Pro hockey: Wild’s Anas shows size doesn’t matter
ST. PAUL — Minnesota Wild forward Sam Anas has no problem admitting that last season was a struggle for him — at least early on.
As a rookie with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, the 24-year-old Anas had a tough time adjusting to the professional level. His size, or lack thereof, played the biggest role, as the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Anas quickly realized that some of the things that worked when he was a star at Quinnipiac University wouldn’t fly at the next level.
Anas said “creating space” was particularly challenging, though he started to figure it out, ultimately finishing with 12 goals and 16 assists in 66 games.
“At any level experience always helps,” Anas said. “As the season went along I felt more and more comfortable.”
Iowa Wild coach Derek Lalonde noted that for much of the season Anas was simply trying to “survive” whenever he was out there.
“It was a huge jump from where he was at in college,” Lalonde said. “His offensive skills probably took a little bit of a backseat early on. That said, he got more and more confident as the season progressed.”
And he has carried that confidence into this week’s annual Minnesota Wild development camp.
After three days of training, the 40-plus Wild prospects finally got a chance to compete in a scrimmage at the Xcel Energy Center, and Anas led the way with a pair of goals as Team Green earned a 5-3 victory over Team White.
“That first goal was on a penalty shot, so it was kind of a lucky break there,” Anas explained with a smile. “The second goal was thanks to a great pass from my linemate Avery Peterson. I was happier — and probably Coach Lalonde was happier — with how the play started. We had a good shift (in the defensive zone) and it led to a turnover and that led to the goal.”
Anas said he has tried to step into a leadership role at this year’s development camp, even though it’s only his second year in attendance.
“I’m the only guy here that played last season fully as a pro,” he said. “It’s something where I like being a leader, and I’ve assumed the role.”
As for what’s next in his progression, Anas has an outside chance of making the NHL roster for the 2017-18 season, as the Wild still have some holes in their lineup after losing a handful of players this offseason.
“That’s always the goal,” Anas said. “I don’t necessarily look at it as a long-term goal. I’m trying to take it day by day whether it’s working hard in the gym or working hard in practice. I think if I accomplish the day-to-day goals, the long-term goals will come.”
It helps his confidence even more that general manager Chuck Fletcher has mentioned him as a player he expects to compete for a roster spot.
“That always fuels the fire,” Anas said. “Not having as good of a year as I would’ve liked last year, I think it’s good to know they still have some confidence in me. I look forward to proving them right.”