Wild Give Mario Lucia ELC

The Minnesota Wild have signed 2011 2nd round pick (#60 overall) Mario Lucia to a two-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Sunday.

The deal will start in the 2016-17 season, meaning he’ll head to the Iowa Wild of the AHL on an amateur tryout (ATO) for the remainder of the season.

The End of Collegiate Career

Lucia finished his collegiate career Friday when Notre Dame was felled by Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Lucia wrapped up his fourth year with the Fighting Irish as an alternate captain who tallied 12 goals and 24 points in 37 matches. That represents a bit of a step back for the 6-foot-3 left wing, who put up a team-leading 21 goals and 31 points through 42 games last season, his second straight season of putting up 31 points.

While Lucia’s offense has taken a step back this season — in terms of raw totals, not taking into consideration that the team has undergone significant changes — he’s shown improvements in other areas. This year, he played a more well-rounded game, taking on a larger leadership role that may help him transition to the pro ranks a little more fluidly.

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In his career before the pros he was named to the NCAA All-Rookie team and was a part of the 2013 U.S. National Team that won gold at the World Junior Championship. That World Juniors team also featured Wild defenseman Mike Reilly, a friend of Lucia’s since middle school. Both spent the season before heading to college playing with Penticton Vees in the BCHL, where the team set a BCHL record with a 42-game win streak. Lucia finished that season third overall in scoring in the league, while Reilly finished eighth.

Going Pro

Lucia — son of University of Minnesota hockey coach Don Lucia — has a strong skill set and good size for a skill player.

As a senior, Lucia had the option of waiting until August and signing with any team he likes. However, he had said before the start of the season that he always planned on signing with the Wild.

“I don’t see it any other way,” he told the Pioneer Press in the fall. “This is where I want to play. I kind of put in a lot of work, and the coaching staff has put in a lot of work with me, and I don’t want to screw them over when the time comes.”

The big question about him at the pro level is if his game will continue to grow. It’s a question many scouts have asked as his production has flat-lined over the last three years, after exhibiting some level of dominance at other levels and through his first years with the Irish.

Lucia has been strong offensively and a big presence on the Notre Dame power play with fellow NHL draftee Anders Bjork, but his drive has been questioned by many. He’s disappeared from games at times. Hockey’s Future’s latest scouting report on Lucia said that he lacks “the kind of intensity that separates good players from great.”

Motivation shouldn’t be hard to find though, as he seeks to find a spot on the wing for the NHL club in coming seasons. The Wild have plenty of talent already present on the wings, from veterans and young talent, and that will require Lucia to play his best to earn his spot at the top level.