Hockey: Woodbury's Menell seeks NHL contract
Woodbury resident Brennan Menell is an offensive-minded defenseman looking for his first professional contract.
The Minnesota Wild organization is searching for players to help fill its depth in the NHL and AHL rosters.
Could Menell help fill that need? Menell earned some exposure with the Minnesota Wild during the organization's developmental camp July 8-13 in St. Paul. During the final camp scrimmage on July 13, Menell often skated on the same defensive pairing as Carson Soucy, a former University of Minnesota-Duluth player who has an entry-level contract with the Wild.
Menell has earned an invitation from the Wild to play in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., in early September, where he should get more exposure with NHL teams.
"I got paired up with Soucy, and he's a great player," Menell said on July 13. "I got some good ice time out there, so I'm excited about that. I'm happy to come back in September, and hopefully get the same opportunity."
Menell is a 5-foot, 11-inch defenseman who weighs 172 pounds. But the strength of his game can be noticed in the offensive zone.
The 20-year-old tallied 71 points in 70 games last season with the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes, including 59 assists. He was second in the league in points scored among defenseman.
"I kind of pride myself on putting up offense," said Menell, who spends his offseasons living in Woodbury. "Over the past couple of years, I've seen some improvement. So I definitely would consider myself an offensive defenseman."
Derek Lalonde, head coach of the Iowa Wild, received a good look at Menell's skills during the Wild developmental camp. He spoke about those offensive abilities at the end of the developmental camp.
"Every invitee was here for a purpose, and that was another young man that was invited for a purpose," Lalonde said. "He made a great impression on us. He will get the opportunity to play in front of us and every other NHL team in Traverse."
Menell was a student at St. Thomas Academy before he left home to begin playing junior hockey. He played 15 games for the Omaha AAA Lancers 16U team of the NAPHL in 2012-13 before moving on to play with the Chicago Young Americans 16U team with the HPHL in 2013-14. He has played the past three years in the WHL.
"About when I was in 10th grade, I got the opportunity to play triple A and kind of move away from home and experience kind of the junior hockey lifestyle," Menell said. "When I got the opportunity, I took it, because I hopefully was thinking it was going to make me a better player, and I think I am better off for it."
Menell hopes he gains enough exposure over the next few months to earn an entry-level contract with an NHL team. But if he does not, he will return to the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes for one more season next year.
"I'm just kind of working, and even if it doesn't work out this year, I can still take whatever I learned and try to become a better player for next year," Menell said. "Hopefully I will get the same opportunity again."