NHL Team Preview: Minnesota Wild
Minnesota Wild finished 3rd in the reshuffled West division last season which is impressive considering they had to do a lot of traveling to the likes of Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Arizona. Of course, that worked the same way with West Coast teams coming back East of the Mississippi, a big reason the Wild were 21-5-2.
The Wild were eliminated in the 1st round of the playoffs last year but in a very competitive series that went seven games. Minnesota is back in the Central division for 2021/22 and are expecting nothing less than another berth in the postseason.
Perhaps the biggest addition Minnesota has this season is just experience. Kirill Kaprizov won the Calder Trophy last as the league’s top rookie and is now the undisputed face of the franchise at 24 years old. Betting odds for the Wild each game will depend on how well Kaprizov is playing.
Minnesota may also expect some production from Marco Rossi at some point this season as the 20-year-old was the #9 pick in the draft in 2020. He’ll be starting the season in the AHL.
Of the actual additions, most of them are coming on the defensive end as Minnesota has to replace half of their top-line defenders. Alex Goligoski signed a 1-year contract as a free agent and is penciled in as the top line starter while the team has also brought in Dmitry Kulikov, Jon Merrill, and Jordie Benn for depth.
The reason Kaprizov is now the face of the Wild is that they let Zach Parise (Islanders) and Ryan Suter (Stars) go in the offseason. Parise and Suter had both been with Minnesota since the 2012/13 season.
Suter wasn’t the only defenseman the Wild have to replace though with Ian Cole (Hurricanes) and Carson Soucy (Kraken) off to decent teams. They were a durable duo too, playing in a combined 102 games last season.
Kaprizov was great in his rookie season with 51 points in 55 games but he’ll be expected to do even more in his second season in the league. His 27 goals were 8th in the league but Kaprizov will try to be even more of a facilitator this season even from the LW position.
Minnesota’s top line center is Joel Erikkson Ek but he had just 30 points in 56 games last year which is why Dean Evason was hoping Rossi could make his way to the big club at some point this season. Kevin Fiala is projected to be the 3rd line LW but he had 40 points in 50 games last year for some nice back-end scoring.
Cam Talbot returns in net where he was 19-12 last season with a 2.63 ERA. The Wild found nice stability in goal last season after dealing with the sometimes great, sometimes not Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock for years prior.
Kaapo Kahkonen also provided solid depth behind Talbot last season going 16-8 with a 2.88 GAA in his first full NHL season. Minnesota also selected goaltender Jesper Wallstedt with their first pick (20th) in the entry draft so they are looking ahead to when the 34-year-old Talbot’s career starts to wind down.
The betting odds for Minnesota in 2021/22 rely a lot on if they can regain their magic playing on their home ice. The Wild returned to glory at the xCel Energy Center last season after a couple of down years at home. This used to be a place that was impossible to come in and get a win back when Minnesota scored points in 35 of 41 home games back in 2017/18.
A Stanley Cup win doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the Wild this year but at 25/1 those are the 12th highest betting odds in the league. Minnesota is 11/1 to win the Western Conference, the 5th highest so maybe a special season is in the cards.
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.