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Wild rookie Calen Addison pushing for permanent spot in NHL lineup

21-year-old defenseman scored the first goal of his NHL career thanks to a body in front of the net. He was happy to get it in.

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Minnesota Wild defenseman Calen Addison celebrates with teammates after scoring his first NHL goal against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in the first period at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. David Berding / USA Today Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild rookie Calen Addison uncorked a shot from the blue line during Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators at Xcel Energy Center that left everyone with a smile on their face.

The puck caromed off a body in front, floated in the air for a few seconds and then finally landed behind Senators goaltender Filip Gustavsson.

That’s how the 21-year-old defenseman scored the first goal of his NHL career. Exactly the way he planned it, right?

“At the end of the day, they don’t ask how, and quite honestly, I don’t care,” Addison said with a laugh after the game. “That was something I’ll never forget, for sure.”

While the first goal of his NHL career was always going to be meaningful whenever it happened, the fact that Addison achieved the milestone moment on Hockey Fights Cancer Night was the cherry on top. His grandpa, Alec, died of the disease exactly seven years earlier.

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“It’s kind of crazy,” Addison said. “To get my first goal on that night is pretty special. That one’s for him, for sure.”

As soon as Addison’s name bellowed over the loud speakers, veteran defenseman Dmitry Kulikov patted him on the head, while captain Jared Spurgeon nudged him a few times on the arm. It was a heartwarming moment, to say the least, and Addison couldn’t help but crack a smile on the bench.

That was the start of a terrific game for Addison. He looked extremely comfortable playing alongside veteran defenseman Jon Merrill, effortlessly flashing the offensive skill set that makes him a top-tier prospect in the organization.

Asked about Addison earlier this week, coach Dean Evason lauded how he creates offense on the backend.

“He’s definitely not afraid of the situation,” Evason said. “He played for us in the playoffs (last season), right? He shouldn’t be. We just want him to keep staying with that aggressive mentality to help us have success.”

It’s unclear where Addison will fall in the pecking order whenever top-pair defenseman Alex Goligoski returns from his upper-body injury. That said, it could be tough to take Addison out of the lineup with the way he has been playing.

Some options include scratching Merrill despite his solid play, possibly placing extra defenseman Jordie Benn on waivers to create some additional playing time, or sending Addison back to the minors for more seasoning.

“It’s going to be tough,” Evason said in reference to Addison. “He conducted himself extremely well. He’s such a calm person and a calm player. He handles the puck well and doesn’t panic on the back end. And he gives us an offensive flair.”

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Addison says he’s not worried about any of that. He’s trying his best not to get too far ahead of himself.

“Just try and take it one day at a time and do the best I can and help the team win,” he said. “I’m happy with how I’m playing. I’m just trying to keep going, and like I said, try to get two points every night.”

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Minnesota Wild defenseman Calen Addison shoots the puck in a preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 7, 2021, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. David Berding / USA Today Sports
USA TODAY Sports

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