By: Dylan Moore
Note: this article was written before the Wild’s 12/1 game vs. the Edmonton Oilers
The good: Kirill Kaprizov. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the Wild as of late. Coming off of a 47 goal, 108 point season (both franchise records), Kirill Kaprizov has started this season off hot. His 13 goals and 27 points in 21 games is an even better start than he got off to last season. He is currently on a 9 game point streak, and looks phenomenal in every game.
Matt Boldy. Last season he played just over ½ of the regular season games (47), and registered a respectable 39 points. Now a staple on the top 6, and 1st power play unit, he already has 9 goals and 16 points in 21 games. While getting consistent power play time with Kaprizov helps, Wild fans are hoping the young winger can keep scoring at this pace.
Calen Addison. Coming over in the Jason Zucker trade in 2019, Calen Addison was able to get a few games here and there in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 season, usually being the first guy to be called up in the event of an injured defenseman. This season, manager Bill Guerin decided to give Addison a full-time roster spot, and Addison has proved that it’s been deserved. Being the point man on the power play and getting 5-on-5 minutes with Kaprizov’s line, the 22-year-old defenseman has racked up the points. In 21 games he already has 10 assists and 11 points, and already looks to be one of the better passers on the team. His skills as a great 2-way defenseman will hopefully be exploited by the Wild for years to come.
The bad: Marco Rossi. The other new full-time player is Marco Rossi. Our highest overall draft pick of the last decade (9th overall in 2020), the Austrian center has had a rough path to the NHL. I like to think he would have gotten more than 2 NHL games before this year if it wasn’t for the heart problems he had in late 2020 and early 2021. He got COVID in November, and shortly after captained the Austrians at the world juniors. During his physical at training camp, they found out he had a disease which resulted in an inflamed heart. After he battled through that, he spent the 2021-2022 season lighting up the AHL. In his first full season, he has only gotten 1 point in 18 games. While he is still only 21, many Wild fans are expecting big things from Rossi, and this certainly is not the best start to his career.
Our record. As things stand, the Wild are 10-9-2, and 1 point off of a wild card spot in the Western Conference. Although we had a terrible start to the season (more on that later), we were 4-4-2 in our first 10, and 5-4-1 in our last 10. Given our record setting finish last season, more was expected from the team. Although we lost key pieces, we are still expected to be a playoff team, and a good one at that. Wild fans aren’t in a panicked state just yet, but it is in the team’s best interest to go on a hot streak sooner rather than later.
The ugly: The start to the season. Following a summer of tough choices, the Wild went with the aging Marc-Andre Fleury, and traded for backup Filip Gustavsson. Gustavsson was the defined backup, not expected to play too many games, unless the 38-year-old Fleury needed a rest. Like most things, this did not initially go to plan. Through the first 3 games of the season, Marc-Andre Fleury gave up 20 (!!!) goals. Twenty. While the defense was utterly terrible, you can not blame them for this complete collapse right out of the gate. Of the 21 games we have played, Fleury has only started 13 (or roughly 60%) of games, less than expected. Although his record has certainly improved (now 7-5-1), Gustavsson (3-4-1) betters him in all statistical categories (probably because he didn’t let up 20 goals in 3 games). Regardless, the early-season struggles can be attributed to a less-than sound goaltending structure.
Injuries. If our injury struggles had to be summarized, I would use Jordan Greenway as an example. The lanky power forward has already missed 3 different patches of games (16 of our 21 games) with injury. Other players that have missed more than 3 games include Ryan Hartman (11), Marcus Foligno (6), John Merrill (4), Brandon Duhaime (6), and Marc-Andre Fleury. So far this season, key contributors have missed a combined total of 48 games, which does not help with our consistency issues. With the forward lines getting mixed up countless times due to these injuries, one can only hope the issues slow down as this long season carries on.
All in all, through the good, bad and ugly, I am still hopeful. And like a good Minnesota sports fan, I am eagerly awaiting my inevitable disappointment once April comes around. Good luck Wild!