Wild Become Destination Team for Minnesota-Born Players

The Minnesota Wild have had a number of Minnesota-born players join their ranks over their 20-plus seasons in the NHL. In the last few years, that number seems to grow with every new season. They currently have one player on the active roster that is from Minnesota and that is Alex Goligoski. They also had Nick Bjugstad until he explored free agency and signed with the Arizona Coyotes over the summer.

The state of Minnesota has always been known for its hockey culture and the abundance of talented players that have come from its many lakes and ponds. Names like Neal Broten, Darby Hendrickson, Zach Parise, and Brock Boeser are just a few past and present names from Minnesota who’ve made a presence in the NHL. Lately, the Wild have been able to snag more and more of these names including trading for Brock Faber and the most recent signing of Sammy Walker.

Wild’s Faber Comes Home

For many players growing up, if they have an NHL team near their hometown, that’s the one they dream of playing for. The same can be said for the Wild now that the team has had time to grow themselves and become a reputable name in hockey. They’re one that players want to play for and fulfill their childhood dreams of playing pro hockey in front of their hometown crowd.

As stated above, the Wild recently acquired Faber in a trade for Kevin Fiala, and he’s as Minnesotan as someone can get. He’s from Maple Grove, where he played youth hockey and then moved on to AAA and U.S. National Teams throughout his high school career. He elected to stay in his home state for college and now plays for the University of Minnesota.

Brock Faber University of Minnesota
Brock Faber, University of Minnesota (University of Minnesota Athletics)

Faber was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, but before he was able to make an impact in the NHL he was brought back home to Minnesota. He has yet to sign a contract, but for now, he’ll play his junior year of college this coming season and next year it’ll be interesting to see if he forgoes his senior year to sign with the Wild, or stay and finish out his college career.

Faber’s not the only unsigned Minnesotan with a promising future in the Wild organization. Jack Peart is from Grand Rapids, where he played his high school hockey, and he also elected to stay in his home state for college as he currently attends St. Cloud State University (SCSU). He finished last season with 32 games and 17 points as a freshman and, like Faber, Peart has some time left to play college hockey before he makes the big leap to join the Wild in the NHL.

Wild Have Many More

The Wild have made sure to draft plenty of Minnesota-born players, but they’ve also worked hard to sign quite a few as well and many of them played together prior to joining the Wild. The first is Sam Hentges, who played his college hockey at SCSU as well and joined Peart for a season. That wasn’t the only future Wild teammate Hentges played with either, when he was a member of the 2022 United States Olympic team this past February, he was teammates with Faber. Hentges played in two of their four games and had one goal for his only point.

The next player on the list is also named Sam and he’s the Wild’s most recent signing, Samuel “Sammy” Walker. He played his high school hockey with the Edina Hornets who are quite synonymous with winning when it comes to the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament. He then went on to play for the University of Minnesota where he just finished his senior season with 27 points in 39 games played. He was also joined by Faber for the final two seasons of his college career before being reunited in the Wild organization.

The next prospect who signed on with the Wild took a little different path after leaving Edina High School several years before Walker played there. That player is Steven Fogarty, and instead of staying in his home state for college, he elected to head out of state to attend the University of Notre Dame. He played there for four seasons before heading off to join the New York Rangers.

Steven Fogarty Hartford Wolf Pack
Steven Fogarty, former Hartford Wolf Pack, current Iowa Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After playing minimal games in three seasons for the Rangers, Fogarty was off to the Buffalo Sabres for a season, then the Boston Bruins last season, and now the Wild for 2023-24. He’s had some success in the American Hockey League (AHL) over the last few seasons and finished the 2021-22 campaign with 62 games played and 42 points tallied. While the Wild may not need him immediately, he could be a valuable player down the road with his past experience and ability to score points.

The last player to be discussed is Nick Swaney, who played his high school hockey with Lakeville South. His team made it to the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament, which is similar to the Stanley Cup but at a high school level. While they didn’t win a State Championship, they did grab third place and Swaney tallied three points in the three games he played. He bounced around the United States Hockey League for a little bit following high school before he found his place back in Minnesota with the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD).

Related: Wild Have 3 Internal Options to Replace Kevin Fiala in the Lineup

Swaney played four seasons with UMD before this last season when he went full-time with the Iowa Wild and looked very promising finishing with 38 points in 62 games. While the Wild don’t have immediate room for him on the roster, he could be a good addition to their forward lineup if things change in the future.

Wild’s Bright Future

The Wild have worked hard over the last two decades to build a strong foundation for their team. They’ve created a great AHL team in the Iowa Wild who develop these prospects and get them prepared for their time in the NHL. In the last few seasons, things have really ramped up for Minnesota-born players joining the ranks of the Minnesota Wild and the talent level just continues to rise.

Nick Swaney Iowa Wild
Nick Swaney, Iowa Wild (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Things can only keep getting better and it’ll be fun for Wild fans to see all the local players go from high school to college to the big leagues all in the same state and cheer for them all the way through. So, they should keep a close eye on their favorite high school hockey players, as they may one day be joining the Minnesota Wild in the future.

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