With their defensive depth in tatters, the Wild could use a rookie who can play beyond his years.
The 23-year-old arrived earlier this week to help fill the skates of veteran Ryan Suter, who was ruled out for the rest of the season Monday after fracturing a bone in his ankle. Suter’s usual defensive partner Jared Spurgeon has been out since mid-March after suffering a partially-torn hamstring, while regular contributor Gustav Olofsson is recovering from a concussion.
Soucy, who is in the midst of his first professional season after joining the AHL’s Iowa Wild for three games last year, settled in quickly against the Oilers, finishing with three shots on goal and two hits in just over 15 minutes of action.
“Once I got those first couple shifts out of the way the nerves started to settle down, I started to feel a little more confident,” Soucy said.
He wasn’t the only one.
Dubnyk did his part in the shutout, but Minnesota’s shorthanded defensive corps held together despite Suter’s absence. The Wild limited the Oilers — who have averaged 33.4 shots on goal per game this season — to just 22.
Soucy spent most of the game paired with veteran Nate Prosser, who has spent the past few weeks playing alongside recent call-up Nick Seeler. AHL veteran Ryan Murphy was in the lineup as well, giving Soucy a pair of familiar faces to look to in the locker room.
“It’s nice to rely on those guys and joke about with those guys throughout the day even, making the mood a little easier,” he said. “Everyone in the locker room has been great.”
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau liked what he saw.
“He did look poised. He played a simple game, he made easy plays,” Boudreau said. “He never put himself in trouble, put a couple shots on goal.”
Boudreau’s assessment tracks with the scouting report on Soucy, who spent four seasons at UMD, where he developed into a shutdown defenseman and penalty killer while helping the Bulldogs to the national championship game as a senior.
He struggled to crack the Wild’s crowded blue line out of training camp, spending 67 games in Iowa before earning a call-up. Soucy says the experience was a difference-maker for his development.
“I think I’ve forced it upon myself to try and play with a little more confidence,” Soucy said. “Sometimes the easy play’s not there, you’ve gotta make one.”
Even if that doesn’t work out, Boudreau says he’s fine with the easy plays.
“That’s why Soucy was good tonight, because he didn’t try to do too much,” he said.