Minnesota Wild rookie James Sheppard is only 19-years-old. Most 19-year-old players would still be down in the juniors for three or four years, but an injury to Mikko Koivu and the departure of Wes Walz from the team has forced Sheppard into the spotlight. He has done admirably, but doesn’t appear completely ready to step into a large role. He scored his first point in 16 games in Saturday’s loss to the Nashville Predators.
Minnesota Wild general manager Doug Risebrough wishes he could sit Sheppard out a few more games. John Shipley of the Pioneer Press reports that the Wild were planning on playing James Sheppard in 40 to 60 games this season, and Sheppard will play his 41st against the Detroit Red Wings with almost half the season to play. Thankfully, Koivu is coming back from injury in the Detroit game, giving the Wild the option to rest or demote young James Sheppard. Many Wild fans probably would see this as a plus for James Sheppard rather than a demotion. Sheppard has put forth a good effort and seen some good NHL time, but development can happen even more rapidly if he spends some time dominating in the juniors.