The Minnesota Wild are one of the most interesting teams to watch this coming season. They have a strong older core that is supplemented by an up and coming young group ready to make a consistent impact. Their defense is among the best in the league and they have a goaltender who has settled in as a true #1 goalie since his arrival. Add in the hiring of Bruce Boudreau, one of the best coaches in the league, and you have a team that could surprise in the best division in hockey (and it’s not even close). Let’s take a look at what the Wild are working with from top to bottom:
They aren’t saying boo, they’re saying Dubbbbbb. After taking the league by storm in 2014-15 following a trade to the Wild, Devan Dubnyk had a solid first full season in Minnesota. Dubnyk had a 2.33 GAA and a .918 sv% with 32 wins in 66 starts. That put him as a bottom end #1 goalie last season and I ranked him around the same this year. I put him at 42nd overall and the 9th best goalie. Even at that spot, there is plenty of upside. Two years ago, he finished with a 2.07 GAA and .929 sv%. Bruce Boudreau is certainly going to improve the team’s win total and the Ducks goalie (and Capitals goalie going further back) have always been terrific. I’m a big fan of taking Dubnyk if he’s there in the 4th round as my #1 goalie.
Darcy Kuemper remains the backup in Minnesota. He’s coming off a decent season in 21 games (16 starts) with a 2.43 GAA and .915 sv%. Kuemper should be a very good stream when Dubnyk gets the night off and a must own player if Dubnyk was to get injured.
From a fantasy perspective, Ryan Suter had the best season of his career at age 31. He set career highs in goals (8), assists (43) and shots on goal (188). Suter’s been a plus player in 10 of 11 seasons, the power play points are decent and the penalty minutes range from slightly below average to above average. He’s already playing over 28 minutes a game so I don’t see much upside here. With the depth of their defense, I think that goes down a bit. Suter is a bottom end #2 defenseman in my mind who is outside of the top 100 overall. The assists are great but he’s not elite anywhere to boost him any higher. It’s incredibly boring but it’ll get the job done at that price.
The Wild have a few more guys who aren’t quite 12’er worthy but could turn into a bottom end hold. I don’t think any of them will get there but if one does, I would guess it’s Matt Dumba. Dumba is only 22 years old and is entering his third full season where defensemen can be expected to take a step forward offensively. Dumba scored 10 goals and 16 assists last season with almost 2 shots per game and respectable penalty minutes. In 16’ers or deeper, I would definitely take the shot on Dumba. I’m not sure how the power play will be divided so let Dumba go undrafted in 12’ers. If he gets the chance on the first unit, he’s worth picking up right away for the upside.
Jared Spurgeon is a very good defenseman in real life but doesn’t do enough to be valuable outside of deep leagues. 11 goals and 18 assists with 16 STP is decent but with no penalty minutes and below average shots, it’s just not enough. If you play in deep leagues where blocked shots is a category, then Spurgeon becomes valuable enough to own. Spurgeon blocked over two shots per game last season so he’s a nice combo of STP and blocked shots in 16’ers or deeper.
Marco Scandella is essentially a worse Spurgeon for fantasy purposes. Compared to Spurgeon, Scandella gives slightly less points, shots, and blocked shots. It’s only worth taking him in super deep leagues.
The Wild’s forward depth is outstanding but as far as elite talent goes, it’s limited to Zach Parise. While he’s not the offensive juggernaut he once was, Parise still carries plenty of value. In 70 games last year, Parise scored 25 goals and added 28 assists with elite shots. He’s missed more time in recent years than in the past but it’s not enough to drop him too far. Parise comes in at 69th overall in my rankings and is a great fit for virtually all team builds.
You could tell me a handful of guys would be the 2nd best Wild forward in fantasy this year and I’d believe it. While I love me some Charlie Coyle, I’m going to put him third behind Eric Staal. His 2015-16 was quite a disaster, especially his time in New York, but I believe he still has plenty left in the tank. Much like Parise, his elite days are in the past, but his 2014-15 (23+31 with elite shots) wouldn’t surprise me. He was an elite possession player and his shooting percentage is due to back up so he’s a good candidate to bounce back. Don’t reach for Staal based on name value but he has decent upside as a pick in the later rounds.
Let’s get to my boy Coyle. He finally got a chance in the top 6 and finished the second half strong; he was a big reason why the Wild got the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Coyle finished the season with 21 goals and 21 assists. I expect him to get back on the first line at right wing with Parise and should now get some real power play time. The penalty minutes disappeared but assuming he gets back into the high 30’s, that’ll be good enough. Coyle is still only 24 years old and with 6 PPP last year, there’s plenty of room for improvement. He’s a great late round pick with the upside to push 55-60 points.
Mikko Koivu had a surprisingly great season last year with 17+39 with 40 PIM. While the assists aren’t a surprise, Koivu’s goal total was aided by his best shooting percentage in 9 seasons. It’s unrealistic to expect 15+ goals again unless his shot rate goes back up. If you need the STP and assists later in drafts, he’s a fine pick. I just wouldn’t expect more than say, 12+40 from him.
Mikael Granlund was considered the best prospect in hockey not too long ago. Unfortunately, he’s never found his way in the NHL. His shot rate took a big jump up last season to get to slightly below average and the 31 assists are nice. The problem is that his 13 goals were a career high and he only had 20 PIM. If you took a flier on Granlund in a 12 man league, I wouldn’t criticize it, but I’m leaving him for deeper leagues for the assist boost.
Early indications are that Jason Zucker will be the last member of the top 6. He was a decent streamer at times last year finishing with 13 goals and 10 assists. The problem is that he didn’t receive much power play time. If he starts to get time on the second unit, Zucker could be a sneaky value in deep leagues. Zucker is worth keeping an eye on to see how things develop.
My favorite guy to gamble on in the hopes of a breakout is Nino Niederreiter. El Nino scored 20 goals and 23 assists last season with average PIM and shots. He had only 5 power play points so if he gets into the teens, we are looking at a 50 point player. With the way the third line took off at the end of last season, the upside is there for a big year. As one of the last picks in 12’ers, Nino is a great option.
Another part of the older core, Jason Pominville was an epic disaster last season until the third line went off at the end of the year. While he did have some bad luck in terms of shooting percentage, the shot rate is merely above average now instead of elite and he contributes nothing in penalty minutes. I’m leaving him undrafted in 12’ers and will monitor the situation to see if he stays on the third line or moves into a bigger role.
It’s crazy to think a 25 year old who was mostly a 4th liner in his career could have a 10 game point streak but that’s exactly what Erik Haula did last March. He finished with 14 goals, 20 assists and a +21 rating. The problem is that his shot rate is very poor and he doesn’t get power play time. I can’t see him getting a larger role with the depth the Wild have but Haula is worth streaming in good matchups.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Joel Eriksson Ek
2) Luke Kunin
3) Alex Tuch
4) Mike Reilly
5) Stephen Michalek
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back on Friday, either with the rest of my top 100 if it’s finished or a preview of the Nashville Predators. Reid’s next post should be up later today as well so be on the lookout for that. As always, feel free to ask any comments or questions below. Take care everyone!