During the 2016-17 season the Minnesota Wild set a franchise record with 49 wins and 106 points, but got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
The Wild have made the postseason for five consecutive seasons but have yet to make it passed the second round. They had a great season under Bruce Boudreau and went out and made a number of small offseason moves. The only changes that will likely affect the NHL roster was when they traded Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville to the Buffalo Sabres for Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis (MIN also got a 2018 3rd Rd. Pick | BUF got a 2018 4th). To help replace Scandella, the Wild inked veteran blueliner Kyle Quincey to a one-year deal. The rest of their signings will likely impact their AHL team more than their NHL roster—Ryan Murphy (one-year; $700K), Landon Ferraro (two-year; $1.4M) and Kyle Rau (one-year; $700K).
The majority of the Wild’s forward group was already set in stone and allowed General Manager Chuck Fletcher to be quiet in the summer. Last season Minnesota was led by Mikael Granlund, who enjoyed a breakout year with 26 goals and 43 assists (69 points) in 81 games. Eric Staal also looked rejuvenated in Minnesota, posting 65 points (28G / 37A) and Zach Parise will attempt to put another tough season in his rearview mirror. The Wild are a deep lineup, so deep that analytics darling Nino Niederreiter ranked eighth among Wild forwards in ice-time last season. Niederreiter has the talent to be a true game-breaking talent if Boudreau utilizes him more frequently in 2017-18. The likes of Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker continue to improve each season and if they take another step forward, the Wild could be an extremely dangerous offence this season. I didn’t even get a chance to mention what Mikko Koivu continues to do or what Joel Eriksson Ek is capable of doing.
Losing Scandella leaves a hole on the Wild blueline, but they have Matt Dumba who will step right into that spot. The 23-year-old has all of the tools to be one of the most exciting defenseman in the NHL. Dumba saw a significant increase in playing time last season and posted a career-high in goals (11) and assists (23). He should see even more playing time again this year and with his high-octane style of play and great shot, he is a candidate for 15 goals and 25 assists this season. Dumba along with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon are likely the only Wild rearguards who will have a fantasy impact this season. Suter plays more minutes than anyone in the NHL and has averaged 44 points (6G / 40A) per 82 games during his four seasons in Minnesota. However, with the emergence of Dumba, Suter could continue to see his PP-usage drop. Spurgeon is one of the most underrated D-man in the NHL, quietly ranking 26th among blueliners in goals (35) and 44th in points (118) in the last four years.
Between the pipes, Devan Dubnyk is back for 60-plus starts. During his first two (full) seasons in Minnesota, Dubnyk is tied for second in the NHL in wins (72), tied for sixth in SV% (.921) and is eighth in GAA (2.29). Dubnyk has become an elite fantasy netminder and this season he will have a new backup after Minnesota signed Niklas Svedberg following two years in the KHL. Svedberg has posted a 2.31 GAA and .920 SV% in 19 career NHL games with the Bruins.
The Central Division is loaded and there’s a good chance that it claims five of the eight playoff spots in the Western Conference. The Wild will fight for the top-3 in the Division, but are more likely to land a Wild Card spot. Until they prove they can do some damage in the postseason, I’m not buying in.
Fantasy Rankings (Top 350)
- Devan Dubnyk-#18 (#4 G)
- Mikael Granlund-#58 (#15 C)
- Eric Staal-#86 (#26 C)
- Zach Parise-#103 (#17 LW)
- Nino Niederreiter-#139 (#23 LW)
- Ryan Suter-#154 (#33 D)
- Mikko Koivu-#162 (#44 C)
- Matt Dumba-#167 (#37 D)
- Charlie Coyle-#176 (#34 RW)
- Jared Spurgeon-#244 (#60 D)
- Jason Zucker-#253 (#50 LW)
- Niklas Svedberg-#321 (#46 G)
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