The Wild made their franchise-record sixth-straight playoff appearance last season. The team finished with a 45-26-11 record in the regular season, good enough for 101 points and the Central Division’s third playoff spot. They drew a tough matchup against Winnipeg in the first round, losing in five games to the eventual Western Conference finalists. With their divisional foes upgrading their respective rosters this off-season, the Wild will be in tough to maintain that third spot in the Central division. Even if they do manage to stave off the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars, a first-round matchup with Winnipeg or Nashville almost certainly awaits them. The playoffs are always difficult but coming in as the third seed in the Central is about as challenging as it gets.
The Wild don’t have the superstar talent to match their divisional rivals, but they do have a wealth of quality skaters. Depth was the key to their success last season and they’ll try to replicate that same formula in 2018-19. Their top-nine is littered with capable goal-scorers and their blueline is as deep as any in the league. The Blues and Stars unquestionably have more high-end talent than the Wild, and they both did an admirable job of adding depth this off-season. The road to the playoffs projects to be a lot more difficult for the Wild this season. Goaltending will be Minnesota’s key to getting back to the post-season in 2018-19.
➕ Matt Read (Free Agency)
➕ J.T. Brown (Free Agency)
➕ Eric Fehr (Free Agency)
➕ Andrew Hammond (Free Agency)
➕ Greg Pateryn (Free Agency)
The line of Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, and Mikael Granlund are expected to lead the Wild attack again this season. Staal and Mikko Koivu flipped between the first and second line all season, so don’t expect these combinations to stick for very long. The Wild’s depth allows them to experiment with their lines more than the average team, and head coach Bruce Boudreau takes full advantage of that. Staal enjoyed a renaissance of a season in 2017-18 but the underlying numbers suggest he’ll be in tough to repeat that success. He shot a career-high 17.4% and had an 11.0 on-ice SH% at 5v5. He should remain productive on that top line, but don’t expect him to top 40 goals and 30 assists again. Similarly, Zucker’s 14.9 SH% should take a hit this season. Back-to-back 30-goal seasons seems unlikely to happen for him. Granlund is the most reliable producer in the Wild’s top-six, but his assists are likely to take a hit from his linemates converting at a lesser rate.
Koivu is projected to start on the second line in between two competent wingers in Zach Parise and Nino Niederreiter. Parise is far from the point-per-game threat he used to be, but his shot volume gives him 30-goal potential if he can stay healthy. Niederreiter’s ice time has never been what his production warrants. He is an offensive weapon that could breakout if he ever sees more than 15 minutes a night. Don’t be surprised if he starts cutting into Parise and Zucker’s powerplay time this season. Charlie Coyle is the highlight of the Wild’s bottom-six. The former first-rounder sees ample powerplay time despite spending most of his 5v5 time on the third line. He’s been skating with the Wild’s first powerplay unit this pre-season and is the top candidate to move into the top-six should anyone struggle or miss time.
The Wild lean heavily on their top-four, and for good reason. Ryan Suter, Matt Dumba, Jared Spurgeon, and Jonas Brodin make up one of the top defensive corps in the league. Suter is an absolute minutes-eater at 5v5. He’s averaged at least 26 minutes a night in each of the last seven seasons. He takes on the toughest assignments and is still able to regularly churn out a positive CF% rel (4.0% last season). He matched a career-high with 51 points in 2017-18 but should be relinquishing his powerplay duties this year to his defensive partner. Dumba erupted for 50 points (14G/36A) last season, besting his previous career-high by 16. His time on ice drifted into Suter-territory, as he was up over 23 minutes a game for the first time in his career. Some injuries to the Wild blueline helped spike that number, but he should see plenty of ice time with the man advantage either way. His 11.0 on-ice SH% suggests he’ll be in tough to repeat last year’s production, but he’s still a lock for double-digit goals.
Spurgeon and Brodin rank as the No. 10 second-pairing in the NHL, according to Corsica. Spurgeon takes after his longtime teammate Suter. He plays around 25 minutes a night and has had a CF%rel of at least 2.8% in each of the last four seasons. He does more than his fair share offensively, too. The 28-year-old had nine goals and 28 assists in just 61 games last season. While Brodin has failed to fulfil the offensive potential that made him the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, he has turned into a quality complement to Spurgeon at 5v5. He is an above-average defenseman in all aspects, and he rounds out the Wild’s top-four beautifully.
Given how heavily Boudreau utilizes his top two pairings, Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn shouldn’t see much more than 15 minutes a night this season. As a pairing, the they’re nothing to get excited about but should be able to handle the cushier matchups at 5v5.
Devan Dubnyk has been as consistent as any goaltender in the league since arriving in Minnesota four years ago. He’s posted a .922 SV% across 250 games since the start of the 2014-15 season, the fourth-highest SV% in the NHL over that span (minimum 100 appearances). He had another solid season for the Wild in 2017-18, posting 35 wins and a .918 SV% in 59 starts. He’s set for another stellar year in 2018-19 but age is starting to become a concern for the 32-year-old netminder. He should see another 60 starts for the Wild this season as backup Alex Stalock is no threat to Dubnyk’s playing time. The fate of the Wild’s season could rest in Dubnyk’s hands. Goaltending is the one area where the Wild have a significant advantage over the Blues and Stars.
|Eric Staal (26)||Mikael Granlund (42)||Mikael Granlund (62)||Zach Parise (9)|
|Zach Parise (25)||Mikko Koivu (39)||Eric Staal (56)||Nino Niederreiter (7)|
|Nino Niederreiter (25)||Ryan Suter (38)||Mikko Koivu (54)||Eric Staal (6)|
- 77. Mikael Granlud — RW14
- 80. Devan Dubnyk — G12
- 104. Mathew Dumba — D23
- 116. Ryan Suter — D25
- 133. Eric Staal — C33
- 140. Jason Zucker — RW26
- 176. Jared Spurgeon — D47
- 203. Nino Niederreiter — LW31
- 207. Charlie Coyle — RW42
- 230. Zach Parise — LW37
- 237. Mikko Koivu — C52
Predicted Central Standings
They certainly have the makeup of a playoff team, but it won’t be easy for the Wild to secure a seventh-consecutive playoff berth. The presence of Nashville and Winnipeg in the Central all but locks up two of the three divisional playoff spots. Battling it out with the Blues and Stars will be the narrative of the Wild’s season, but a wild card spot might end up being their focus as the division takes shape. Still, the Wild have as good a netminder as any team in the division. A strong season from Dubnyk will go a long way towards fulfilling Minnesota’s playoff hopes.