by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Nate Prosser, the former Elk who skated for the Minnesota Wild the past five seasons, is now a member of the St. Louis Blues.
The 28-year-old defenseman signed a one-year deal with the Blues on Monday, three weeks after the Wild elected to let him to go free agency when his two-year contract expired on July 1.
“It’s an exciting time. It took a few weeks, but we got it done and I’m happy to sign with the Blues,” Prosser told the Star News on Tuesday.
Prosser, signed by Wild at the end of the 2010 season just after his final game with Colorado College, played 126 games for the Wild, mostly in the last two seasons. This past season, he had two goals and six assists, with a plus-two rating in both 53 regular-season games and 10 playoff games.
“The Wild thought it would be best for me to see what I could get through free agency,” said Prosser, whose agent is Neil Sheehy, former NHL player from International Falls. “It was kind of a mutual agreement.”
Prosser saw brief action with the Wild right after signing in 2010, then played a handful of games with the NHL club the next two seasons, while spending most of his time with Houston, the Wild’s affiliate in the American Hockey League. He had a two-way contract then, meaning one pay level for the NHL and one for the AHL. The Wild gave him his first one-way contract in February of 2012, a two-year deal.
“It was always my dream to play with my home town team,” Prosser reflected, “and those were five great years that I will always cherish. I had a lot of good teammates and I will keep in touch with them. I got to play over 100 games with the Wild and gained valuable experience.”
His highlight with the Wild came this January when he scored two game-winning goals, one of them the same day Elk River hosted Hockey Day Minnesota. That led to a lengthy feature story by the Star-Tribune’s beat writer for the Wild, Michael Russo, about the scrawny kid from the Handke Pit who wound up in playing the NHL as a 6-foot-2, 203-pound defender.
Prosser, a 2004 ERHS graduate who left during his senior season to play in the USHL, was not drafted as a 19-year-old, but had a solid career at Colorado College and earned a shot with the Wild.
Russo blogged this item June 14: “The Wild likes Nate Prosser, but if you look at the depth chart, the role Prosser will continue to play here is an in and out defenseman. So Prosser is expected to test free agency in an attempt to become a regular elsewhere. If there’s not a job to his liking, the Wild may be interested in re-signing him next month (barring jobs being full).”
And this on July 15: “So stay tuned on all this. Hopefully everything works out for Prosser. One of the nicest players I have ever covered and my feature on him here was still one of my favorite stories I wrote last season.”
Prosser signed a two-way contract with the Blues, so he’ll have to make the team in training camp. He’s optimistic.
“I have played against them a lot and I like their style and their systems,” Prosser noted. “Their players seem to be working for each other and have a little bit of an edge, and I think I can bring that style to this team.”
St. Louis tied for the fourth-best record in the NHL regular-season in 2013-14 at 52-23-7 although they lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Blues are coached by Ken Hitchcock, who has a 603-382-171 record with five NHL teams.
Prosser will be the second former Elk to suit up for the Blues. Dan Hinote played his last three NHL seasons there after six with Colorado. They are two of four ERHS graduates to play in the NHL, along with Paul Martin, currently with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Joel Otto, who played for Calgary and Philadelphia.