Earlier this offseason we discussed the players who are likely on their last chances with the Minnesota Wild due to poor performance and expiring contracts. This time we’ll be taking a look at players with something to prove whether they are looking to redeem themselves from last season or they’re young players looking to show they’re worthy of an NHL spot.
Players like Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman made the list of players on their last chance, but Foligno also has to prove himself in terms of discipline this season. However, there are also players like Kirill Kaprizov and Brandon Duhaime who have to prove themselves after being greatly affected by injury. We’ll start with the player who has possibly the most to prove and move on from there.
Boldy Has Another Step
Matt Boldy had a very strong rookie season in 2021-22 with 47 games played and 39 points scored. In his second season, he jumped to a nearly full season of games with 81 games played and he tallied 63 points. Now that he’s shown he can score goals, he’ll want to prove he can maintain that scoring power, especially after he stepped up when Kaprizov was injured.
However, that step up only lasted while Kaprizov was out. Once he returned to the lineup, Boldy fell back into the shadows. He plays a great game regardless but his true potential came out when the pressure was on. He’ll be looking to prove he can play that way every night and not just when the top scorer is out of the lineup.
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He must show he can play another full season with even more goals scored and points accumulated. He’s expected to be right behind Kaprizov in scoring and will be eager to prove he can, especially with his new contract. Hopefully, he can figure out what causes him to lose that edge, fix it, and make it happen consistently.
Merrill Has to Prove Worth
Jon Merrill didn’t have the greatest year last season and spent a small chunk watching from the sidelines while his linemates Alex Goligoski or Calen Addison filled his spot. He had 12 points in 73 games played and although his defensive skills were strong, he made some mistakes that landed him on the bench. He’ll want to show he’s learned from those mistakes this season.
At times he seemed somewhat lost on the ice and that’ll be something else he looks to prove, that his focus is back. He’s still a capable defenseman, he just needs to find that motivation deep down to get his game back and prove he deserves that sixth spot because once again, it looks like he’ll have to battle at least Goligoski and probably Addison as well. If he can prove himself, it’ll be easy to keep him in the lineup, but if he doesn’t, it’ll also be easy to keep him out.
Gustavsson Has to Prove Contract Worthy
Rounding out the top three is none other than their newly signed goaltender Filip Gustavsson who hopes to own the number one slot this season. It’s quite clear he’s a strong goaltender but now that he has the confidence of a new contract and a guaranteed spot for seasons to come, he has to prove he earned it. He certainly did that last season as he started out as basically a rookie with little playing experience to playing like a veteran by the time the season ended.
No one really expected him to step up in that way but they were glad he did. It won’t be surprising if there are some rough patches this season, being it’s only Gustavsson’s second full season, but being able to pull himself out of those tough times is where he’ll really have the potential to prove himself. While he did well in his first postseason, he’ll be looking to prove he can be valuable in the playoffs by improving his game there as well.
The Wild have faith in him and he’s the type of player that will do everything to prove he’s worth their trust. He’s likely going to be the team’s last line of defense for the majority of the season, and hopefully, he can prove he’s earned that contract.
Wild Proving Themselves
In a way, the entire team will be looking to prove themselves after the end of last season. They’ve become known to fans as the team that makes it a habit to lose out in the first round after having a strong regular season. It’s time for that to change and every member of that team will be looking to prove they can do that this season.
They’ve kept most of the team intact and even the new players like Pat Maroon know what’s at stake. The Wild have things to prove this season and hopefully, they can follow through on those things to have their best season yet.