Lower Sackville’s James Sheppard is under the microscope as the Minnesota Wild enter their off-season.
The 21-year-old former ninth overall pick of the Wild just completed his third NHL season and has struggled to find a regular spot in the lineup, producing just 11 goals and 38 assists in 224 career games.
His three-year entry-level contract is expiring, meaning the Wild need to qualify him with a one-year, two-way, $841,500 deal, or let him become an unrestricted free agent.
“At this point, I don’t see why we wouldn’t qualify him,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “He’s still a young player. It’s too early to get into what we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do. There’s a lot of time.”
The prevailing view in Minnesota is that Sheppard would benefit some seasoning in the minors. But because he played 160 or more games in his first two NHL seasons — he actually played 160, exactly — the Wild had to put him on waivers to send him down and weren’t willing to risk losing him to do so.
Sheppard is the second highest drafted Nova Scotia born and developed player of all-time after Cole Harbour’s Sidney Crosby, who went No. 1 overall in 2005.