Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The 2014-15 Minnesota Wild: Forwards

Photo: Wild.com
If there is one great strength for the Wild in 2014-15, its going to come from their forward position.

For the first time in perhaps the history of the franchise, Minnesota boasts a deep set of forwards and will try and throw out four scoring lines. Its a model that noted teams Chicago and Los Angeles have been using and all they have done is win the last three Stanley Cups.

While Minnesota's offense was one of the worst in the league last year (2.43 Goals per game last year, 24th in NHL), they had some timely goals to keep this season going. Then they were able to find a fourth gear in the postseason, as they averaged 2.69 goals per game against Colorado and Chicago.

A big key for the Wild offense this year will be to find more shots. As a whole, they ranked 29th in the league in shots for per 60 minutes at five on five last year with 25.6. Only the Buffalo Sabres had a worse number, and we all know how they did last year (for those wondering, Buffalo was quite terrible).

Luckily this season, the Wild are getting a shot in the arm offensively as they signed Thomas Vanek to a three year deal this summer. Despite playing on three different teams and an uneven playoff performance last year, Vanek is still one of the league's top scorers. He is a scorer Minnesota has not had since Marian Gaborik roamed these parts.

Courtesy of Hockey Analysis
With the exception of one, the top six is pretty much set for the season. Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Vanek, and Mikko Koivu appear to be inked in somewhere in the top six. While they are on a specific line now, that could very well change during the year as the head coach loves to make line changes.

Fighting for the final spot in the top six you have youngsters Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker. You could make a valid case for each to be up there, and it is very possible that all three could get a good look in the top six. Coyle spent a majority of last season in the top six, Niederreiter was one of the Wild's better scorers, and Zucker still has great offensive abilities despite a down 2013-14 season.

In the bottom six you can find a mix of young and veteran players. Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak are there for defensive play (Brodziak is good at shutting down the opposition), they will be surrounded by Erik Haula, Niederreiter, Coyle, Zucker, and Justin Fontaine. So even if Minnesota doesn't have their top lines out on the ice, they can still pack a punch on their bottom lines (any bottom six line would have been good enough to be the second line on the Wild two years ago).

With Stephane Veilleux and Joel Rechlicz down in Iowa, and Stu Bickel looking like he will end up there too, the Wild are truly going to go into this season with four scoring lines. Speed will be a great strength for this team, and perhaps it can now lead to an increase in the goal scoring column.

Never before in the history of the Minnesota Wild have they had depth at the forward position quite like this. Its really never been considered a position of strength, and they go into the new year with their forwards being their greatest strength (it was always defense and goaltending).

The Wild have been often called "boring to watch" in previous years. With the depth this team has at forward, that perception could very well change in 2014-15.

Projected Lines:
Extras: Bickel, Carter

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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