The Minnesota Wild are heading into the 2022-23 season with a lot of eyes pointed in their direction. After a year of defying odds and shattering an astonishing amount of team and individual records, it’s questionable if they can repeat their success. Players up and down the lineup had career-best seasons, and almost all of them exceeded expectations. Regression of those players that stepped up could spell a disastrous season, but further development could allow them to maintain their previous season’s excellence. Here are three Wild hot takes for the upcoming 2022-23 season.
Kirill Kaprizov Wins the Art Ross
Kirill Kaprizov left his name all over the team’s record books last season, as he had the best single campaign ever by a Wild player. With 47 goals and 61 assists, he became the first player to break the 100-point mark and did so after having a slow start to the year. His ability to take over a game was unlike anything Wild fans have ever seen, and he did it regularly. Currently sitting at over a point per game in his 136 games played, there is every indication that the young superstar will have an even better year in 2022-23.
When Kaprizov finally came into the league during the 2020-21 season, there was a lot of buzz around Minnesota about his abilities and potential to be a top-six forward. He took those expectations and shattered them with a Calder-winning performance. The next season (2021-22), the entire NHL looked at him as a top-line winger with star potential, and he again propelled himself to new heights with a 108-point spectacle. Moving forward into the 2022-23 season, everyone knows that he is a superstar, but again, he is going to pass those expectations and bring the Wild their first-ever Art Ross Trophy.
Wild Make Conference Final for First Time in 20 Years
The Wild are no strangers to the playoffs, having made nine appearances in the last ten seasons. However, they have failed to manage any success, as their two best runs during those years ended in the second round to the Chicago Blackhawks. To find a better result, you have to travel all the way back to their unexpected run to the conference final during their first-ever playoff run in the 2002-03 season. Minnesota fans are dying for another deep playoff run after 20 years, and this year will be the year.
Related: Minnesota Wild are Breaking Traditional Rebuild Ideas
The wonderful (and sometimes frustrating) thing about the NHL Playoffs is that any team can catch fire and have an amazing run, meaning the better team on paper may not always win. The Wild have a huge disadvantage for the next three years with their massive cap penalties from the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter buyouts, meaning they are exactly the kind of team no one would expect to go on a deep playoff run, which is why they will. They are in a prime position of being a good team that will need a few things to go right for them to have a successful season. If they can worm their way into the playoffs, they have the air of a team that could catch fire and burn their way to perhaps the best run in recent memory.
Filip Gustavsson Equally Splits Time With Fleury
The Wild are heading into the 2022-23 season with a completely different goalie tandem than they had a year ago. Veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, who recently signed a two-year extension, will be the unquestioned starter after the previous starter, Cam Talbot, was traded to the Ottawa Senators in return for Filip Gustavsson. Gustavsson will undoubtedly start the season as Fleury’s back-up as he has just 27 games of NHL experience under his belt, with less than stellar results. Sporting a 3.12 goals-against average (GAA) and .905 save percentage (SV%), the 24-year-old Swedish netminder looks questionable at face value, even in a backup role.
It can be difficult to predict how a goalie will perform in any given season, as even the best goalies can have bad years. Gustavsson has dominated at every level and as recently as the 2018 World Junior Championship, where his performance helped Sweden win a silver medal and earned him the “Best Goaltender” of the tournament. While he has been unable to bring that same level of play with him to North America, a change of scenery and the chance to learn from Fleury may provide enough of a spark to light a fire in his game. Should he find his game with a better defense in front of him, there will be nothing stopping him from being able to split games 50/50 with Fleury by the end of the season.
Exciting Season Ahead
With the electrifying Kaprizov to bring the offence and the newly acquired Gustavsson to help man the net, there is a good chance for another record-breaking season. Wild fans have growing expectations for their team as recent success has been proven over the last few seasons, but has yet to carry over into the playoffs. Even with the buyout penalties acting as a handicap, there is a belief that the Wild will still be a top competitor in the Western Conference. With an Art Ross from Kaprizov and solid play from Gustavsson, a deep playoff run is definitely in their future.