With Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard all wearing new sweaters next season, the Minnesota Wild will be relying on four players in their 20s—Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker—to produce secondary scoring this season.
The starting line should still be Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville, but other than Dany Heatley, there are not many other big-time scoring threats on the team.
All four players could get time on the second line, especially Granlund as the center and Niederreiter if he proves he's NHL ready.
All four players are capable of putting up big numbers, but Granlund and Niederreiter have a lot to prove after last season, and Zucker and Coyle will have to avoid sophomore slumps.
Nino has to step up this season.
If he has a really strong training camp, he could immediately join Heatley and Granlund on the second line. If not, he will probably have to start on the third line and/or, at worst, in the minors and earn his minutes from there.
The acquisition of Niederreiter from the New York Islanders made Setoguchi expendable, and Nino should have success with second-line minutes as well as time on the power play.
The 20-year-old spent the entire last season in the minors and requested a trade. With new scenery and better teammates, he could have a big turnaround this season.
Projected statistics: 30 goals, 25 assists in 15 minutes per night
A spot on the second line is Granlund’s to lose.
He was supposed to be the second-line center last season and was expected to succeed with Koivu playing first-line minutes and less pressure after the additions of Parise and Ryan Suter.
Instead, he faltered and only played in 27 games last season.
Expect improvement in year two.
He played well toward the end of the season and should benefit from getting a lot of time on NHL ice last year. A lot of his success will depend on if the veteran Heatley can be a consistent goal scorer in his mid-30s and if Niederreiter can turn things around wearing a new sweater.
Granlund is capable of being an elite pivot in this league and must do so if the Wild are going to have success this season.
Projected statistics: 15 goals, 40 assists in 15 minutes per night
Coyle may be moved around a lot in 2012-13.
He played well with Parise and Koivu on the first line before Minnesota traded for Pominville last year. He is also a sound defensive player who could play as a grinder on the third line. And if Heatley, Granlund or Niederreiter struggle to produce on the second line, the natural center-turned-winger could also get minutes behind Parise and Koivu.
Expect Coyle to put up similar numbers to Zucker this year.
Projected statistics: 20 goals, 30 assists in 13 to 15 minutes per night
If Zucker is going to get ice time this season, it will be with his defensive ability. Using Parise as a model, the 5’11”, 186-pound forward needs to be a pest on the forecheck and create turnovers in the neutral zone. Much of his offense will be generated by his defense.
Zucker will likely be a third-line player, a guy that uses his body to be a disruptive force and his offensive abilities to provide secondary scoring.
He may also get time on the second line if Nino or Heatley struggle this year.
Projected statistics: 20 goals, 20 assists in 13 minutes per night
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.