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MCKEEN’S 2023-24 NHL YEARBOOK – MINNESOTA WILD – Team Preview – Player Profiles

SAINT PAUL, MN - FEBRUARY 17: Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) shoots the puck while being defended by Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen (4) during the NHL game between the Dallas Stars and the Minnesota Wild, on February 17th, 2023, at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, MN. (Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire)

Review: The Wild are enduring a nightmare cap situation with the decision to buy out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter leaving the Wild with roughly $12.8 million in dead space in 2022-23. It’s hard to remain competitive under those conditions, but Minnesota ended up being solid with a 46-25-11 record. Goaltender Filip Gustavsson deserves a good share of the credit. In his first season out of Ottawa, the 24-year-old (25 now) posted a 22-9-7 record, 2.10 GAA and .931 save percentage in 39 outings. Veteran Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t as good, but he was at least solid, and the combination resulted in Minnesota allowing the sixth fewest goals per game (2.67). The Wild sorely lacked scoring depth, but Kirill Kaprizov’s 40 goals and 75 points, complemented by Mats Zuccarello, Matt Boldy and Joel Eriksson Ek each recording at least 60 points, was enough to take advantage of the expert goaltending on most nights. What it wasn’t enough for was to push the Wild forward in the playoffs, though, and they consequently were ousted in the first round by Dallas.

What’s Changed? Very little, thanks to Minnesota’s cap situation. Defenseman Matt Dumba and enforcer Ryan Reaves left as free agents. Meanwhile, the Wild acquired bottom-six forward Patrick Maroon from Tampa Bay.

What would success look like? With Suter and Parise’s cap burden swelling to a combined $14.7 million this year, the Wild will once again be at a competitive disadvantage. Still, goaltender Gustavsson and forwards Eriksson Ek, Kaprizov and Boldy are young, positioning Minnesota to have a solid core for years to come. The Wild’s awkward cap situation runs through 2024-25, but after that they’ll be able to make major additions at a time when their core is in its prime. In the meantime, this is largely the same group that got them to the playoffs last year, so a similar outcome in 2023-24 wouldn’t be absurd.

What could go wrong? Though perhaps too much is resting on Gustavsson’s shoulders. He’s only played in 66 career NHL games, and not every goaltender who looks great at first goes on to have a strong career. If he regresses, that would be a huge problem because Fleury, who will turn 39 in November, shouldn’t be counted on to start regularly at this point. As it is, there’s no guarantee he’ll even be a good backup given his age.

Top Breakout Candidate: Although Minnesota had four players last year with at least 60 points, no one else on the team reached even the 40-point milestone. The Wild desperately need secondary scoring and Marco Rossi might be able to provide that. He’s been limited to an assist in 21 career NHL games, but Rossi has a lot of offensive upside and shined in the AHL last season, scoring 16 goals and 51 points in 53 outings. He should get a long look during training camp as a middle-six option.


Kirill Kaprizov - LW

For the Minnesota Wild to have one of the most exciting players in the NHL, it’s a rare treat for their fans and for fans around the league. In just his third season, Kirill Kaprizov dazzled by piling up goals by the bucketload. He had his second straight 40-goal season by putting 40 up on the nose. His 75-point season was a drop from the 108 he had the year before, but he also missed 15 games because of a lower-body injury. Kaprizov led the Wild in goals and points for the third consecutive year and because of his outrageous ability to create offense, he’s hands down the Wild’s most important player. Minnesota was 23rd in the NHL in goals scored and Kaprizov accounted for 16.7 percent of them and nearly a third of their total offense. The Wild had strong goaltending and defense, but they had only a few players capable of finishing with regularity (four players had 20 or more goals). Kaprizov’s regular success since entering the NHL shows he can continue to do it and it’s clear the Wild absolutely need him to keep it up. While he and Mats Zuccarello were regularly together, Ryan Hartman’s injury hurt their overall production. A healthy Hartman should help Kaprizov make a run at the century mark once again.

