The Minnesota Wild has yet to hit the season’s halfway mark due to all their COVID postponements, but it’s time for their midseason awards. Most of the NHL has made it to that point, while the Wild and a few other teams bring up the rear. They’ve played 38 games with a record of 25-10-3 and 53 points that had them tied for 11th in the NHL as of Jan. 27.
They’re currently coming off a dominating 8-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens that extended their winning streak to three games. Quite a bit has happened since the quarter-season awards that included injuries, players NHL debuts, winning streaks, losing streaks, and players that found their scoring stride.
Rookie of the Year: Matt Boldy
Just like in the quarterly awards, this award could’ve gone to two different players. The first could’ve been Brandon Duhaime, who’s done well off and on throughout the season. His offensive stats put him in the top 20 amongst fellow NHL rookies. He’s played 36 games, scored four goals, and tallied seven assists for 11 points. His most impressive stat has been the number of hits he’s accumulated, he’s second on the team, just behind heavy hitter Marcus Foligno.
Duhaime’s rookie season has gone well, but this award belonged to fellow newcomer Matt Boldy. Ever since he joined the lineup, the team has improved. He scored a goal in his first NHL game, and he’s contributed offensively in four out of the seven games he’s played. Even his linemate, Kevin Fiala, has gotten better due to his addition. Fiala has been on a seven-game point streak since Boldy was put as his wing partner.
Boldy has scored three goals and three assists for six points in his first seven NHL games. He’s adjusted very well to the NHL and has looked like a veteran since he started. He’s played so well that he’s been used on both power-play units, and one of his three goals was on the power play. That’s just his offensive abilities, he’s also proven his capabilities on defense, where he’s registered six blocked shots, two giveaways, and five takeaways. His great play in such a minimal number of games has earned him the rookie award at this point in the season.
Most Valuable Player: Kirill Kaprizov
This award could’ve had two winners in two different categories. When it comes to offensive abilities, this is a no-brainer; the award had to go to Kirill Kaprizov. He’s been the Wild’s point leader for most of the season, and as of now, he’s on pace to record over 100 points, which would be a first for the Wild franchise. In his 37 games played, he’s tallied 17 goals and 32 assists for 49 points. As of Jan. 27, he’s tied for ninth in the league in points as well as assists and has been on a point streak of 17 points in the last nine games.
To put that point streak in perspective, in that same time frame and the same number of games, only one player had more points than Kaprizov. That player was Bryan Rust, who had 18 points in eight games, he edged Kaprizov with one extra goal. In nine games, Kaprizov scored seven goals and tallied ten assists, and he’s easily been the Wild’s most valuable player offensively.
While this award typically goes to the leading scorer, sometimes it goes to the goaltender. The Wild’s backup goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen has stepped up in a huge way this season. When their starting goaltender Cam Talbot was injured, Kahkonen took his place as to be expected. What wasn’t expected was the four wins out of five games he tallied in net. Then when Talbot returned, he reinjured himself almost immediately and was out once again, Kahkonen won those two games in relief. He’s been great in net, and defensively he would’ve earned that award for stepping up when his team needed him most.
Most Surprising: Marcus Foligno
Marcus Foligno, affectionately known as “Moose” to his teammates and fans, has been on an offensive surge this season. He usually has a reputation for being a very physical player and has led the Wild in hits for five straight seasons since he joined the team in 2017-18. He leads the team currently with 109 hits in 38 games played. However, his offensive stats are even better.
In those 38 games, he’s scored 17 goals and 10 assists for 27 points. He’s tied for second place on the team in goals, one behind Ryan Hartman’s 18. He’s on a three-game point streak that includes a goal in each of those games. He’s also in second place for game-winning goals with three, plus an overtime goal. He’s stepped up at crucial moments, his goals have come at critical times for the Wild, and he’s been the most surprising player this season.
Most Disappointing: Victor Rask
This category was a little harder to decide because the Wild have had so many good players this season, even Victor Rask. He’s stepped up at times, the problem has been his timing and consistency. The longer he’s in the lineup, the worse he starts to play. He does well the first couple of games but can’t stay consistent, that’s the only part of his game that’s dependable. It’s a constant cycle of doing well for a game, dropping off, being benched, and then doing well again when he’s brought back up.
He’ll have to pick up his game in the last half of this season, or the Wild may be forced to let him go. With all the talented players coming up the ranks, they won’t have room for him much longer. He has 11 points in 24 games. To compare, Boldy has played a third fewer games but has the same number of points, and he’s a rookie. Even though Rask hasn’t improved himself yet, another player has.
Most Improved: Kevin Fiala
This award was added since there has been time to gauge players’ improvement. The progression Fiala has experienced in the last month, and a half of hockey has been exciting to watch. In the first quarter of the season, he played 24 games and had 15 points. Since that point, he’s played 14 games, had 14 points, and is on a nine-game point streak. He’s also nearly tripled his goal numbers since then. He went from three goals in the first 24 games to eight goals in 14. He’s finally found his scoring touch, and hopefully, it’ll last for a while.
Wild’s Next Quarter
The Wild’s next two months are going to put them to the test. They’ll be playing games every other day and not having week-long breaks any longer. They’ll also be playing teams they have yet to see this season, like the Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, Calgary Flames, etc. Hopefully, they’ll have Talbot back, and their goalie tandem can be whole again as they head into this stretch. With the potential that Jonas Brodin could be back as well, the Wild have a lot to look forward to despite the tough schedule coming up.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.