosser, teaming him with Greg Zanon, a fourth-year pro from British Columbia.
Nate Prosser, shown here in the Dallas game April 10, saw significant action in the Wild's last three games. He'll have a chance to make the team in September or be assigned to Houston. (Photo by Rick Orndorf)
In his debut on Monday, April 5, at Edmonton, Prosser and center Miko Koivu both assisted on a goal by Andrew Brunette early in the second period, the lone goal in a 4-1 loss.
"It was right off the opening draw of the second period," Prosser recounts. "The puck went to Zanna, my defensive partner, and he moved it to me in the neutral zone. Koivu was streaking down the weak side, and I got it to him, and he sent it to Burnette at center ice. And he scored. It was awesome."
Prosser also played at Calgary (a 2-1 win) on April 8 before the Wild fans got their first in-person look at the fourth former Elk in the NHL. He skated at the Xcel Center on April 10 in the season finale against Dallas, a 4-3 loss.
"I was playing about 20 minutes a game, in all the situaitons," said Prosser. "I expected maybe eight minutes. Zanna is an amazing defensive player and he talks to me all over the ice, which was really helpful."
His home state's appreciation of its team made a big impression.
"With the Wild fans, it doesn't matter what kind of season the team has had, they stay faithful, and there's always a packed house," he noted.
Prosser had a plus-two rating for his ice time (meaning the Wild scored two more goals than they gave up).
Joel Otto (Calgary, Philadelphia), Dan Hinote (Colorado, St. Louis) and Paul Martin (current New Jersey Devils standout defenseman) are the other ex-Elks to skate in the NHL. Prosser is the first with a Minnesota team.
Currently relaxing a few weeks at home in Elk River, Prosser will attend the Wild's developmental camp July 12-18. The big test will come at training camp in September where he'll have a chance to make the team. Failing that, he'll be assigned to the Wild's minor-league team in Houston.
Prosser earned his degree in economics this spring, too, and has a wedding coming up to his ERHS classmate Brittani Metcalfe.