Joel Eriksson Ek - C

The Wild’s outstanding two-way center was having a huge season for a team that was eager to make noise in the postseason, but ultimately, Joel Eriksson Ek’s season was derailed in April because he broke his leg blocking a shot late in the regular season. Eriksson Ek had 23 goals and a career-high 61 points last season in 78 games. Eriksson Ek attempted to return in Game 3 of their first round series against Dallas but lasted 19 seconds before departing for good. He ultimately needed surgery for the broken leg and will be ready for training camp and the regular season. Eriksson Ek has built up his offensive game steadily over his career, increasing his output each season since he entered the league in 2016-2017. The bar is set high for him now after his performance last season, but he teamed up mostly with Marcus Foligno and Matt Boldy last season, the latter of whom was third on the Wild in goals and points. A healthy Eriksson Ek will be vital to them returning to the postseason and improving their success therein. He’s vital to their 5-on-5 play, of course, but also to their power play and penalty kill. Do-it-all players like Eriksson Ek are the difference makers in the playoffs.

Matt Boldy - LW

While Kirill Kaprizov gets most of the attention in Minnesota, Matt Boldy is their other young star player who gives fans the most hope of a Stanley Cup down the road. In his second season in nearly twice as many games, Boldy scored 31 goals and had 63 points. He was third on the team in both categories and eight of his goals came on the power play. The Wild believe in Boldy in a big way. They signed him to a seven-year, $49 million extension in January and based on the numbers he put up, it was a heads-up move by GM Bill Guerin because further 30-goal seasons (or more) would’ve made that price a lot more uncomfortable. At 22 years old, Boldy is the key young player for the Wild. As good as Kaprizov is, he’s 26 years old after coming over from Russia. Boldy, the 12th pick in the 2019 draft, was one of the Wild’s top performers in possession and expected goal percentage at 5-on-5. While that’s not surprising for a player that had the kind of success he did, for a player at his age it’s beyond encouraging to see that he’s already among the best on the team. His career is just getting started, but the future for him is very bright.

Ryan Hartman - RW

An upper-body injury wreaked havoc on Ryan Hartman last season. In 59 games, he had 15 goals and 37 points. After putting up 34 goals and 65 points two years ago, the injury sidetrack was a tough blow for him and the Wild alike. Hartman plays a rugged, physical game and is a menace all over the ice, particularly around the net in the offensive zone. Despite missing 23 games after getting injured in a fight, he was second on the team in penalty minutes (90) which affirms how much he’s able to get under the skin of opposing players. Hartman’s physical nature is needed as the center between Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello because those two players aren’t out there to throw the body and get nasty. Hartman handles the dirty work, and he does it well and gets rewarded for it by cashing in on points. Hartman’s become a de facto No. 1 center because he’s most found between those two players. With Marco Rossi potentially on the way to the NHL this season, things could change up the middle for Minnesota’s forward units, but after the consistent success Hartman has had, it would take significant improvement from Rossi to unseat him.

Mats Zuccarello - C

It’s hard to find players as consistently strong offensively as Mats Zuccarello. The 35-year-old Norwegian was second on the Wild with 67 points. Zuccarello is a solid even strength scorer, but he’s also dynamite on the power play. He had nine goals and 29 points on the man advantage last season, and he averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game playing on the Wild’s top line. His production was a bit down compared to two years ago, but considering his age and that he had a career-high 79 points then, that he was still one of the team’s top scorers and vital to their success, it says everything you need to know about him. He teamed up on a line with Kirill Kaprizov and Ryan Hartman (as well as Sam Steel in Hartman’s injury absence) and that group drove Minnesota’s offense throughout the season. While Kaprizov and Hartman do more damage scoring goals, Zuccarello excels at setting them up to score. It’s hard to think coach Dean Evason would break that trio up this season, but if Marco Rossi makes a strong case in training camp or throughout the season, things could change. That said, the chemistry those three players have is outstanding and that goes a long way to helping set the lines. This season is a contract year for Zuccarello, and he’ll be 36 once it begins. He’ll have a lot to play for every year from here on out until he retires.

Marcus Johansson - RW

A return to Minnesota was just the thing Marcus Johansson needed to rejuvenate his game. Johansson began last season with Washington, but the Wild re-acquired him around the trade deadline and in 20 games in Minnesota he posted 18 points including six goals. Overall, he had 46 points in 80 games between the Capitals and Wild, but his play to close out the season with Minnesota earned him a new two-year, $4 million contract to stay put. Johansson was last in Minnesota in 2020 after he was acquired in a trade with Buffalo. He played 36 games in the COVID-19-shortened season and put up 14 points in 36 games and later departed for Seattle in free agency. But his return to the Twin Cities lit a fire under him and he also contributed two goals in the Wild’s six-game series loss to Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. His offensive abilities are strong, and he gives the Wild key depth they’ll need to keep up with the other playoff contenders in the West. Johansson played well on a line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy and it stands to reason he’ll be back with them again when the season begins. Johansson will turn 33 this season so his veteran presence is important, but they’ll need him to help spur Boldy to more goals and help on the power play even more this year.

