After six consecutive playoff appearances and three straight first-round exits, the Minnesota Wild missed the postseason in 2019.
Minnesota finished seventh in the Central Division while ranking 27th in GoalsFor (2.56) but 12th in GoalsAgainst (2.84). The Wild will return Bruce Boudreau behind the bench for the fourth season but fired GM Paul Fenton after just one year. Former power-forward Bill Guerin has been hired to guide the franchise as the fourth GM in franchise history.
Surprisingly, they left Fenton in charge during the 2019 Draft and Free Agency period. In his final moves with the team, Fenton signed 32-year-old Mats Zuccarello to a five-year deal worth $30.0 million ($6.0M AAV) and Ryan Hartman to a two-year, $3.8 million contract ($1.9M AAV).
While those are not major additions, the Wild’s 2020 hopes will rest on the development of Luke Kunin, Kevin Fiala, Jordan Greenway, and Ryan Donato. With Mikko Koivu recovering from ACL and meniscus surgery, Kunin will open the season as their No.2 centre, Fiala had breakout written all over him in Nashville, and the same label can be applied to him in 2020. Donato will push Fiala for the second-line role after posting 16 points (4G / 12A) in 22 games following his trade from Boston. Lastly, Greenway will be limited to the third-line but can be a difference-making power-forward. If they all take a step forward, Minnesota could surpass expectations, but they need everything to go right.
Even if those younger forwards improve, the Wild need veterans like Eric Staal, Zach Parise, and Jason Zucker to continue to lead the team. Minnesota could have a solid top-9 if all goes well, but they’re in tough in the Central Division and aren’t built for long-term success. A good chunk of their core is over 30-years-old and they don’t have a lot of high-end prospects in the pipeline.
Eric Staal (C)
- — Staal experienced some obvious regression in 2019 but still turned in a solid 52-point (22G / 30A) campaign. During his three years in Minnesota, Staal has missed just one game while averaging 31 goals and 34 assists (65 points) per season. He has elevated his shooting percentage in Minnesota, but that probably won’t last. At 34-years-old, Staal is headed for a decline but he is locked into a first-line role and should turn-in No.3 fantasy centre production. Even if his shooting percentage takes the expected drop, Staal should have no problem scoring 25 goals with 30-plus assists for the ninth time in his career.
Mats Zuccarello (RW)
- — Zuccarello has been one of the most consistent playmaking wingers in the NHL since 2014 and should fit nicely next to Staal and Zucker on the first line. He only appeared in two regular-season games following his trade to the Dallas Stars but had a great run in the postseason. Zuccarello’s contract may be regrettable down the road, but his showing in the 2019 postseason showcased that he can still be a 15-goal, 40-plus assist player in 2020.
Jason Zucker (LW)
- — Zucker has missed just four games over the last three seasons, tying for 47th in goals (76) and 89th in points (153). Those numbers don’t jump off of the page, but they are right in-line with T.J. Oshie’s, who is going four or five rounds earlier than Zucker right now. He doesn’t have a super-high ceiling, but Zucker consistently fires 200-plus shots, which puts him on-track for 25 goals every season.
Zach Parise (LW)
- — Parise remains a pretty good player in his mid-30’s but has serious durability issues. One of the reasons for taking a flier on a Fiala or Donato is because they’ll probably be replacing Parise in the lineup at some point this year. He has averaged 28 goals and 30 assists per 82-games over the last four seasons but has missed 22.3 percent of the games during that span. He’s a fine late-round pick and No.3 left-winger but there are more durable players with potentially higher ceilings out there.
Kevin Fiala (RW)
- — Fiala had tremendous shot volume in 2018, which made him a popular sleeper pick in 2019. He got off to a slow start and was ultimately traded for Mikael Granlund. Fiala had just seven points (3G / 4A) in 19 games with the Wild, but his shot volume remained strong. He was limited by a career-low 7.0 SH% and incredibly-low 3.4 on-ice SH%, so there’s positive regression coming his way. Fiala is a terrific post-hype candidate.
