With a handful of notable injuries, the depth of the Minnesota Wild organization is being tested early in the season.
Missing critical forwards from the middle-six —Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway and Ryan Hartman all missing time— players are being given opportunities that generally aren't there. It means the coaching staff and management alike get to see what players do with those opportunities. For some, it means the chance to play with better linemates and maybe even notch your first career NHL point.
For Mason Shaw, the 24-year-old go-hard rookie from Lloydminster, Alberta, it means making the most of the ice time he's worked hard for.
Shaw, drafted in the fourth round back in 2017, has been through it, suffering three separate ACL tears. After working his way back from injury, Shaw quickly became an essential contributor for the Wild's AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild, throughout four seasons. Now that Shaw has weaseled his way into regular ice time with the NHL club, he's making the most of it. Shaw tallied his first NHL goal and added an assist in a 4-3 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks. In the win over the Montreal Canadiens earlier this week, Shaw added another goal, giving him three points in five games.
"He does everything right," head coach Dean Evason said during his postgame press conference following the win over Montreal. Scoring the opening goal for the Wild only 1:09 into the game, it was standing up for teammate Marco Rossi later in the game that got his team going. "As far as his competitiveness," Evason continued, "we talked about it again this morning, how his teammates know what he did at the end. Responding [for] a teammate in that area is the right thing to do, and he did it."
Shaw is doing everything in his power to stay in the lineup; with the handful of points he's got, he's tied for 18th in rookie scoring, with everyone ahead of him playing eight or more games. The excellent production will make any decision difficult for GM Bill Guerin when it comes time to make room for a close-to-returning Greenway. But for his teammates, Shaw's energy on the ice is so valuable.
"Lots of energy," veteran goaltender Marc-André Fleury said about Shaw following the win against Montreal. "Bounces around out there; he's always going real hard. It's nice when he gets rewarded like that, with some goals."
Despite building success with every consecutive game, Shaw isn't getting ahead of himself. "I think there's still a lot to improve to my game," Shaw stated after the Montreal game. "There are still lots of things I need to work on and clean up. I'm just trying to build on it each day. I'm still fairly new to this league, but just trying to rely on some work ethic and some habits that I've learned over the years."
For Evason, Shaw's success so far is easy to boil down. "He's just a player; he plays hard. "
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