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Charlie Coyle: Wild's young veterean

ST. PAUL--It's hard to believe that, at 24 years old, Charlie Coyle is already considered a veteran for the Wild. He looked the part on the opening day of training camp simply by the way he carried himself.

Apr 16, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) skates against the Dallas Stars in game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Wild 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) skates against the Dallas Stars in game two of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Wild 2-1. (Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports)

ST. PAUL-It's hard to believe that, at 24 years old, Charlie Coyle is already considered a veteran for the Wild. He looked the part on the opening day of training camp simply by the way he carried himself.

His voice echoed throughout the Xcel Energy Center on Friday morning, with the players struggling through the final stages of Bruce Boudreau's hellacious conditioning test that featured players sprinting four-plus lengths of the ice sheet in back-to-back-to-back fashion.

Coyle won every sprint, and before his last rep, still trying to catch his breath, screamed words of encouragement to his teammates, some much older than him. He's a leader on this team regardless of his age.

That role as a veteran was exacerbated by the fact that veterans like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Mikko Koivu weren't present Friday, as they rest up following the World Cup of Hockey.

Still, Coyle isn't running from the fact that he needs to step up in his game this season.

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"We know we aren't considered young anymore," he said of entering Year 5 with the Wild. "These guys I came into the league with, it's our fourth or fifth year in the league. We understand that."

Coyle was sixth on the team in scoring last season, recording 21 goals and 21 assists, spending most of his time on the team's top line. Those numbers, which seem respectable on the surface, were overshadowed by the fact that he disappeared for prolonged stretches.

After starting last season on a high note with four goals in 11 games in October, he went into a tailspin, netting five goals across 25 games in November and December. In that stretch, he had two separate streaks - an eight-game stretch in November and a nine-gamer in December - in which he failed to find the back of the net.

So what happened?

"I don't know," Boudreau said. "I've never coached him. I know he went stretches without goals. I never saw those games (as his coach), so I don't know what happened."

Coyle figures to flank Eric Staal and play opposite Parise on the team's top line this season. He knows he can't afford a stretch like that this time.

"We have to realize, when that stuff starts to creep in, we need to fix it faster," Coyle said. "In previous years, we let it creep in, and by that time the problem is too big. We have to notice those problems right away and fix them before they get bigger."

Boudreau skirted around the question when asked about Coyle's importance this season, though it's clear the coach has high expectations for him.

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"I think Charlie is going to be a very good player on this team," Boudreau said. "I think he's growing as far as maturing and hasn't found - so far we haven't seen the peak of him. I think he'll be better, and when he's better, he makes everyone better."

Coyle, whose 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame seemed to glide around the ice Friday, is focused on reaching that peak this season - starting in training camp.

"You going in with a mindset of earning that spot," he said. "You can never be complacent. There are always new guys coming in trying to take that spot. That's how we have to go in it. You never know how the coach is going to run things. You have to focus and work on what's asked and play well. That's really it. It's about ... being a sponge and taking everything in."

Coyle and his best friend on the team, Jason Zucker, worked out together during the offseason, knowing it was an important year for both of them.

"He obviously had a great year last year and the hardest thing to do in this league is to have another year even better," Zucker said. " That's where he has to push towards. I'm confident he can get there."

Coyle, who walks around with a little more swagger with yet another season under his belt, is equally confident in himself.

"That's what I've put in my mind over the summer," he said. "You obviously want to be better each season. I took a lot of responsibility in that, a lot of pressure in that. It's about each day being a pro. I'm getting the hang of that.

"You kind of get something new every year by watching other guys and how they go about their business," Coyle added. "I'm focused on being consistent in everything I do and hopefully it'll transfer over to the season."

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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