ST. PAUL - After a couple of months away from the rink, the Minnesota Wild will get back to work this week when more than 40 players descend upon Xcel Energy Center for development camp.
It runs Tuesday, July 10, to the following Sunday, and while it's unlikely any of these players will contribute at the NHL level next season, it's a good chance for them to leave a lasting impression.
Top prospects like Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin have opted not to participate, but there still are some intriguing players to watch with names such as Louie Belpedio and the high-scoring Dmitry Sokolov on the roster. All eight players selected in the June draft will be there, as well: Filip Johansson (first round), Jack McBain (third round), Alexander Khovanov (third round), Connor Dewar (third round), Simon Johansson (fifth round), Damien Giroux (fifth round), Shawn Boudrias (sixth round) and Sam Hentges (seventh round).
Here are five players to keep an eye on:
Louis Belpedio, defenseman
As the only player at development camp with any sort of NHL experience under his belt - albeit one game - the 22-year-old will likely bring confidence when he takes the ice on Tuesday afternoon. He signed an entry-level contract toward the end of last season, and made his NHL debut with a two-assist game against the San Jose Sharks. Belpedio will likely start next season in Iowa, but could set himself up nicely for a potential call up by turning the right heads this week.
Dmitry Sokolov, winger
After selecting him in the seventh round of the 2016 NHL Draft, the Wild finall signed the Russian sniper to an entry-level contract in May. Now the focus shifts to whether Sokolov, 20, can actually make an impact after recording a career-high 96 points (50 goals, 46 assists) in 64 games last season in the Ontario Hockey League. He split time between the Sudbury Wolves and Barrie Colts, flashing his potential as an offensive force. It's no secret the Wild have long wished for a game-breaker on the front line.
Filip Johansson, defenseman
Let's just say there were some puzzled faces in the crowd when the Wild took Johansson in the first round of the 2018 draft. Heck, even the 18-year-old Johansson admitted he didn't expect to go in the first round. In a perfect world, he becomes the next Jonas Brodin, a reliable minutes-eater on the blue line who threatens to jump up into the play from time to time. While it will be at least a few seasons before anyone knows if Johansson will reach that level, this will be his chance to make a good first impression.
Kaapo Kahkonen, goaltender
After being taken in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Kahkonen, 21, finally signed an entry-level contract this offseason. That came after posting a 20-23-12 record, 2.20 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 56 games for Lukko Rauma in the Finnish Elite League. Kahkonen will start next season in the American Hockey League and likely share time with the loser of the upcoming Alex Stalock-Andrew Hammond training camp battle. After playing overseas his entire career, he would do well to make a good first impression at development camp.
Tyler Sheehy, center
On the heels of a disappointing campaign as the Gophers' captain, the 22-year-old has a lot to prove. Sheehy scored 12 goals and 13 assists as a junior last season after putting up 20 goals and 33 assists as a sophomore. While he already has plans to finish school this season, this could be a chance for Sheehy to set himself up for life after college.