By Ryan McCracken on September 8, 2018.
If all goes according to plan, Mason Shaw will start his season as a professional hockey player.
The Medicine Hat Tigers centre signed a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild over the off-season and says all signs are pointing to a place with the American HockeyLeague’s Iowa Wild when the puck drops in October.
“Just from the talks I’ve had with them, it sounds like that’s what it’s going to be, it sounds like I’m going to be playing hockey south of the border this year,” said Shaw. “That’s definitely something I’m looking forward to and I hope it remains that way.”
Shaw hasn’t suited up with the Tigers since Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinal against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The 19-year-old Wainwright product went on to get drafted by Minnesota, but tore his ACL during a prospects tournament with the team last September — signalling an early end to his season, and potentially his WHL career. But true to his character, the hard-nosed farm boy worked tooth-and-nail to rehabilitate his injured knee, and the Wild rewarded that work ethic with a contract in April.
“They definitely have a strong belief in me and it was nice that they were able to understand the situation I was put in,” said Shaw, who logged 27 goals and 67 assists with the Tigers in 2016-17. “It definitely wasn’t one I wanted to be in, but there are ups and downs with every situation and I just tried to make the most of it.”
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound playmaker immediately hopped on a flight to Iowa and joined up with the Wild at the tail of end of the regular season — making it back onto the ice for one game after being held out of competition for six months.
While the experience was brief, Shaw says it allowed him to prove both to himself and his big league club that he was in form, while giving him some important insight into what it takes to thrive at a professional level.
“Even though I wasn’t probably in the best playing condition I’ve been in before, I was able to keep up and play at a pace I know I can get to,” he said. “It kind of gave me a taste of what it takes to be a pro and I took that into my summer training. I tried to make the most of it.”
Shaw added the experience in Iowa, coupled with the security of a signed entry-level contract, has given him a boost in confidence and a significant change in perspective entering training camp with the Wild this season.
“I think last year I just came here and tried to do my best and make a positive impression,” said Shaw. “This time around, there’s a couple of us who just signed contracts this past year and want to push for jobs. The more we get to skate with these guys and realize it’s not as far away, the more the dream kind of gets closer to reality.”
While he was in line to be the Tigers’ captain before suffering the torn ACL last season, and his future is still technically up in the air, Shaw says he was in no way surprised to see fellow centre James Hamblin earn the honourthis season.
“James is a great leader on and off the ice. He’s definitely suitable for the job and I know Jimmy will do great with that,” he said. “I’m definitely keeping close tabs with all the guys back there and I’m wishing them the best this year. I guess we’ll see what happens with myself, but for now, James is going to do a great job with the C.”
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