Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- With all the big names playing this season for the Minnesota Wild, former University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) forward Justin Fontaine may appear to some as an afterthought --- just not in Duluth.
Fontaine was the center of attention on Monday morning as the Wild held its first of two practice sessions at AMSOIL Arena, just one day after the former Bulldog officially made Minnesota's opening night roster.
"Since I left Duluth, I've tried to become more of a two-way player," Fontaine said. "This past year, I've played in pretty much every situation and got a lot better defensively. Time and space gets taken away quicker, so you have to know what you're doing with the puck before you get it."
Fontaine led the Houston Aeros in the American Hockey League (AHL) last season with 56 points, and his new coaches and teammates say he appears ready for the next step.
"On opening night, we probably have him starting on the fourth line," head coach Mike Yeo said. "One of the reasons we like having him around is we know he can move up and play with better players to create offensively."
"You can tell he's got a lot of hockey sense, and I think he's going to be a good player," Minnesota forward Zach Parise said. "You've got to let young players continue to develop, but you can tell that he can think the game really well."
Fontaine has yet to make his NHL debut, but it sounds as if his first game with the big club could come as soon as the Oct. 3 opener against Los Angeles.