The Minnesota Wild signed Justin Fontaine as a college free agent from the University of Minnesota-Duluth to boost its stagnant prospect pool.
Since, the 25-year-old right wing has just been one of the best offensive players in the organization.
He finished second on the Houston Aeros in scoring with 55 points as a rookie and backed that up by leading the team with 56 points last season.
Fontaine has played in the Xcel Energy Center with the Aeros, but until he is wearing a Wild sweater in the building the memories will be from his college days. His last game as a collegian came at the Xcel Energy Center in the Bulldogs’ national championship run.
“It’s definitely a building I’m going to remember and love playing in,” he said when he signed with the Wild in 2010.
Prior to winning the title, Fontaine attended the Wild’s development camp and could have signed that summer, but chose to return to Duluth.
“I had a great time (that) summer, getting to know a little bit about their program,” Fontaine said when he signed with the Wild. “I’m ready and happy to be a part of the organization. I’ve wanted to go there since (then). I had a great time and met a lot of great people.”
Now that his two-year entry-level contract is up, General Manager Chuck Fletcher has a decision to make on the skilled forward. Is he a part of the Wild’s future or not?
Fletcher may already have made a decision, because Fontaine displays the characteristics Fletcher described when he signed with Wild two years ago.
“Hockey sense, skill, work ethic, a winner, Justin’s got all the attributes we’re trying to add to our club,” Fletcher said.
Here is a profile of Justin Fontaine.
Number – 37; Height – 5-10; Weight – 160; Hometown – Bonnyville, Alberta; 2011-12 Salary – $550,000. Qualifying Offer – $605,000.
2012-13 Statistics: 64 games played, 23 goals, 33 assists, plus-10 rating, 18 penalty minutes, 147 shots on goal
2012-13 Playoff Statistics: 5 games played, 3 goals, 5 assists, minus-1 rating, 4 penalty minutes, 17 shots on goal
Outlook: I do not see a situation in which the Wild do not make him a qualifying offer. Right now he is probably the best offensive player the Wild have in the AHL and would be a great addition if an injury occurs to a scorer. In the near future, he could be a very offensive regular in the Wild’s lineup. Letting him go would be a mistake, but so would keeping him in the AHL the entire 2013-14 season.