St. Paul, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- Three players and one coach with connections to the Northland are taking part this week in the development camp of the Minnesota Wild, including three guys native to the area.
Superior native Brett Olson and Hermantown native Drew LeBlanc are both participating in the camp along with former UMD Bulldog Justin Fontaine.
That group is joined on the ice by a coach, that being International Falls native and former UMD Bulldog Bob Mason.
Olson finished his senior season this past winter at Michigan Tech, with the former Spartan having served the past two years as that team's captain.
"Playing four years of college has definitely prepared me for that next step, whether that is the NHL or AHL," Olson said. "It's a tough group to crack, but it's worth it as well to try to get to that level."
LeBlanc, meanwhile, plans on going back to St. Cloud State this winter to play out his senior season with the Huskies. The former Hawk broke his leg just 10 games into last season, and he was thus granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA.
"It's a never-ending process, but at least you're on the radar and you know someone's out there watching you," LeBlanc said. "It's good to get the exposure and to play with, and in front of, some people that are high up there."
Fontaine is the final Northland connection amongst players, with the former Bulldog taking part in his third development camp with Minnesota. He spent last season with the club's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Houston Aeros.
"There are a lot of different aspects to the game compared to college, with time and space taken away, but you learn a lot," Fontaine said. "I got put in a lot of good opportunities, and I feel I improved as a player. Come out and work your hardest, and that's all you can really ask for."
Mason, meanwhile, is entering another year as the team's goaltending coach. He native played two seasons with UMD, parts of eight seasons in the NHL, and was on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team.