Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Minnesota Wild

Three days from now, the 12th season in the history of the Minnesota Wild, will get under way. And perhaps, this is the most anticipated season in the team's history (Rivaling year one). Today, we look back at the previous year, and look ahead to the upcoming year, and in between, we will break down all the moves this team made during the summer.

Offseason Moves

Coming In: F Zach Parise, D Ryan Suter, F Torrey Mitchell, F Zenon Konopka, F Jake Dowell, D Brian Connelly

Heading Out: F Guillaume Latendresse, F Nick Johnson, F Erik Christensen, D Mike Lundin, F Warren Peters

In case you lived under a rock since the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no moves in hockey were bigger than when the Wild inked Parise and Suter to matching 13 year, $98 million deals. The deal should boost the last place Wild offense, and strengthen the power play, to where they can put up goals with any team in the league. The additions of Mitchell and Konopka strengthen bottom 2 lines, and give the Wild prospects in Houston, more time to get acclimated with professional hockey. The Wild now enter the season with 4 complete lines, and perhaps the best on paper foward line combinations, they have ever had.

Projected Lines
(Stats listed are from the 2011-12 season)


Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley

Matt Cullen-Mikael Granlund-Devin Setoguchi
(14-21-35)-(DNP in NHL)-(19-17-36)

Cal Clutterbuck-Kyle Brodziak-Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Darroll Powe-Zenon Konopka-Torrey Mitchell

Reserves: Matt Kassian (2-0-2), Stephane Veilleux (0-2-2), Jake Dowell (2-5-7), Nick Palmieri (4-3-7)


Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Clayton Stoner-Tom Gilbert

Justin Falk-Nate Prosser

Reserves: Steve Kampfer (2-3-5), Marco Scandella* (3-9-12)
* denotes player is injured


Starter: Niklas Backstrom (19-18-7, 2.43, .919)
Backup: Josh Harding (13-12-4, 2.62, .917)

Reserve: Matt Hackett (3-6-0, 2.38, .922)

Head Coach
Mike Yeo
2nd NHL Season

Players That Need To Step Up

Dany Heatley
Last year, Heatley came over in a trade from San Jose. He played all 82 games and had top line minutes in every one of those games. Problem was, his production was the lowest its ever been in his 10 year NHL career. Now that the Wild added Zach Parise to play opposite Heatley, Heater will need to increase his production to take pressure off Parise and give the Wild a dual threat on their top line.

Devin Setoguchi
Like Heatley, Setoguchi is in his second season in a Wild uniform.  And he too had the worst statistical season of his career in 2011-12. Setoguchi often played on the top line for Minnesota in 2011-12, but this season you can write him in pen on the second line. The Wild need Setoguchi to step up his game to give them a great 2nd scoring line. With puck movers Cullen and Granlund on his line, he will be relied upon to score the goals on that line.

Tom Gilbert
In 08-09, Gilbert had the best year of his career, when he notched 45 points (5G, 40A) for Edmonton. Since then, he has been on a slow decline. Gilbert, was acquired before the trade deadline in 2012, for fan favorite Nick Schultz, and was brought in to be the puck moving defenseman the Wild needed. Now that Ryan Suter is in the fold, Gilbert will be on the second defensive pairing, and the Wild need him to play some big minutes and make some big plays. If he can't, one could see the Wild using one of their compliance buyouts on him in the offseason with young D-Men Brodin and Dumba on the way up.

5 Prospects That Will Impact 2013

Mikael Granlund-F
Obviously, Granlund will be making an impact on the 2013 roster. He will be starting as the second line center in between Cullen and Setoguchi. Granlund is a great talent, as he has great skills and vision to set up and sometimes score goals. The team's top prospect finally signed on with the club this past summer, and will be a huge addition to the squad in 2013. 

Jason Zucker-F
Zucker is not slated to start the season with the big club. But should one of the forwards get injured, look for the Aeros leading scorer to be the first man called up. Zucker has transitioned his game from the WCHA to the AHL quite nicely, putting up similar numbers between the two leagues. He has been a force on Houston's top line, using his speed and great hands to keep his name in the scoresheet.

Matt Dumba-D
The Wild's first round pick in 2012 will get his chance with the club in 2013. An injury to Marco Scandella has helped open the door for Dumba to get some NHL minutes this year. But in all likelihood, Dumba will play a few games with Minnesota before he gets sent back to Red Deer to finish off the season. Dumba is an offensive minded defenseman, scoring 20 goals for Red Deer last year (He has 10 this year). Look for him to fire the puck on net often, when he gets his chance with the Wild this year.

Matt Hackett-G
Hackett made this in last year's Wild Preview. He is still considered a prospect, and he will make an impact at some point this year, so it made sense to put him on this list. Hackett has been the starter for Houston for three years now, and in the final year of Nik Backstrom's contract, the goalie would like to send the front office a message by playing strongly. He will only see time with the Wild this year should Backstrom or Harding go down with an injury. And if he does, the Wild will need him to play very sharply, given the condensed schedule and all.

Jonas Brodin-D
Entering the season, Jonas Brodin is injured, and not playing anywhere. But, in the next couple of weeks he could return to the ice. Brodin is a solid defensive minded defenseman and has ridiculous vision when he is on the ice. He was so much of a rock for Houston's blue line, before going down with injury, that there was/still is talk of him making the Wild roster at some point this year. Its more likely now that Brodin will only get a shot with Minnesota this year in the event of someone getting hurt, but should he get called up, he may not get sent back down.

Where They'll Finish
Check back tomorrow to see where the Wild will finish in the division standings in 2013, and then on Friday to see where they will finish in the conference standings, when we predict the NHL season and playoffs.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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