ST. PAUL — In some ways, not much has changed for Jack Sadek since his final season as a Minnesota Gopher came to an abrupt end in March.
He still lives near the U of M campus, he plays golf every chance he gets, and he works out on the ice with Gophers teammates Tyler Sheehy and Mat Robson. But these days the venue is most often TRIA Rink, the Minnesota Wild’s downtown St. Paul practice facility. And every few weeks, he gets a paycheck for his efforts.
“It’s definitely higher stakes now that I’m not going back to college,” Sadek said last week during a break in the action from the Wild Development Camp. “I’ve got to show them what I’ve got here and at main camp.”
This is not new territory for Sadek, a sizable defenseman from Lakeville, who was skating in his fifth Wild Development Camp. He was drafted by the team in 2015 out of Lakeville North High School, and got an eye-opening experience on the ice with the future professionals that summer.
“It was at the Xcel (Energy Center) my first year. It seemed longer, and guys were a lot bigger,” Sadek recalled. “I was coming out of high school and I was like 6-2, 180, just a stringbean and there were guys 6-4, 220, just throwing me around. I’ve definitely gained a little muscle since then, and some poise.”
As a senior at the U of M, he played in all 38 games, recording career highs in goals (4) and assists (14). Sadek was headed to Iowa and the Wild’s top farm team just a few days after the Gophers lost in overtime at Notre Dame in the Big Ten playoffs, and ended up in playing in two ECHL games. It was a gritty welcome to the professional game.
“They were battling for a playoff spot in Iowa, so I wasn’t going to get a lot of playing time, but the (ECHL) team still had some games left, so they sent me down to Allen, Texas, just outside of Dallas,” Sadek said. “It was pretty nice down there, but pretty chippy because it was the last two games of the season and both teams were out of the playoffs. Definitely way different than college hockey. A lot of fights, a lot of this and that, but it was good to get a few pro games under my belt.”
Sadek, 22, joked that his quintet of development camp trips is a world record, and he’s the guide that all of the newbie go to for advice.
“He’s funny and he’s personable, so he gets along with everyone. We kind of give it to him a little bit for fun about being a fifth-year vet,” said Robson, who played parts of two seasons in goal with Sadek for the Gophers. “He’s been here and he knows the ropes, so a lot of guys look to him to follow.”
In reality, Sadek is still well short of even the Wild’s team record for development camp appearances.
“Not even close. We actually had another guy who came to seven,” said Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s director of development, and a former college defenseman at North Dakota. “I won’t mention the name, but this is nothing for him. I’ll have to get (Sadek) here two more times.”
Both Bombardir and Sadek said that the 2019 camp felt different, knowing this is a real job now, and the blueliner will be headed likely to the ECHL or AHL in the fall, not back to college hockey.
“He’s come in more focused this year. Out on the ice he’s more focused on doing the drills the right way and defending and making sure he has better tactics on one-on-ones. He’s more focused because this is his life,” Bombardir said. “He’s played a great role and turned himself into a good defender and a shutdown player, playing against the opponent’s top lines. He knows his game and he’s comfortable with it.”
Sadek would be happy, and somewhat comfortable, landing a spot with the Iowa Wild. While he said he will always be a “U of M guy” through and through, there’s some family history one state south of Minnesota. Jack’s father, Brett, threw 10 touchdown passes as a quarterback at Iowa State in 1986 and 1987.
“We’re still a Minnesota family, but he did three years there, so I guess you could say we’ve got a little Iowa in us,” Jack said with a smile.