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After knee surgery, Wild prospect Kunin eager to reclaim momentum

Minnesota Wild forward Luke Kunin (19) waits for the faceoff in the second period during a game against the Detroit Red Wings last season. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL—It's not hard to spot the aftermath of the injury that ended Luke Kunin's 2017-18 season.

As he gingerly stepped out of an Alumacraft fishing boat on Saturday afternoon, July 16, a gnarly scar on his left knee told the horror story of the the past five months for the Wild's 20-year-old top prospect.

A first-round pick by in the 2016 NHL draft, Kunin suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a March 4 game against the Detroit Red Wings.

"I remember the play," said Kunin, who spoke to reporters at the second annual Wild On The Water on Lake Mille Lacs over the weekend. "There was nothing crazy about it. It was one of those one-in-a-million plays. Just felt my knee pop."

Although the injury itself was diagnosed immediately, Kunin had to wait for the swelling to go down before having surgery. That took about a month, and on April 3, he finally went under the knife. He started to rehab the injury about two weeks after that.

"I'm feeling good," Kunin said. "I've been able to get into my strength training as I would've if I wasn't hurt, so that's been nice. As far as the injury is concerned, the doctors are really happy with how everything has been going so far."

Kunin said the hardest thing about the injury was the timing. He was a mainstay on the NHL roster at that point last season and was going to be given the opportunity to be an impact player in the postseason.

"It's never easy missing out on that," he said. "That said, I'm going to have ups and downs in my career, and I think the mental side is a big part of the game. You've got to be strong mentally, and I think the way I handled it was good. I'm hungry to get back and help contribute. That's my goal right now."

With advancements in medicine, it's possible Kunin could come back even stronger next season. That said, he still hasn't laced up the skates yet, something he's hoping to do for the first time this week.

"I'm not going to put a timeline on it or anything like that," Kunin said. "Obviously, I would love to be ready by training camp. That's my goal. I want to play.

"That said, at the end of the day, it's up to the doctors and what they say as far as how it's going. It's one of those things that I know I can't rush. Just trying to stick with it and trust the process."