32 for 32: Minnesota Wild preview

NHL.com offers in-depth analysis of each of the 32 teams between August 8 and September 8. Today, the Minnesota Wild.

The Minnesota Wild enjoyed unprecedented success during the 2021-22 regular season, and with nearly every roster returning, the team will look to build on those results to go even further this season. .

Minnesota finished the campaign with 113 points, which put them second in the Central Division behind the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. the attacker Kirill Kaprizov became the first Wild player to score 100 points. The 2021 Calder Trophy winner as Rookie of the Year has 108 points (47 goals, 61 assists).

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The Wild, however, was eliminated in six games by the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round, and haven’t reached the second round since 2014-15.

« There was something special about this team, » general manager Bill Guerin said May 17. We have come a long way in the direction we wanted to go.

“I’ve been here for three seasons, and this is the first year where management, coaches and players have been able to do things exactly the way we wanted. The road traveled has been so impressive that it gives me a lot of hope and optimism about what lies ahead. »

Minnesota will have to replace the offensive production of Kevin Fiala, author of 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) in 82 games. The forward, who tied for second on the team with 67 points, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on June 29 for blue-line prospect Brock Faber and the 19th overall pick of the 2022 draft, which the Wild used to select forward Liam Ohgren.

“This youngster had an incredible season, acknowledged Guerin on June 30, speaking of Fiala. We do not have the necessary space under the salary cap. To keep his services, we honestly would have had to exchange two or three players, which would have stripped our formation more significantly. It would have been worse the following year. It just didn’t fit.

“We need younger players. Players who do not receive several million dollars. We have to operate this way. And for the long-term success of the team, I believe we must continue to add elements to our pool of prospects. »

In addition to signing Ohgren to a three-year rookie contract on July 16, Minnesota is pinning high hopes on Marco Rossi to make up for the offensive shortfall caused by Fiala’s departure. Rossi, selected ninth overall by the Wild in the 2020 draft, led Iowa of the American Hockey League in assists (35) and tied for first in points (53) in 63 games last season.

« I feel ready, » Rossi said July 13. The last season was very beneficial for me. I got to spend a lot of time on the ice in Iowa. I played in all situations, and I played a lot, so I think that was the best thing for me as a player. I feel ready now. »

The Wild also want a full season from goaltender Marc-André Fleury to bear fruit. Fleury, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the March 21 trade deadline, signed a two-year deal July 7. Minnesota traded Cam Talbot to the Ottawa Senators in return for the target Filip Gustavsson five days later. Gustavsson will serve as an auxiliary to Fleury.

“It will be nice to be here in training camp and start the season with these teammates,” Fleury said on July 8. The squad hasn’t changed too much, so it will be nice to get to know everyone rather than going back to square one. I’ll already know the guys, so it will be easier to get the machine going. »

The Wild have also retained the services of the back Jacob Middletonacquired at the trade deadline from the San Jose Sharks for Kakko Kahkonen and a fifth-round pick in 2022. The 26-year-old defender skated alongside the veteran Jared Spurgeon on Minnesota’s first pair.

Dean Evason, who will begin his third season at the helm of the team, stressed that the performance of his team in the face-off circle will be an important issue from the start of training camp. The Wild finished 27th in the league in this facet of the game last season (47.6 percent).

« We have to focus on that from day one, » Evason said on May 17. Our players have improved on face-offs. (Joel) Eriksson Ek has been getting better and better at face-off every year since he’s been here. However, it must be even better. We all need to get better in the face-off circle, and I’m not just talking about center players. I’m talking about everyone. We must pay particular attention to this. »

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