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Bulldogs take part in NHL summer camps

Minnesota Duluth’s Alex Iafallo takes part in the Minnesota Wild’s eight-day development camp, which ended Monday with a scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center. Photos courtesy of Mike Doyle 1 / 3
Carson Soucy chases down the puck during the Minnesota Wild’s development camp last week. 2 / 3
Grand Rapids’ graduate Avery Peterson also attended the Wild camp. Peterson is headed to Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota Duluth’s conference rival, this season.3 / 3

While not the first time he’s slipped on a Minnesota Wild jersey, Carson Soucy hopes it’s not the last time, either.

The Minnesota Duluth sophomore defenseman participated in the Wild’s eight-day development camp, which concluded Monday with a scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center.

“Even though it’s just a practice jersey, it’s still an honor to put that on,” the 6-foot-5, 200-pounder from Irma, Alberta, said Thursday. “Hopefully, I can keep putting it on for many years to come.”

Soucy became the first UMD player drafted by the Wild when he was chosen in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft. He was joined at the camp by teammate Alex Iafallo, who is undrafted. Despite hailing from Eden, N.Y., and growing up a Buffalo Sabres fan, Iafallo says he was proud to represent the Wild for a week.

“I loved it; it was practically a dream come true,” the sophomore forward said by cell phone from Buffalo, N.Y., where the undrafted left winger went to camp with the Sabres a year ago. “I’ve lived in Minnesota for almost three years now and watched them on TV all the time, so it was cool to be there, put on the jersey and play in front of some fans.”

Both players said it was a great learning experience.

“It was really eye-opening in the practices and games. I learned a lot,” said Iafallo, who was UMD’s second-highest scoring freshman with 22 points in the 2013-14 season. “Seeing everybody’s different style and how your game fits into different systems and to just see how close you can be to the next level is pretty cool.”

Soucy says his fitness level was better this year than his first time in St. Paul last summer and he feels he impressed the Wild enough with his play that they took note.

“I felt really good going in my second year — I felt a lot more confident,” he said. “I had a better overall camp and my fitness was better.

“(Wild officials) said in the (post-camp) interviews to keep working on my strength and keep working on my speed and I might have a chance to play in the future.”

Several other UMD players participated in camps around the league, including junior center Tony Cameranesi and sophomore center Dominic Toninato with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Toninato, who was the first Minnesota high school player selected in the 2012 NHL draft when Toronto took him in the fifth round, enjoyed his third year at the Leafs’ weeklong camp.

“It went great, another good learning experience,” the Duluth East graduate said. “It was good exposure and a measuring stick of where you’re at playing against those major junior and overseas guys. You don’t get to see that during the year.”

Toninato, who had seven goals and eight assists as a UMD freshman, says he’s grown more emotionally mature as well as physically bigger and stronger since he first debuted in Toronto in 2012.

“I know what to expect when it comes to these camps,” he said. “I’m almost a veteran now.”

It’s the fourth time at Toronto’s camp for Cameranesi, whose 21 points a season ago ranked fifth on the team.

“It was a very informative week, you get to learn a lot from the scouts and the coaches,” said Cameranesi, a 2011 fifth-round Maple Leafs draft pick from Plymouth, Minn.

Perhaps the biggest piece of new information learned, Cameranesi said, came off the ice such as learning tips about eating quick and easy, nutritionally sound meals at home.

  • Junior defenseman Andy Welinski (Anaheim), sophomore defenseman Brenden Koytk (Chicago) and freshman forward Karson Kuhlman (Winnipeg) also participated in their designated camps, while former Bulldogs Joe Basaraba (Florida) and Caleb Herbert (Washington) did likewise.

Among recent high school graduates, Grand Rapids’ Avery Peterson was another Wild attendee. The 2013 draft pick is headed to National Collegiate Hockey Conference rival Nebraska-Omaha, but for at least one week he had a couple UMD teammates.

“He’s quick and has a good shot, that’s a big part of his game,” Iafallo said. “Even off the ice he worked really hard and it was nice to get to know him throughout the week.”