Wild defenseman Brad Hunt arrived at the Xcel Energy Center on Friday afternoon and found out he’d be making his season debut against the San Jose Sharks a couple of hours later. At a different position than he usually plays.
Not a problem. Filling in for Nico Sturm at the bottom on the lineup, Hunt played alongside Victor Rask and opposite Ryan Hartman, bringing a palpable sense of energy despite playing out of position.
“I’ve done it before and felt comfortable,” said Hunt, who credited Rask and Hartman for making things easy for him. “It was good. It’s fun to get in there and play.”
That’s something Hunt hasn’t done a lot of this season. He has been the odd man out on the blue line, initially behind Greg Pateryn on the depth chart at the start of the season, and currently behind Ian Cole, who arrived via trade last week.
All the while Hunt has remained a good teammate. He has never complained about his role on the team, his demeanor unchanged whether he has played 10 games in a row or been scratched 10 games in a row.
“I think that’s important,” Hunt said. “Somebody has to be in this position. It’s not that it’s always the funnest to be in this position. At the end of the day, I’ve got to be here for my teammates, and be positive. We are in the NHL, playing the game that we love. It’s not easy all the time. But I feel like when I’m at the rink, no matter what, I’ve got to have a positive attitude.”
That answer exemplifies why Hunt is so beloved by his teammates.
There are a lot of players in the NHL that would voice their displeasure if they were in Hunt’s position. Add in the fact that the Wild essentially traded for Hunt’s replacement without giving him the opportunity to fill the role himself and it’s pretty remarkable that he has kept his cool.
“I understand my role,” Hunt said. “That’s part of the business. I’ve just got to do my job and be a good teammate, and prepare to play whenever I need to.”
Or wherever he needs to.
“I think I played forward in peewee or bantam, I can’t quite remember,” Hunt said. “That’s why I’ve kind of hung around for a little while here in the NHL. Because I can play both positions. And it’s not that I’m excellent at either. I just want to be a guy that they can throw in and feel comfortable with whatever they need.”
According to coach Dean Evason, goaltender Cam Talbot is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and winger Nico Sturm is day-to-day with an illness. Neither player was available for the game against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night.