Nate Prosser: Wild’s Unsung Hero

Make it four victories in a row and five straight collecting points for the Minnesota Wild.

The longest of either streak this season has been highlighted by both Devan Dubnyk’s Vezina-caliber play and an impressive showing from nearly every defenseman, including seldom-used Nate Prosser.

The Minnesota-born Prosser has seen his fair share of struggles and inconsistencies in eight years with the organization. Pushed aside and assigned to press box duties on countless occasions as a healthy scratch in past years, he has grown into a reliable veteran when asked to fill in.

Penny Pinching

There was a point in Prosser’s career when it seemed highly unlikely he’d ever make significant contributions to any NHL team.  As an undrafted free agent out of Colorado College, he has never made over $1 million in a given year for his services, making him the ultimate bargain when it comes to a seventh defenseman. While the role often relegates him to wear a suit instead of a uniform during games, he has always waited patiently and filled in admirably when called upon.

Even though Prosser has faced constant uncertainty, the Wild have continuously extended offers to keep him on the roster. Very few players remain in the NHL by signing six contracts in eight years, let alone while playing with the same team. Prior to the 2014-15 season, Prosser did test free agency and sign with the St. Louis Blues. Upon being waived before the season, he was nabbed by Minnesota. It’s clear that his familiarity comforts Chuck Fletcher, who has been the general manager for the entirety of Prosser’s tenure.

Late-Game Trust

When Christian Folin went down with an MCL sprain in late-November, he was in the midst of playing the best hockey of his young career. His departure left uncertainty as the Wild had seemingly found an effective formula in front of Dubnyk.

Prosser has not only filled the hole left by Folin, but he’s been so outstanding that the coaching staff has essentially increased his ice time each of the last five games.

Nate Prosser time on ice (via
Nate Prosser time on ice (via

In addition to the increase in time on ice, Prosser’s number was called in the waning moments of yesterday’s battle with the Blues, a role he has rarely seen in his career.

Sure enough, he was able to deliver the assist on Mikael Granlund’s lead-padding empty netter.

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The Wild now have a classic “good problem” to deal with. When a team is debating which sixth defenseman to play in front of a goalie who leads the league in goals-against average and save percentage, it’s pretty clear that things are going well.

My opinion is that you keep deploying Prosser on a nightly basis until his play cools off. You have a roster that is rolling right now to the tune of a four-game win streak; there’s no reason to mess with that. Once Prosser comes back down to earth, and he will, Folin should receive an opportunity to earn his spot back as he’ll be well rested and fully healthy.