Luke Kunin (C)
- — Kunin is going to get a huge early-season chance and could be a great sleeper because of it. Kunin was the No.15 overall pick in 2016 and has posted great numbers at lower-levels and the NHL is his next step. Even with a big bump in playing time, Kunin needs to drastically elevate his shot volume and shooting percentage if a breakout is in the cards. He is a keeper-league target and late-round flier.
Ryan Donato (RW)
- — Donato’s 2019 fantasy season was a roller coaster. He entered the season as a huge sleeper but found himself back in the AHL before long. Later in the year, he was dealt to Minnesota, where he rebuilt his value with 16 points in 22 games. In 2020, he will be in a battle for playing time but his 34 career points in 68 NHL games, is evidence that he can be valuable this fantasy season. In case you were wondering, his 22 games with the Wild extrapolates to 239 shots (22 goals at career 9.2 SH%) and 45 assists over 82 games. Not bad. Take a chance on him again.
The Wild have one of the better top-4’s in the NHL. Their top-pairing (Ryan Suter–Jared Spurgeon) ranks as the No.6 first-pair and their second-pair (Jonas Brodin–Matt Dumba) is the No.5 second-pairing according to Corsica Player Ratings.
Matt Dumba (D)
- — Dumba has scored 10-plus goals in four straight seasons, even in 2019 when he missed 50 games with a ruptured right pectoral muscle. Dumba is tied for 12th among defensemen in goals while averaging 167 shots per 82 games over that stretch. He has one of the best shooting percentages among blueliners, making him an obvious candidate for 15-to-20 goals but his assist totals are very pedestrian. The goals alone make him serviceable No.2 fantasy defenseman.
Ryan Suter (D)
- — Suter’s name rarely seems to come up but he is consistently among the NHL TOI leaders and has finished in the Top-20 in Norris voting for 10 consecutive seasons. Over the last four seasons, Suter has missed just four games and ranks 13th among defensemen in points (189). His goal totals are average but his durability and consistent point production make him a low-end No.2/high-end No.3 fantasy blueliner.
Jared Spurgeon (D)
- — In 2019, the 29-year-old blueliner played a full 82-game campaign for the first time in his career. As a result, Spurgeon set career-highs in goals (14), assists (29) and points (43). Like Dumba, he has an elite shooting percentage and that makes it likely for him to score double-digit goals with assist totals that will approach 30.
Devan Dubnyk (G)
- — Since his first full season in Minnesota (2015), Dubnyk has started 60-plus games in each season, leading the NHL with 254 starts over that span. During that time he is tied for second in wins (138), tied for fourth in GAA (2.41), tied for sixth in shutouts (17) and tied for 10th in SV% (.918). He has been one of the most reliable fantasy netminders and even with the Wild looking look a potential bottom-feeder, Dubnyk’s history and start volume make him a low-end No.1/high-end No.2 fantasy option.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|J. Zucker (26)||M. Zuccarello (42)||E. Staal (59)||M. Dumba (7)||R. Suter (18)|
|E. Staal (25)||R. Suter (40)||M. Zuccarello (58)||E. Staal (7)||M. Zuccarello (17)|
|Z. Parise (25)||E. Staal (33)||J. Zucker (53)||Z. Parise (7)||E. Staal (16)|
Wild in the DFO Top 300
- 67 — Devan Dubnyk (G)
- 113 — Matt Dumba (D)
- 143 — Eric Staal (C)
- 146 — Ryan Suter (D)
- 149 — Jared Spurgeon (D)
- 170 — Mats Zuccarello (RW)
- 186 — Zach Parise (LW)
- 188 — Jason Zucker (LW/RW)
- 212 — Kevin Fiala (RW)
- 249 — Ryan Donato (RW)
|2||DALLAS STARS||44-28-10||98 PTS|
|4||COLORADO AVALANCHE||43-28-11||97 PTS|
|6||CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS||40-32-10||90 PTS|
|7||MINNESOTA WILD||37-36-9||83 PTS|
On paper, the Wild look like the worst team in the Central Division but they have the potential to make some ripples. The Wild have a quality netminder playing behind a strong blueline and a decent group of forwards. They may not have the fire-power to make the playoffs but they also may not be as bad as many prognosticators are forecasting.