Marcus Foligno - LW

Although he’s not the captain of the team, there’s little doubt that one of the Wild’s strongest on-ice leaders is Marcus Foligno. “Moose” takes care of business on the ice by chipping in with the occasional well-timed goal but also by delivering punishing hits and the occasional fight to fire his teammates up. He had seven goals and 21 points in 65 games last season (lower-body injuries caused him to miss games throughout the year) but he led the Wild with 237 hits which placed him in the top-15 in the NHL in that category. He also led the team with 97 penalty minutes. While that’s not the kind of category you want a player to lead, his penalties were generally crimes of effort because of the physical nature. Two seasons ago, Foligno had a career year with 23 goals and 42 points and assuredly the Wild would love to see him return to that kind of form, but he’ll need good health to allow for that possibility. He teamed up most often with Joel Eriksson Ek last season as well as Jordan Greenway before he was traded to Buffalo. This season he may wind up on a line with Frederick Gaudreau depending on how things shake out. One thing that’s for sure is whoever he’s on a line with can reap the benefits of having one of the league’s hardest working players leading the way.

Frederick Gaudreau - C

One of Minnesota’s most pleasant stories the past two seasons has centered around Frederick Gaudreau. When the Wild signed him as a free agent in the summer of 2021, he just finished his fourth NHL season after a year in Pittsburgh and three previously in Nashville with plenty of time spent in the AHL as well. Since becoming a regular with the Wild, he’s scored 33 goals and has 82 points in 158 games. He set a career high with 19 goals last season and finished with 38 points. His first season in Minnesota saw him put up 44 points. Playing as a third line center, Gaudreau has found a home in Minnesota and a role as the ultimate versatile forward. He played most of his minutes last season with Matt Boldy but also carved up equal amounts of time with Mats Zuccarello, Kirill Kaprizov, Jordan Greenway, Brandon Duhaime, and others. Having a player like that who can step in between any two wingers and be able to be productive and not a detriment is desperately needed for any team in the league. The Wild having Gaudreau score 35-to-45 points while being that guy helps steady their lineup in general, but he particularly makes their middle-or-bottom-six more potent offensively.

Brandon Duhaime - RW

When Brandon Duhaime arrived in the NHL two seasons ago, he announced his presence with physical authority delivering hits and racking up penalty minutes. Last season, things calmed down a bit but a lot of that was due to unfortunate upper-body injuries that held him to 51 games. In that time, he had nine goals and one assist but still managed to pile up 146 hits and 42 penalty minutes. When you consider he had 122 PIM and 201 hits in 80 games in his rookie season the year before, it’s easy to identify which part of the game was missing from the Wild lineup. Duhaime’s feisty play fed Minnesota’s energy lines where he teamed up most often with Conor Dewar, Ryan Reaves, and Frederick Gaudreau. The message was clear when he took a shift: it was time to stir the game up and raise the temperature a few degrees. As he enters his third season, he’s hopeful the injury issues will be behind him so he can contribute regularly and give the Wild more of the physical element they’re looking for deeper in their lineup. Duhaime has no reluctance to get involved and it’s made him a favorite among the fan base.

Pat Maroon - LW

The Wild’s six-game ouster from the postseason to Dallas last year sent a message that was clear as day to read: They needed a spark. They were pushed around by the Stars and often outclassed despite it being a six-game series and to address that they brought in a Stanley Cup champion ringer in Pat Maroon. After winning the Cup three seasons in a row with St. Louis and twice with Tampa Bay, Maroon will try to bring that good fortune with him to St. Paul where the Wild could use a hearty injection of his gamesmanship and grit. Last season with Tampa Bay, Maroon had five goals and 14 points but led the NHL with 150 penalty minutes. He also posted 172 hits and while hits aren’t a lacking category on the Wild with the likes of Marcus Foligno and Brandon Duhaime among others, Maroon’s play helps establish the tone. The Wild didn’t trade for Maroon as a means to reinvent the wheel so to speak, but rather to give them a third- or fourth-line winger who can contribute and knows what it takes to go all the way and that’s a book full of lessons the Wild need to desperately study.


