The Minnesota Wild had an excellent regular season in 2016-17, their first under Bruce Boudreau, finishing with 106 points. Unfortunately for them, they had another first round exit, this time as a prohibitive favorite against the St. Louis Blues. I was all in on the Wild last year in the regular season strictly because of Boudreau; the man is as good as it gets behind the bench. Arguably my biggest call of the year, having Devan Dubnyk 40 spots higher than ADP, worked out perfectly as Dubnyk finished as the #3 overall goalie. With a few players breaking out and others finding their form again, the Wild remain a very interesting team for fantasy purposes. Let’s take a look at the plethora of options Boudreau has to work with:
Elite Talent – For years, we heard that Mikael Granlund was the best prospect in the world yet his first few seasons in the NHL were underwhelming. Granlund finally had his big breakout scoring 23 goals and 46 assists last season with a +23 rating. That’s the good news. The bad news is it came with poor PIM and a below average shot rate. The shot rate was a career best suggesting that it could continue to be on the uptick. I have him ranked 44th overall right now because of the points upside. I’m leaning towards dropping him a few spots in case the shot rate doesn’t increase. If it doesn’t, we could be at 17 goals instead if his shooting percentage regresses to career norms which would be disappointing for a fourth round pick. I like Granlund quite a bit, especially in real life, but because he doesn’t contribute in all categories, he does have some downside.
I’m all in on Nino Niederreiter this season. Nino also had his breakout last season scoring 25 goals and 32 assists with 53 PIM and a +17 rating. What has me really excited is that he averaged barely over 15 minutes per game last season. That number should increase towards the 18 range giving him additional upside on top of a 25 year old improving his game. Niederreiter is 59th overall on my current board and I’m tempted to move him even higher.
Must Draft – Here’s what I wrote about Eric Staal in my Top 100: “Bruce Boudreau brought Staal back from the dead to have a terrific season in Minnesota. Not Melisandre bringing back Jon Snow from the dead but you know what I mean. Staal scored 28 goals and 37 assists while being a positive contributor in all six categories. The only concern that I have is that with slight downticks in most categories, Staal becomes significantly less valuable. I have faith that he will be a 60 point player again and quite frankly, he needs to be in order to be a top 100 player.” As noted above, Staal should be just fine as Boudreau’s #1C but he also has some downside because a slight step back really drains his value. This ranking has that mostly priced in so if he falls into the 8th round of a 12’er, I’d be thrilled grabbing him.
The breakout that I predicted correctly on the Wild was Charlie Coyle. Coyle really developed as a playmaker dishing 38 assists to go along with 18 goals. The shot rate needs to jump for him to be a top 100 player and while I don’t have him ranked there, he won’t be far off. If Coyle can repeat his even strength point totals, he could top 65 points since he had only 9 PPP last season. I also expect his minutes to increase so I’ll be looking to grab Coyle in all leagues in the middle rounds.
Everything is trending in the wrong direction for Zach Parise at 33 years old. That said, I’m willing to take him late in drafts if he doesn’t go earlier due to name value. Parise scored 19 goals and 23 assists in 69 games last season. The shot rate has fallen off but still is well above-average and the penalty minutes are decent. The injuries are starting to pile up which is why I’m keeping him lower in my rankings but with first line minutes and a little luck, Parise still has top 100 upside if things pan out right.
I originally was going to have Mikko Koivu in the streamer category because he doesn’t excite me at all but after looking closer, he should be drafted in all 12’ers. Koivu is a lock for 35-45 assists with solid STP and almost certainly a good plus-minus. The shot rate is poor so if he has some bad luck, it’s not impossible that he scores only 10 goals which is why I probably won’t own him anywhere. That said, if you’re short assists come the end of your draft, he’s a solid option.
Streamers – I’m intrigued at the idea of taking Jason Zucker with a late pick in drafts. The 25 year old scored 22 goals and added 25 assists with an incredible +34 rating in 2016-17. Everything is solid across the board except in special teams points because he barely played the power play last season. Zucker had one PPP last season but I would guess that he gets PP2 time this season. Even if he could get to 10 PPP, that’s around a 25+30 player who doesn’t hurt you in any category. I’m going to watch the Wild preseason intently to see how Zucker is being used. He’s a elite streamer regardless of power play time but there could be some sneaky value here.
I’ll save talking about Joel Eriksson Ek in the prospects section but I’ll just say that if he’s getting more than 12-13 minutes a game, I’ll be streaming him all season. At this point, I kind of doubt that happens until 2018-19.
