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As usual, Nate Prosser fighting for spot with Wild

September 17, 2018

Anyone else might be a little bit selfish, unwilling to share everything they know. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau acknowledged that’s what he would do if he were in Nate Prosser’s skates, as a 32-year-old defenseman scrapping to make the roster against a passel of younger talent.

But when Prosser was asked Monday if he was tempted to withhold any wisdom, he looked puzzled. “I’m not a guy that’s going to be like, ‘Don’t talk to me. I want to do my thing,’’’ Prosser said after a training camp scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center. “I’m going to help a young guy out any way I can. That’s something that’s always been ingrained in me, to be a good, positive teammate.’’

Boudreau knew that’s how Prosser would view it, which is one of the reasons why the Wild brought him back last season after he was waived by St. Louis. That also could help the Elk River native stand out in a deep group of defensemen vying for what could be the last roster spot on the blue line.

The first four places are locked up by Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. Nick Seeler, who made a strong impression late last season, and Greg Pateryn, signed as a free agent after two seasons with Dallas, are the front-runners to form the third pairing. Though the Wild has sometimes kept eight defensemen on the roster, Boudreau said Monday he is likely to start the season with only seven.

That leaves Prosser to compete against Gustav Olofsson, Ryan Murphy, Carson Soucy and Louie Belpedio for what is probably the last available spot. Still, in a situation that could foster an every-man-for-himself mentality, Prosser has retained the upbeat, generous spirit that has made him one of the most well-liked players in the locker room.

“Every season, there’s a battle for the last spot or two,’’ said Prosser, who provided reliable defense for 56 games last season after the Wild claimed him off waivers on Nov. 30. “It’s in the back of your mind, but it’s not going to affect the way I play or go about my business. I’m going to be that positive guy, that light, and bring the energy.

“I feel I’m at the top of my game. I’m confident and comfortable with playing out there. I’ve just got to continue to build on that and carry that over into this season.’’

Originally signed by the Wild in 2010 as an undrafted free agent out of Colorado College, Prosser has played all but one of his 339 NHL games with his home-state team. St. Louis signed him to free-agent deals in 2014 and 2017. Both times, the Wild got him back when he was placed on waivers — including last season, when Prosser played only one of the Blues’ first 24 games.

Despite the paucity of playing time, Prosser never pouted or was unprepared. That attitude, and the ability to remain consistent while sliding in and out of the lineup, have earned him respect among the Wild’s players and coaches.

“Whether he misses eight games in a row, he just comes in and plays,’’ Boudreau said. “Not everybody can do what Nate’s done over the years. That’s one of the things that’s made him so valuable to this franchise.’’

So is his personality. Boudreau said Prosser’s love for his teammates — and theirs for him — is one of the main reasons the Wild has kept bringing him back. Seeler benefited from his unselfish nature last season, when Prosser helped him adjust to the NHL after a February call-up.

“He was always willing to answer questions and help me out whenever I needed it,’’ Seeler said. “He’s a great person, easy to talk to. And he always seems to be smiling and happy to be at the rink.’’

Prosser, though, doesn’t want to just be Mr. Congeniality. He said last season, when he played the second-most games of his NHL career, was perhaps his best ever. That has left him confident, despite the competition.

“It’s been a journey,’’ he said. “But I’ve loved every minute, and I want to continue. That’s what keeps me going.’’

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