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Wild prospect Luke Kunin still not cleared for contact

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 — Wild prospect Luke Kunin still hasn't been cleared for contact more than six months after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a March 4 game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Kunin, 20, was on the ice for the first day of training camp on Friday afternoon but limited in what he was actually allowed to do. He participated in a handful of drills at the start but was withheld from drills that featured more contact.

"It was good to be out there with all the guys," Kunin said. "As an organization, we are being smart about this. Not too much contact right now, which can be a little frustrating. We are thinking long-term. I felt good. It was fun to be out there."

Kunin will see doctors again in early October, when he hopes to be cleared for contact. In the meantime, it's a day-to-day grind as Kunin works his way back to 100 percent.

"I've done everything I could," he said. "I know the science is the science; you can't rush how that works."

Still, it's clear Kunin is frustrated. He spoke at length about his offseason, which featured physical therapy on top of an already busy workout schedule. He started skating about four months after the injury, adding that it was probably the longest he'd ever been off the ice.

"You've got to be even keeled," he said. "There's going to be good days, there's going to be bad days. Just handle it the right way. That's what I've been doing. It is tough. You've got to think big picture and that's what I'm doing."

If it were up to Kunin, he'd be playing right now, but it's not, and the first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft understands that.

"That's just how I think I'm wired," Kunin said. "There's the timeline for a reason. I feel like mentally, physically, I could sustain some hits and the physical part right now. It's smart to be on the safe side with an injury like this. I'm thinking for a long-term career."

As for his chances of making the active roster out of training camp, Kunin is trying not to think about that at this point. He knows he's probably a long shot considering everyone else is training fully.

"I want to be here," Kunin said, downplaying the idea of starting in the minors. "This is where I want to be. I think I belong. I understand the process. Whatever that may be, the organization will make that decision."

"You can't rush it," he added. "We are doing all the right things. I feel good. Just can't wait to go for real."

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