Tyler Ennis makes his way to Minnesota from Buffalo and it’s quite simple breaking down Ennis’ value. If he is fully healthy, he should be a viable streaming candidate. It’s a big if given that he’s played 74 games total over the past two seasons but not impossible. 20+20 with solid PIM and SOG is a realistic outcome if he plays 75+ games.
Must Draft – Ryan Suter is far from exciting in terms of fantasy hockey but he clearly should be owned in all leagues. Suter totaled 40 points last season with a +34 rating and solid contributions across the board. Don’t take him too early (he’s never scored double digit goals and he’ll be 33 mid-season) but Suter should be a solid #3 defenseman.
Upside! That’s what comes to mind when I think of Mathew Dumba. The former top ten pick had 11+23 last season while being +15 and registering 59 PIM. The minutes should increase following the trade of Marco Scandella giving him extra upside. The shot rate needs to marginally improve but if it does, Dumba should be a player that’s owned all season. Draft him as your #4 but there’s a chance he returns low end #2 / top end #3 upside.
I don’t know if Jared Spurgeon quites belongs in must-draft territory but since the other three Wild defensemen are virtually irrelevant for fantasy hockey, I’m putting him here. Everything broke right for Spurgeon last season as he tallied 38 points with a +33 rating. If his power play time increases, he’s a must-draft, but so much of his value came from his plus-minus last year and that’s nearly impossible to repeat. I’m fine with taking the shot on him late, especially if you already have solid PIM and need the plus-minus boost.
Dubnyk finished last season poorly and still posted a 2.25/.923 stat line. I see no reason why that couldn’t repeat itself. I have Dubnyk at 33rd overall but I’m going to move him up to the second tier of goalies in the mid 20’s. He’s going to get 60+ starts (probably more like 65+ given their backup situation) on an elite regular season team meaning the wins should be there along with a great goals against average and save percentage. I think last season is close to the goalie he is as long as Boudreau is behind the bench.
I’m guessing that Niklas Svedberg is the backup for Dubnyk at this point in time. Svedberg had limited success in the Boston organization before playing in the KHL the last two seasons. Svedberg was solid in 2015-16 but had a dreadful .897 sv% in 48 games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa in 2016-17. I won’t be using him or Alex Stalock (the other potential backup) until they prove in a couple games that they’re capable of being respectable backups.
HITS / BLOCKS / FACEOFF LEAGUES
Coyle gets a nice boost with elite blocks for a forward and solid hits. Spurgeon is a must-draft due to his elite blocked shot totals. Nino gets a small boost for his big hits. Overall, not a lot of change in overall values for Wild players.
Granlund, Niederreiter and Coyle all move up the rankings being 25 years old or younger. Parise and Suter become far less appealing and I wouldn’t be taking Koivu as the end is near. I think it would be a good time to sell Staal high if possible.
Blue Chip – Joel Eriksson Ek is one of my favorite prospects in the sport of hockey. The Swedish center has an excellent shot, a great two-way game and solid size to go along with very good skating. JEE has first line center upside and while I don’t think he’ll have the role to flourish this year, I am already calling him a sleeper for 2018-19 redrafts. At that point, Koivu will probably be gone clearing the path for Eriksson Ek but I firmly believe that Boudreau won’t have any choice but to give him the minutes he deserves. If you’re starting a dynasty league, I would rate him very highly.
High Upside – Kirill Kaprizov was only a 5th round pick in 2015 but the 20 year old Russian has blossomed over the last two years. He remains in Russia for this season after 20+22 in 49 games last year. In addition, he had 66 PIM giving him big fantasy upside if that wasn’t a fluke. You should be able to get him late in dynasty drafts since he’s a bit under the radar but Kaprizov is an excellent lottery ticket.
Luke Kunin is the other Wild prospect that appeals to me. Kunin has the potential to become a dynamic offensive player. He was over a point per game at Wisconsin last year before finishing the year nicely in Iowa. Kunin will start this year in Iowa but should play his way onto the big squad within a year. The goal scoring upside is through the roof as his finishing ability is elite due to his accurate shot. If he can fill out his frame, we could be looking at a 30+ goal scorer on a semi-regular basis.
That’s all for now guys. There will be no post on Thursday morning but that’s because I have a lot of work to do for Friday. The plan is have to my top 150 posted very early on Friday morning while also launching the RCL’s Friday afternoon. We’re only one month away from the season! Can’t wait. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Thanks for reading, take care!