Wild: 3 Iowa Players That Should Be in Minnesota in 2022-23

As the 2021-22 NHL season continues, the Minnesota Wild are inching towards qualifying for a playoff spot. Several players have truly taken their game to another level this season to help the Wild get to where they are, from Kirill Kaprizov living up to his massive contract, to Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala having career seasons. With that being said, general manager Bill Guerin likely won’t be bringing back some players next season, regardless of how the campaign ends, due to salary cap-related challenges.

The good news is that the Wild won’t have to search hard for replacement players. Although the team doesn’t have the deepest prospect cupboard at the moment, there are several players playing for Iowa in the American Hockey League (AHL) who should be ready to compete for an NHL roster spot next season.

Here’s a look at three Iowa players who should play for the Wild in the 2022-23 NHL season.

Marco Rossi, Center

The ninth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, expectations were high for Marco Rossi as soon as the Wild announced that they were selecting him. Although his size was a concern to some during his draft year, he more than made up for it with his pure skill alone, proven by his 185 points across 109 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Ottawa 67’s.

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The real challenge came at the start of the 2021-22 AHL season when fans wanted to see how Rossi could handle himself against grown men. It turns out that the 20-year-old didn’t need much time to feel comfortable in the minors, racking up 14 points in his first 10 games with Iowa. Even though he hasn’t maintained that same level of production throughout the campaign, he still leads all of his teammates with 50 points in 57 games.

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

What’s even more impressive about Rossi’s 2021-22 AHL campaign is the fact that he missed the majority of the last hockey season battling the lingering effects of COVID-19. Not only does that show his dedication to bouncing back, but the fact that he’s playing at full strength is promising for his long-term career. The Wild rewarded him with a pair of NHL games during the middle of the current season, and even though he didn’t register a point, it was a glimpse of what’s to come as early as this Fall.

The Wild will have a spot at center open for Rossi next season considering Nick Bjugstad is slated to become a free agent in a few months. The team could also move on from Fiala due to him likely seeing a pay increase, which could open a spot if head coach Dean Evason wants to experiment with Rossi on the wing. Either way, the latter’s roster spot will be his to lose once training camp rolls around. Thanks to the skill he’s displayed this season, fans likely don’t have to worry about Rossi losing that spot.

Mason Shaw, Left Wing/Center

With the exciting young pieces that the Wild have added in recent years, some people have forgotten that Mason Shaw is still in their system. The 97th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft left a lot to be desired in his four first AHL seasons, recording only 61 points in 124 games due to knee injuries.

All of a sudden, something clicked for Shaw in the 2021-22 season. After playing at a 0.49 point-per-game (PPG) pace in the previous seasons, the 23-year-old is at a 0.90 PPG rate after tallying 45 points in 50 games so far. He’s rediscovered that playmaking ability that made him a treat to watch in the Western Hockey League (WHL), trailing only Rossi among Iowa players with 30 assists. Beyond that, Shaw has also recorded career-highs in game-winning goals (five) and power-play goals (seven).

Although he was drafted as a center, Shaw has become more of a left-winger during his time in Iowa. If Fiala is indeed traded — and the Wild choose not to re-sign Nicolas Deslauriers — there should be an open spot for Shaw on the left side, where he’s excelled. The only question is whether or not he can maintain his production down the stretch to secure that opportunity next season.

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At the end of the day, the next campaign could be Shaw’s last to crack the Wild’s roster. He’ll be a restricted free agent (RFA) when the 2022-23 season ends, and if he doesn’t crack the NHL by then, Guerin could decide that he’s already peaked and walk away. Fortunately, the latter is more than talented and seems to have put his injury issues behind him. If that’s the case, there’s no reason for him not to be in a Wild jersey next season.

Calen Addison, Defenseman

Calen Addison is one player who many Wild fans think should already be on the NHL roster this season. Acquired during the deal that sent Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins in February 2020, Addison made an immediate impact during the 2020-21 hockey season. The Brandon, Manitoba product proved that his offensive flair at the WHL level was no accident after tallying 22 points in 31 AHL games.

While some may have thought his production was a fluke, Addison has been proving that’s not the case. He’s played a total of 36 games in the 2021-22 AHL season, scoring seven goals while adding 22 assists. His production has been consistent, whether at even strength or on the power play, illustrated by his trio of goals on the man-advantage.

Calen Addison Minnesota Wild
Calen Addison, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Addison’s impressive display this season hasn’t gone unnoticed by the top brass. He’s seen some significant call-up time throughout the NHL season, playing 15 games as of April 15. Although he’s had his fair share of mistakes, he’s also looked comfortable a good portion of the time. He averaged 13:47 of ice time, and tallied two goals and a pair of assists. His 0.56 goals per 60 minutes rate is the highest among all Wild defensemen this season, as is his 66.1 percent on-ice score adjusted goal percentage.

Addison could certainly use the remainder of the 2021-22 AHL season to further improve different areas of his game, however, he should be on the opening NHL roster in 2022-23. Assuming the Wild let Jordie Benn walk in free agency, re-sign RFA Jacob Middleton and trade Mathew Dumba for salary cap-relate reasons, they will have six defensemen under contract. Addison is more than deserving of the sixth/seventh spot in the rotation and could provide the backend with a much-needed offensive spark.

The Wild are fortunate to have a trio of quality prospects in the AHL. Rossi, Shaw and Addison are all capable of being NHL players based on skill alone. However, their cheap contracts should also be an incentive for a call-up, because Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s buyouts are kicking in next season. With management looking to save money while remaining competitive, it makes all the sense in the world for Addison, Rossi and Shaw to be wearing Minnesota Wild jerseys next season.

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