4 Minnesota Wild Players Head to IIHF World Championships

The Minnesota Wild may not be in the 2023 Postseason anymore but that doesn’t mean Wild fans have nothing to cheer about. They have four players that will be playing in the IIHF World Championship taking place in Riga, Latvia, and Tampere, Finland, May 12-28. So there will be plenty of hockey to watch between the NHL Playoffs and the IIHF World Championship.

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Jake Middleton, Marco Rossi, Sammy Walker, and Jesper Wallstedt were the chosen four to represent their respective countries as well as the Wild. While Middleton was busy playing in the NHL, Walker and Rossi made appearances throughout the season but mainly joined Wallstedt with the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League (AHL) for most of the season.

Wild’s Middleton Joins Team Canada

Jacob Middleton was one of the Wild’s most consistent defensemen. He played in 79 of the 82 games and blocked at least one shot in 68 of them. Overall he had 155 blocked shots in 79 games with his highest being six blocks in one game. In his first few seasons in the NHL, he didn’t play much until the 2021-22 season when he played 45 games for the San Jose Sharks and was then traded to Minnesota at the 2022 Trade Deadline and played 21 more games.

Middleton impressed the Wild’s coaching staff and earned a full-time spot on their roster for the 2022-23 season. While his main priority was defense, he also recorded three goals and 12 assists for 15 points. His strong and consistent play not only impressed the Wild staff but also Team Canada who chose him to be part of their roster.

Jake Middleton Minnesota Wild
Jake Middleton, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Middleton will add another veteran presence to a team with a good mix of youth and veteran players. His consistent defensive style will be a welcome addition along with his ability to get his big 6-foot-6 frame in front of shots. It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to more new teammates under a new coaching style, but he adjusted quite well when he joined the Wild and it’s likely he’ll do just fine with Team Canada as well.

Wild’s Rossi Gets Time to Shine

Marco Rossi has been the talk recently after spending most of the season in Iowa and struggling a bit in the 19 games he played in the NHL this season. He only had one point in those 19 games but he had 51 points in 53 games played for the Iowa Wild. He was second in points just behind Nic Petan who had 62 points in 53 games.

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Rossi did show off his speed and puck-handling abilities while he was in the NHL and even though it didn’t result in a permanent roster spot, he’s only 21 years old. He’s still young and everyone develops at a different pace. Kirill Kaprizov didn’t join the NHL until he was 24 and he’d been playing professionally in Russia prior to that, so he had a lot of experience before even coming to the NHL. Rossi just needs time and patience to get fully adjusted to the NHL.

Marco Rossi Minnesota Wild
Marco Rossi, Minnesota Wild (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rossi does have a few things to work on over the offseason to get ready to join the NHL next season and he’ll have a chance to show his skills while representing his home country, Austria. He’ll be joining a roster with a lot of young talent and some veterans who will hopefully be mentors for Rossi as he continues to hone his talents. Playing in this tournament can be a great experience for him to keep improving his game to be ready for next season, but also help his team win for his country.

Wild’s Walker One of the Hometown Heroes

Sammy Walker hit the ground running when he joined the Wild for nine games this season and registered one goal and one assist for two points. His NHL stint was short and he spent the majority of the season with Rossi on the Iowa Wild. He was fourth in points for Iowa with 48 and while he did well in the AHL, he showed a lot of potential in the NHL as well.

Walker is another young up-and-coming player at 23 years old and will be pushing to join the NHL roster permanently next season alongside Rossi. He’s quick with a strong hockey IQ that allows him to be in the right place at the right time and make good decisions in regard to plays. He hasn’t spent a lot of time in the NHL so he still has a lot of room to grow but he’s already shown he’s a strong player.

Sammy Walker Minnesota Wild
Sammy Walker, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Walker will be representing the United States and the Wild as well as his hometown state of Minnesota. Like Rossi and Middleton, he’ll be joining a team full of both veterans and rookies and his youthful talent will be a great addition. This will be a great learning experience for Walker as again like Rossi, he has some things to adjust in his game before he’s ready to join the NHL and this is the perfect place for him to do that.

Wild’s Wallstedt Future Number One

Rumors have been circling around Jesper Wallstedt for quite a while now and there are high expectations riding on his shoulders. He hasn’t played for the Wild yet other than a few preseason games but he did have a decent season with teammates Walker and Rossi on the Iowa Wild. He’s expected to be the Wild’s star goaltender either this coming season or the next and he’s already shown great poise.

In Iowa, Wallstedt played in 38 games and had a record of 18-15-5, not outstanding numbers but it was a winning record. It was also his first full season in the AHL and things take time, especially for young goaltenders. Their development has to be handled carefully, too much too early could stunt their development or not enough of a challenge could prevent them from improving. Another season in Iowa may be just the thing he needs to develop his game a bit more.

Jesper Wallstedt Iowa Wild
Jesper Wallstedt. Iowa Wild (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Before Wallstedt has to worry about next season, he’ll represent his home country of Sweden. He’ll get to show off his exceptional goaltending skills and continue to play at a high level to improve his game. He’s a strong, young goaltender with a lot of talent that’ll hopefully show his great net presence and help his team to victory.

Wild’s Stars

The Wild have four great players heading to the IIHF World Championship that’ll be able to represent their home countries but also the Wild. They’ll have the chance to play at a high level and for the youngsters, they can learn and adjust their games for the better. Joining players from all over the world gives them the opportunity to see and experience new things that not many get the chance to do.

Related: 10 Minnesota Wild Prospects You Need to Watch in 2022-23

Hopefully, these players have a great time and represent both their countries and the Wild well. A lot of eyes will be on their play and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the different style of pressure and hopefully, their respective teams are successful.