By Dane Mizutani of the St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — Not long after the puck squirted past him in overtime in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament last weekend, Gophers goaltender Mat Robson sat quietly in the locker room, perhaps realizing to himself that it was the last time.
As a highly coveted collegiate free agent, Robson has been courted by NHL teams all season, trying his best to keep all that talk on the back burner.
Robson, 22, signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Wild on Monday, March 18, signaling the end of his collegiate career and the start of his professional career.
“It was definitely a quick turnaround flying home from Notre Dame and it was obviously kind of an emotional 48 hours there saying goodbye to a lot of good friends,” Robson said. “We got right down to work first thing on Monday, and it’s kind of been a whirlwind ever since. I guess things are starting to settle down a lot. My phone hasn’t stopped buzzing quite yet.”
Robson was 14-12-4 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 31 games during his junior season with the Gophers. He had thoughts of coming back to school for his senior season before deciding against it.
“We’ve been kind of going back and forth all year just trying to think what’s going to be best for my growth and my development at this stage in my life,” Robson said. “I would’ve loved to be able to go back. It was time to move on and take another step and challenge myself.”
Robson was drawn to the Wild particularly because of their level of interest in him. He felt like they were willing to invest in his future, a thought that started after he attended development camp last summer.
As for what the rest of this season looks like, Robson will practice with the Wild on a regular basis, familiarizing himself with the NHL-caliber shooters, as well as the NHL lifestyle.
“Just try to learn and take in as much as I can over the next month and hopefully a lot longer as we gear up for a run in the playoffs,” Robson said. “I’m just looking forward to learning and taking it all in. This is every kid’s dream. I’m just lucky to be able to realize it right now.”