NHL: Around the League in 30 Days, Day Nine– Minnesota Wild

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NHL: Around the League in 30 Days, Day Nine– Minnesota Wild
Genevieve Ross/Getty Images
Head Coach Todd Richards

Day 9: Minnesota Wild  

 

2010 Record: 38-36-8 (84 Points) finished 4th in the Northwest Division

Roster Changes

2010-2011 Notable Arrivals: John Madden (CHI), Matt Cullen (OTT), Eric Nystrom (CGY), Brad Staubitz (SJ)

2010-2011 Notable Departures: Owen Nolan (FA), Derek Boogaard (NYR), John Scott (CHI)

Wild Report Card

Forwards:  The Wild forwards are far from spectacular, but they are very steady and can make the opposition’s night a living hell. The top line centered by Mikko Koivu along with Martin Havlat and Antti Miettinen, if healthy, is one of the better all around top lines in the NHL. A premiere combination of defence and offence is what sets them apart from other top lines in the NHL.

When the Wild acquired Guillaume Latendresse for Benoit Pouliot, they did not expect the offensive surge they saw from him. Latendresse in 55 games last year scored 25 goals and was on pace for over 35 goals had he played a whole season. Fantasy owners are expecting more of the same from Latendresse this season.

Veterans Andrew Brunette and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (if healthy) give the Wild some quality scoring depth. The newly acquired Matt Cullen and John Madden are perfect additions to this team. They are wonderful penalty killers and are good defensive forwards, so they should be able to make the transition to Wild hockey pretty easily.

Top Fantasy Forwards in 2010-11: C Mikko Koivu (23G/49A/72Pts/-2), RW Guillaume Latendresse (31G/24A/55Pts/-1), RW Martin Havlat (25G/30A/55Pts/-16) LW Andrew Brunette (20G/34A/54Pts/-3)

Overall Grade:  C 

Defence: The Wild’s defence struggled mightily last year. Marked with an inability to score and a penchant for getting scored on, the defence corps of the Wild really had a tough season last year. Not one returning defenceman was a plus defenceman last year.

Marek Zidlicky, the class of their defence, was a team worst -16 on defence last year. Although he managed to score 43 points, his failure to keep the puck out of the net hurt his numbers badly. Brent Burns, whom many experts believe to be their best offensive defenceman had a less than stellar year last year offensively only scoring 20 points in an injury plagued 47 game season.

Cam Barker appears to be their future building block on the backend. Barker can play in all situations and this year should be the year that we see a spike in Barker’s overall production

Veterans Greg Zanon and Nick Schultz, round out a solid defensive unit for the Wild. Zanon was a team worst 89 total goals against while on the ice  while Schultz was second at 85, so their aim this year should be to cut that number down by quite a bit.

Top Fantasy Defenders in 2010-11: Brent Burns (10G/34A/44Pts/-8), Marek Zidlicky (5G/42A/47Pts/-15), Cam Barker (8G/31A/39Pts/-4)

Overall Grade: C

Goaltending:  For years, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have backstopped the Wild to some of the best goals against in the NHL. Last season seemed like an outlier, and the Wild finished the year allowing more goals than they scored. Backstrom had a down year, marked by inconsistency and injury, and Josh Harding wasn’t his usually sharp self.

Coming into this season Backstrom is once again the Wild’s number one goalie and may be prime trade bait come the trading deadline when the Wild eventually fall out of contention. Josh Harding may be a great midseason pickup for fantasy owners.

Top Fantasy Goaltender in 2010-11: Niklas Backstrom (27 W/24L/6OTL 2.73 GAA, .906 SV%)

Overall Grade: B-

Top 5 Prospect Watch (via hockeysfuture.com)

1. C Mikael Granlund

Age: 18

Drafted: 1st Round (9th overall) by the Minnesota Wild in 2010 NHL Entry Draft

Current Team: HIFk (FEL)

Key Attributes: Granlund’s game is very reminiscent of Habs center Saku Koivu. Granlund is not the biggest player out there, but he has a good combination of creativity, passing and scoring abilities. Question marks remain about his size, strength and skating ability moving forward.

2. D Marco Scandella

Age: 20

Drafted: 2nd Round (55th Overall) by the Minnesota Wild in 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Current Team:  Val D’or (QMJHL) and Houston Aeros (AHL)

Key Attributes: A strong-skating, physical, stay-at-home blue liner, Scandella takes great delight in using his size and long wingspan to clear the front of his net. He thrives by playing a no-nonsense, simple game in his own end. His decision-making and puck skills have room for improvement.

3. D Tyler Cuma

Age:  20

Drafted: 1st round (23rd overall), by the Minnesota Wild in 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Current Team: Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Key Attributes: A reliable two-way defenseman of average size, Cuma had a big offensive upside, which he employs effectively without sacrificing coverage in his own zone. A strong skater with excellent puck moving skills, Cuma has a high hockey IQ and good vision. When these talents are coupled with his outstanding work ethic, Cuma has a bright future.

4. LW Colton Gillies

Age21

Drafted:  1st round (16th overall) by Minnesota Wild in 2007 NHL Entry Draft

Previous Team: Houston Aeros (AHL)

Key Attributes: Gillies certainly has the potential to become a power forward in the NHL.  However, he still needs to make significant improvements in his game if he ever hopes to reach that plateau.  He is a hard hitter, and plays with a definite mean streak.  He still needs to improve on his scoring touch and defensive play.

5. G Matt Hackett

Age: 20

Drafted: 3rd Round (77th overall) by the Minnesota in 2009 NHL Entry Draft

Current Team: Plymouth Whalers (OHL)

Key Attributes: Hackett has excellent size and combines that with solid positioning. He has a long way to go, but has shown a willingness to accept coaching and apply it to his on-ice performance.

Fantasy Outlook

Analysts’ Fantasy Stud: C Mikko Koivu

Koivu is probably one of the best Finnish centers in the NHL and this season if he has Martin Havlat and Antti Miettinen all season, his numbers should remain constant averaging nearly a point per game. Koivu gets ice time in all situations, so he’s a valuable pickup in many different fantasy league formats.

Analysts’ Player to Avoid: RW Martin Havlat

Havlat is one of the biggest enigmas in the NHL today. If healthy, he’s one of the most prolific goal scoring wingers in the league, but that’s a big if. Havlat never seems to be healthy all year and never plays a full season. Probably the biggest reason you shouldn’t take this player higher than he’s ranked

Analysts’ Sleeper Special: D Brent Burns

Last season was an injury plagued year where Burns struggled to get any offence going. This season playing with the likes of Cam Barker and Marek Zidlicky, Burns should see a large spike in points this season. I expect roughly 40-45 points this year for Burns if he remains healthy.

Expectations and Predictions

The Wild really did not add anything that will help them where they hurt most the offensive side of the ice. They lost winger Owen Nolan and got back Matt Cullen and John Madden, but they will not help fill the scoring void the Wild still have. Last year they had a difficult time overcoming the injury bug losing veterans Pierre Marc Bouchard, Brent Burns and Martin Havlat for extended periods of time, among others.  They could surprise some teams if they receive stellar goaltending and their defence plays up to their potential, but again that could be a lot to expect from this team. First and foremost this season, the Wild just need to stay healthy to compete in a very balanced Northwest Division.

Prediction: 13th in the West.

Overall Team Grade: C

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