Wanvig Wild about future

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

ST. PAUL -- Twice before, Kyle Wanvig felt the sting.

Looking to make the Minnesota Wild roster, the Calgary product saw those hopes dashed at training camp's conclusion.

Mercifully, third time was the charm.

Instead of heading for another season with the AHL Houston Aeros, Wanvig took his spot in the Wild lineup for last night's season opener against his hometown Flames and couldn't be happier.

"I'm ecstatic," he said. "It's been a little bit of a longer road than I was expecting but maybe that's what I needed. Maybe for my development I had to go through some growing pains and injuries to get to where I am now.

"I feel good and excited to get going."

Not long ago, Wanvig -- who potted a goal in last night's 6-3 win over the Flames -- was a hotshot coming out of junior. Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins, who failed to sign him and had a jammed fax prevent a trade to Toronto just before the deadline, the right wing was picked 36th overall in the 2001 draft.

On the heels of helping the Red Deer Rebels to the Memorial Cup, the 6-ft. 2-in., 219-lb. forward figured he'd make a quick jump to the big show. Instead, he ended a pair of training camps having to pack his bags for the minors.

"Basically those two seasons, I was last cut and it came down to waivers, I could clear and some guys couldn't or were on one-way contracts," he said.

"But that's not an excuse because I obviously didn't do enough to make them keep me, and I can't disagree with that.

"I came to camp this year, five or six pounds lighter and three or four pounds stronger than I've ever been, so I feel quicker and feel stronger and more confident in my overall game."

A pre-season article about the 24-year-old said this could be his last opportunity to make it work in the Wild organization. However, head coach Jacques Lemaire dismissed it as being a make-it-or-break-it camp.

"It's not his last chance, it's his chance. His best chance," Lemaire said. "He played enough years in the minors and played well at times, and came up here but there was no room for him, so we sent him down.

"It's hard for a guy that feels he belongs in the NHL and then gets sent back, so his years were up and down. This year, there's room for him. He's going to have a chance to play regularly and it's up to him to take advantage of that."

Plus, he had to make improvements.

A scorer with the potent Rebels, he posted 101 points in 69 games in 2000-01 but Wanvig had to make massive adjustments to make it work in the land of 10,000 rinks.

Maturity has been a factor, too. Gone is the baby fat, replaced by "man-strength" as he called it. Also, he's all grown up.

He's even engaged, preparing to marry fiancee Leah Stolar next July in Calgary.

Plus, for once, he's fully healthy to start a season.


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