Earlier today the Minnesota Wild signed 22 year old Notre Dame forward Mario Lucia to a two-year Entry Level Contract. The son of University of Minnesota Coach/Legend/Tournament-Not-Maker Don Lucia, he went to forge his own path at the University of Notre Dame, where he did a fine job making a name of his own. Lucia had 12 goals and 24 points in 37 games this season and totaled 110 points in 151 games in his four year career at Notre Dame.
Lucia also was alternate captain this season and lead the team in power-play goals. He was tied for 2nd in goals and tied for 5th in scoring in 2015-16. He will be on an ATO to finish out the season with the Iowa Wild before his contract begins next year.
Lucia's stats were never exactly eye-popping at Notre Dame (the most points he's had in any season was 31), but Notre Dame has been a team that's had very little in the way of star-power, often being more known for defense than offense. With that context in mind, it's worth noting that Lucia was often near the top of Notre Dame's scoring leaders.
Also potentially of concern might be Lucia's decrease in goal-scoring, which fell to 12 from 21 last season. That may not be quite as bad as it seems, however, as Lucia actually took more shots this year than he did the season before. The major difference is that Lucia's shooting% fell all the way from 21% to 11%. It's probably safe to say that his actual skill level is somewhere in between those two seasons.
The Wild selected Lucia in the 2011 NHL Draft, after they traded a third and fourth-round pick to Vancouver to move into the 59th pick. Given that Lucia stayed for his senior season, he would've had the option to become a free agent and sign with any team he wished (much like Mike Reilly did last summer). But it didn't seem that he ever seriously considered that route, signing with Minnesota without any hesitation after his college career ended. In an interview last year with Adam Stafki of Along the Boards, Lucia seemed as if his intent was always to play for Minnesota.
I grew up a Wild fan. Being drafted by your hometown team... every kid dreams about that. Every kid dreams about being drafted in the NHL, but having the opportunity to be drafted by your hometown team is something really special. Growing up with the wins against Colorado when they upset them, and the losses against Chicago last year, I feel like [I] have an emotional tie to the team.
He fits in pretty well with the Wild's plans. Lucia's got that combination of size and scoring touch that the Wild have been trying to add to their team for years, and he seems to enjoy the Avalanche losing. You couldn't ask for a better match than Lucia and the Wild!
In all likelihood, Lucia will start in the AHL next year. The talent-starved Iowa Wild will definitely welcome a player of Lucia's caliber, as they've been extremely weak at forward since moving up from Houston. How long he stays in Des Moines is another question. If he continues developing his game and gets to the scoring areas in the AHL, he could be taking the trip up I-35 sooner than we expect.