We are 14 days away from the start of the NHL season. The scheduling of your Fantasy Hockey drafts have begun. The DraftKit is on sale and it is time to start previewing the 2016-17 NHL season.
I will be previewing two teams every day and each preview will consist of: Projected Line Combinations, a breakdown of each team’s top Fantasy assets, a look at their goaltending situation and 2016-17 NHL Standings projection.
If you don’t want to wait for the previews, buy our 2016-17 DraftKit—which has previews for every team as well as projections for over 300 players and goalies. You will get rankings and projections on here over the next few weeks, but why wait, when you can get it all right now for just $4.95?
Let’s take a look at the Minnesota Wild.
|Eric Staal – C – (from NYR)||Thomas Vanek – LW – (to DET)|
|Chris Stewart – RW – (from ANA)|
|Victor Bartley – D – (from MTL)|
|Alex Stalock – G – (from TOR)|
By: Michael Bondy (@)
The Minnesota Wild have made four straight playoff appearances after sneaking in as the final Wild Card in the Western Conference last season. They will look to break the trend of previous seasons as they have failed to make it out of the second round every year they’ve qualified for the playoffs. The Wild were quiet in the offseason making a minimal splash by picking up veteran centre and four-time All Star Eric Staal, while letting go of goal scoring winger Thomas Vanek. The Wild will yet again be expected to be a strong, but not overpowering force in the Central Division. With a roster led by the same familiar faces as years past, new head coach Bruce Boudreau is hoping he can bring the change that is needed to turn the Wild from their usual average self into a Conference front runner.
Minnesota native Zach Parise will yet again look to lead the Wild as he tries to forget about last season which saw him put up the worst numbers of his career in a year where he played 70-plus games. His 25 goals was still tops on the team, but were down from his 31-goal average from the previous two seasons. The 32-year-old winger comes into this year looking to prove to the doubters that his best years are not yet behind him and there is still a lot of gas left in the tank. The offseason addition of Staal should allow the veteran centre to crack the Wild’s top-6 and improve their 15th ranked power-play( 18.5 PP%) from 2015-16. Staal is also coming off a down year which saw him traded from the Carolina Hurricanes where he spent 11 successful seasons averaging 67.5 points per year; to the New York Rangers where he never truly seemed to find his groove—three goals and three assists in 20 games. Staal is hoping his newest change of scenery can get him back on track. The two veteran forwards are expected to be matched up with young right winger Charlie Coyle. The American-born winger is a skilled, big body presence who proved in 2015-16 he was ready to take the step forward by notching his first career 20-goal campaign. Look for Coyle to continue to improve on his those numbers as he’s done every year since joining the league making him a very intriguing breakout candidate in 2016-17. The Wild’s top-6 is expected to be rounded out by a familiar face in veteran centre Mikko Koivu who has played every one of his 763 career games in Minnesota. He will likely be paired with 24-year-old Mikael Granlund who will be looking to crack the 45-point plateau for the first time in his young career. Jason Zucker is expected to close out the top-6 after a season which saw him let down many who expected a breakout year from the talented young winger. The Wild’s deep ensemble of forwards also includes Jason Pominville, who is coming off of the worst year of his career. Breakout candidate Nino Niederreiter (20G / 23 A) as well as Erik Haula will look to once again make big impacts as they continue to shape into steady NHL players.
Much like Parise on forward, the Wild’s back end will be led yet again by Minnesota native, Ryan Suter. Averaging 41 points per year across his four seasons with the Wild, Suter will look to act as a mentor to the young exciting talents that surround him in Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin and the hard hitting Mathew Dumba. Both Brodin (23-Years-old) and Dumba (22) are expected to make huge strides forward making both pieces very important in what could become a lethal back end for the Wild. Spurgeon will yet again look to shut down top offensive units alongside Suter as he looks to add onto the 22:41 time-on-ice per game he averaged a season ago. The Wild’s defence has a lot of potential to become a top-end unit as the year goes on. Look for their blueline to have the biggest impact on determining whether the team can truly take the step forward into a top playoff contender.
Workhorse goaltender Devan Dubynk is back for his third year with the Wild. The 30-year-old’s first full season with Minnesota saw him put up a steady, but not amazing .918 save percentage (SV%) across 66 games. Due to Dubynk’s lack of competition from backup Darcy Kuemper, he should be a lock to crack 60-to-65 starts. This translates well for fantasy owners who will hope Dubynk can return closer to the form of his 2014-15 season, which saw him finish third in Vezina Trophy voting.
After four straight playoff appearances, Wild fans are coming to expect more than just a simple playoff berth. With a new coach, new first line centre, solid goaltending and a developing core, the Wild should yet again be a solid team with reasonably high-ceiling.
Wild in the DFO Top 275:
- 68. Devan Dubnyk – G
- 87. Zach Parise – LW
- 120. Ryan Suter – D
- 142. Eric Staal – C
- 153. Mikko Koivu – C
- 166. Jason Pominville – RW
- 184. Mathew Dumba – D
- 207. Mikael Granlund – C
- 208. Nino Niederreiter – RW
- 234. Charlie Coyle – RW
2016-17 Season Projection:
The Wild won’t be too different from the team they were in 2015-16 when they won only 38 games. They should have no problem getting to the low 80’s in points but that likely won’t be good enough for a playoff spot. However, they definitely have room to take a step forward from last season.