Jonas Brodin - D

When it comes to defensive defensemen, Jonas Brodin stands out among them as one of the most respected in the league. While Brodin can help with the offensive game, it’s how he handles himself and opponents when he’s on the ice that makes him special. He’s always tasked with the toughest matchups and must fend off the league’s most ferocious scorers, game in and game out. Brodin missed 22 games last season and had three goals and 14 points last season which was a down year for him. In recent years, 20-to-30 points has been a more likely outcome, but he can partially be excused thanks to injury. Still, his 0.23 points per game as his lowest output since 2018-2019. All that said, Brodin was the Wild’s best defenseman in shot attempt percentage and was second best in expected goal percentage. Steady is what teams want from defensemen and the Wild are ecstatic that Brodin is nothing but steady. He averaged the most time on-ice per game on the roster and as he goes, so does Minnesota’s defense. Being solid defensively doesn’t often make the highlight reels, but Brodin is exceptional in his ability.

Jared Spurgeon - D

The Minnesota Wild captain showed why he earned the “C” on his jersey with how he handles the blue line. His 34 points was the best among Wild defensemen as were his 11 goals. Spurgeon has always had a strong offensive game throughout his career and his point total fell in line almost perfectly with his career output. In six of the past seven seasons, he’s scored 30-or-more points and that one outlier season was the COVID-19-shortened 2020-2021 season and he still had 25 points that year. Spurgeon is the guy that once owned the power play but now he’s become their penalty killing stalwart thanks to the arrival of Calen Addison. That said, he’s still getting time on the power play just on a support unit instead of the main group. He averaged nearly 22 minutes of ice time per game last season and got Lady Byng votes because he only had 14 penalty minutes. Spurgeon’s all-around play is outstanding and even though he’s not exactly a large-sized player at 5’9” 166 pounds, he performs in a big way. The Wild count on him in a big way and that he paired up almost exclusively with Jacob Middleton last season, he’s got a partner who will do a lot of the dirty work needed to free him up to create offensively when needed.

Calen Addison - D

Trading Jason Zucker was not an easy move for the Wild back in February 2020, but that they came away with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top prospect at the time turned out to be a big win because Calen Addison has lived up to his scouting reports. Addison got his first full-season taste of the NHL last season after splitting time between the AHL and NHL the previous two and put up 29 points including three goals in 62 games. Addison’s skill as a puck mover was well evident in his play and how he was able to conduct himself as the Wild’s No. 1 power play quarterback was strong as the Wild had the No. 15 power play in the league and scored 21.4 percent of the time. What the Wild hope to see out of Addison this season is a guy who’s grown into his skin and the roles he’ll move ahead with on the team. He showed savvy and confidence in how he handled the puck last season, but after getting the first real season under his belt, they’ll bank on him to be a lead puck mover in all situations and to improve upon his all-around numbers on the power play and ideally give the Wild a power play to be feared across the league. 


Filip Gustavsson - G

When the Minnesota Wild traded veteran Cam Talbot to the Ottawa Senators and brought in the younger, cheaper Filip Gustavsson, it seemed like a gamble designed just to tide them over until prospect Jesper Wallstedt was ready to go pro. And instead, Gustavsson took the opportunity to prove that sometimes, all a young goaltender needs are a new environment with a little more structure; after putting up one of the worst performances of the rotating carousel of goaltenders Ottawa had trotted out the year prior, Gustavsson put up not just the best performance in Minnesota but one of the best in the entire league.

Gustavsson boasts a litany of prototypical Swedish goaltending traits, preferring to push across the crease from his knees and staying in motion rather than setting and trying to maintain good mental rhythm without physical accompaniment. But while he struggled not to show his hand too early during his stint in Ottawa, the more structured environment of Minnesota’s goaltending situation helped to give the young NHLer a chance to establish better harmony with his defense and look more at home holding his feet instead of giving himself away. He looked more in control of the space he occupied in the blue paint during his time with the Wild last year, and the reliability of his game – he doesn’t seem to try to do too much, even when things get chaotic around the net – helped elevate the team’s play in front of him, too. With Marc-Andre Fleury creeping closer to 40 and the team likely needing to limit the future Hall of Famer’s starts more in the coming year, the real test will be to see just how well Gustavsson can replicate his successes from last season as the likely de facto number one for the Central Division club.

Projected starts: 50-55