The Minnesota Wild are deep into their preseason schedule, their roster is taking shape, and they are only 10 days away from the regular season! Unless something shocking happens, the Wild pretty much have their roster set with 12 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goalies who look like locks to make the team. This means that 21/23 roster spots are already seemingly filled! Let’s go over Minnesota's first 4 preseason games, highlight some important details, and look at the potential opening day roster.
September 17th vs Dallas Stars
Result: The first game of the year for Minnesota resulted in a 2-1 overtime loss!
Brief Analysis: Dallas took a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a Roope Hintz goal. Ryan Hartman evened it up for Minnesota with a shorthanded goal in the second period, but it was all for not as Justin Dowling scored 3:35 into overtime to give Dallas the win. Alex Stalock made 19 saves on 21 shots for the Wild.
Key Performer for Minnesota: Ryan Hartman had a great game, scoring the lone goal for Minnesota (BAR DOWN!). He also destroyed Tye Felhaber in a fight, where he landed 5 unanswered lefts before throwing Felhaber to the ice like it was nothing. Hartman signed a 2-year deal last July as a free agent, and already looks to be a great signing. For years the Wild have been accused of not being tough enough, and Hartman, who was called Andrew Shaw 2.0 when he played in Chicago, brings skill and a physical, hard-nosed game.
THAT MAN HAD A FAMILY RYAN!
September 18th @ Winnipeg Jets
Result: Jets dismantle the Wild 4-1!
Brief Analysis: The start of preseason is starting to look a lot like LAST YEARS team; Only 2 goals through the first 2 games. Blake Wheeler and Andrew Copp each had a goal and an assist for the Jets, and Minnesota’s lone goal was scored by Nico Sturm. Kaapo Kahkonen (one of my favorite hockey names) played the first two periods for Minnesota and allowed two goals on 20 shots. Mat Robson played the 3rd period where he managed 10 saves.
Key Performer for Minnesota: Nico Sturm had a solid performance in his first career preseason game. The 24-year-old scored Minnesota’s lone goal and has been impressing Minnesota’s coaches all offseason. He won the “Hardest Worker” award at the Minnesota Wild development camp, and drew praise from coaches Bruce Boudreau and Brad Bombardir. Sturm may be a candidate for one the two potential roster spots open.
September 21st vs Colorado Avalanche
Result: The Minnesota Wild topped the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 4-3 at the Xcel Energy Center!
Brief Analysis: The Minnesota Wild squeaked out their first preseason win with goals from Mathew Dumba, Jason Zucker, Mats Zuccarello, and Eric Staal. Devan Dubnyk saw his first action of the season where he made 30 saves.
Key Performer for Minnesota: Mats Zuccarello had an excellent night on the stat sheet with a three-point night. He had a gorgeous breakaway goal, and had two assists on the night. Zuccarello would later say he had a poor game, that him and his line mates weren’t in rhythm yet, and that he has to be better. Hey, if Zuccarello’s bad nights consists of three points, I can’t wait to see a good night for him…
September 22nd vs Colorado Avalanche
Result: Avalanche defeat Wild 3-2 in a shootout!
Brief Analysis: A trend so far in this preseason (and last season), the forwards didn’t get it done. Both Minnesota Wild goals were scored by defensemen. Thanks Jared Spurgeon and Louie Belpedio! The Wild had a mixed special teams game, scoring a Power Play goal but also allowing a shorthanded one.
Key Performer(s) for Minnesota:
1. Alex Stalock performed admirably, making 34 saves for Minnesota in a loss. Stalock, who was born and played high school hockey in St. Paul, has been in the organization since 2016. He will be backing up Devin Dubnyk this year.
2. Louie Belpedio played his best game of preseason and is looking sharp. The 23-year old defensemen netted a goal, and has put himself in a position to be considered for one of the last remaining roster spots.
This is preseason hockey, so take this with a grain of salt, but I am getting concerned about our offense. If you look back to last season we ended up finishing 28th out of the 31 NHL teams in “Goals Scored”. In 3 of the 4 preseason games played this year Minnesota has scored 2 or less goals, and in one of those games a forward didn’t even score. It’s not time to freak out yet, but it is definitely something to watch for as the season starts.
Brief Roster Overview:
12 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goalies look like locks to make the team.
The 12 forwards who have already, most-likely, made the roster:
Koivu, Fiala, Staal, Parise, Donato, Eriksson Ek, Kunin, Greenway, Zuccarello, Zucker, Foligno, and Hartman.
The 7 defensemen locks consist of:
Suter, Dumba, Brodin, Spurgeon, Hunt, Seeler, and Pateryn.
The 2 goaltenders will be: Dubnyk and Stalock.
Rosters are capped at 23 players so there are 2 potential roster spots available.
Currently, the top contenders to grab the last 2 roster spots are: Victor Rask, J.T. Brown, Gerry Mayhew (Holds the Wild Minor league goal scoring record for most goals in a season), Drew Stafford, Nico Sturm, and Louie Belpedio.
The Minnesota Wild have two preseason games coming up before they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators for the season opener on October 3rd.
Preseason Game Information
1. Wild @ Stars. September 26th at 7:00pm. Network: FSN+.
2. Jets @ Wild. September 29th at 1:00pm. Network: TSN3.