Bruins alum Folin makes Wild opening night roster
October 7, 2014
Stories from Chad Graff and Rocky Hulne
Former Austin Bruins and North American Hockey League (NAHL) defenseman Christian Folin has made the final cut with the NHL's Minnesota Wild for the 2014-15 hockey season.
The team picked its final roster on Monday and Folin is on the team. The pressure of making the roster is off for Folin now, but he isn’t about to relax. “It took a lot of work to get here and it feels great,” Folin told the Herald Monday. “But the real work starts now. It’s not about just making the roster. I want to become a solid NHL defenseman.”
It was thought that Folin was competing with fellow rookie defenseman Matt Dumba for a spot on the team, but both of them made the squad. Veterans Keith Ballard and Nate Prosser were also among the eight players kept on the blue line.
Folin was playing with Dumba in the same line in the last few preseason games. “I think we both had pretty good camps and we’ve playing together,” Folin said. “I hope that continues.”
Folin, a 23-year old from Gothenburg, Sweden, played in one game for the Wild at the end of last season, and he had one assist. He spent two seasons at UMass-Lowell, where he compiled 41 points in 79 games and played in the Frozen Four.
Folin had two seasons with the Austin Bruins, where he played in 87 games and had 41 points. He also played in the 2012 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. What makes it all the more remarkable is that in just two and half years, Folin went from playing in the Top Prospects Tournament to earning a spot on Minnesota’s opening night roster in the NHL.
Folin was back in Riverside Arena to watch the Austin Bruins play Friday, and he got a chance to pay a visit to former Bruins’ head coach Chris Tok and his wife, Melissa. “It was great to go back and watch the game,” Folin said. “It was good to get a nice home cooked meal from Melissa.”
Tok might know Folin as well anyone outside his family. Folin calls Chris, Chris' wife Melissa and their 11-year-old son Easton his second family.
Folin’s strange journey started when Tok met Folin at a gas station in Fargo, N.D. in late 2010 as the Bruins were on the way to a road trip to Bismarck.
Folin had been in America for a few months. He showed up at the gas station with his hockey bag and all of his possessions crammed into a suitcase.
"He was pretty easy to find," Tok said with a laugh. "There weren't too many 6-foot-3 blond guys with hockey bags standing there."
The upstart Bruins didn't have a housing system well established, so Folin moved in with Tok and slept in his basement. He shoveled the driveway and took out the trash. But he didn't want to get too attached to the family at first. "He didn't want to be labeled as the coach's pet," Tok said.
Quickly, though, Folin established himself as one of the team's best players. Still, the Division I college offers were slow to come in after Bemidji State pulled its offer.
Tok, a former Michigan Tech assistant, couldn't figure it out. He called his coaching friends across the NCAA, begging one of them to make an offer to Folin.
"I told so many of them that if this kid can't play Division I hockey, then I will quit coaching," Tok said. "I will retire and go do something else because he is that good."
Folin received two Division I offers and went to UMass Lowell in 2012. By Folin's sophomore season, in the spring of last season, he was the most-heralded college free agent and had drawn interest from every NHL team.
Last spring, he signed a deal with the Wild that will make him a free agent at the end of this season. But that's a long way off. For now, Folin is focused on making the Wild's season-opening roster.
"It's starting to sink in that I'm actually here, and I'm really enjoying it," Folin said. "A lot of times in the summer, it was like a little bit of a dream because you can't really believe that you're in the NHL.
The Wild play their opener Thursday when they host Colorado at XCel Energy Center at 8:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.