September 15, 2013 by andymisek
After signing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on July 4th 2012, the Wild were able to make it back into the playoffs in 2013. Despite a loss to the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild have a lot to build on moving forward. With a young core and many young prospects on the horizon, the Wild’s future is promising. Cups’N’Pucks may have the Wild as a bubble playoff team at 16 for the 2013-2014, but soon the Wild will be a cup contender.
Wild didn’t have a first round draft pick in 2013 after sending it to Buffalo in the Jason Pominville trade, but the they were far from quiet this offseason. They began by sending Cal Clutterbuck to the New York Islanders in exchange for former first rounder, Nino Niederreiter, who went 5th overall in the 2010 Entry Draft and will be fighting for a roster spot this year against several other young players.
In free agency, the Wild signed Matt Cooke and Keith Ballard. As we all know, Matt Cooke is famous for his reckless behavior and ending Mark Savard‘s career with a vicious head shot. Despite Cooke playing relatively clean the past couple of years, many questioned why his leg was so high when he cut Erik Karlsson‘s achilles tendon. Nevertheless, Cooke is a valuable addition to the Wild’s 3rd line and penalty kill.
The Wild’s top line is in their prime and should all be able to pot 60-70 points next season. Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu played together last year and were able to start building chemistry. The addition of Jason Pominville should round out an already great one-two punch. Expect big things from the first line of the Wild.
The 2nd line should also be rather impressive. Mikael Granlund didn’t have the start to his NHL career he hoped for last season, but his talent cannot be over-looked. He will be a good NHL sooner rather than later. Expect Granlund to be flanked by veteran Dany Heatley and sophomore Charlie Coyle. Heatley’s 50 goal seasons might be a distant past, but he still knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. His speed might slow down a young line and could cause a demotion.
The bottom six has plenty of solid players as well. Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Mike Rupp are all great character players who will help immensely during the playoffs. Young players like Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Brett Bulmer and Zach Phillips are all fighting for roster spots.
Despite Ryan Suter signing the 104 million dollar deal, the future of the Wild defense is Jonas Brodin, who was snubbed in the Calder Memorial Trophy finalist voting. He was rock solid game-in, game-out for 20 minutes a game. That’s asking a lot from a 20 year rookie defenseman, but Bordin was up for the task and passed with flying colors.
Johnathon Blum was not qualified by the Nashville Predators this off season and the Wild were able to sign him. While many have written him off at 24 years old, he could easily have a bounce back year and surprise many with solid play.
Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon, and Marco Scandella will round out the defense in Minnesota. With the exception of Keith Ballard (30 years of age), the Wild defense previously discussed are all under the age of 30. The youth of the Minnesota is extremely promising on defense. First round pick in 2012 (6th overall), Matt Dumba, hasn’t even been mentioned yet and he could have an outside shot of forcing his way onto the roster this season. While it isn’t likely Dumba makes the team this season, he too has a promising future with the Wild.
The Wild are going with the same duo as last season: Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding. The Wild should expected solid goaltending with this duo. Josh Harding is an especially inspirational story, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012. When starting goaltender, Niklas Backstrom, went down in the warm ups of game one of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, it was Josh Harding who gave the Wild a chance against the Blackhawks. Much respect for Josh Harding.
The Wild have a promising future with a young core that rivals the youth in Edmonton. This season should be a test for many of the youngsters playing their rookie and sophomore seasons. The Wild are still a bubble team at the moment, but don’t be surprised to see Minnesota giving Chicago and St. Louis a run for the division title in a few years.