The NHL gives out individual player awards every year to the player that best exemplifies each award. The Minnesota Wild had three players nominated and one did win, that winner being rookie of the year Kirill Kaprizov. Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon had the honors of being nominated and hopefully will win in the future.
With most of the awards already being handed out to the respective NHL players, it’s time to take it a step farther and break it down amongst just Wild players. There will also be a couple of bonus made-up awards at the end as well. We’ll jump right in, starting with a Wild veteran.
Conn Smythe: Zach Parise
This award is usually awarded after the Stanley Cup is won due to it being the most valuable player during the playoffs. While the Wild’s stint in the playoffs may have been short, they still had a player worthy of this award. That player would have to be Parise.
After being sat for the first three games of the series, he came out on fire for the last four. His first game back was the only game he didn’t get a point in. He scored two goals and an assist the following three, coming out to a point per game. It’s hard to say if he would have been as fired up without being sat, but if he had, he could have been the difference-maker for the Wild’s playoff outcome. He earned the Conn Smythe.
Hart Memorial: Kirill Kaprizov
Kaprizov’s name will be said a lot with these awards and the Wild in general. He had the most points of any player on the team and continuously made his teammates better. Every time he stepped on the ice this past season, the energy level went up.
He’s a player that’ll continue to hopefully get better and better and bring the team with him. He was, without a doubt, the Wild’s most valuable player this season. He had 51 points in 55 games with 27 goals. He led the Wild in both points and goals and led all of the NHL rookies as well. These stats alone made him worthy of the Hart, let alone all his other achievements.
Calder Trophy: Kirill Kaprizov and Nico Sturm
We all know Kaprizov took the NHL by storm as a rookie this season, but there was another name that deserved to be mentioned and was somewhat overshadowed by Kaprizov’s appearance. That player was fellow forward Nico Sturm. He’s a young center the Wild will be looking to put their faith into besides Joel Eriksson Ek.
Kaprizov’s worth as a Calder winner goes without saying. Many may be surprised having Sturm’s name alongside. He played in 50 games and had 17 points and scored 11 goals with six assists. Those numbers, respectively, aren’t outstanding by any means but rather impressive for a rookie.
The main difference between Sturm and Kaprizov is Sturm played in two seasons before. However, he didn’t play in enough games to lose that rookie status and his first full rookie season turned out to be Kaprizov’s debut season as well. Therefore, had Kaprizov not debuted this season, Sturm would likely have been the Wild’s outstanding rookie forward.
Vezina Trophy: Cam Talbot
Usually, there are more than just two candidates for the best goaltender of the year, but the Wild really only had two mainstays. The award clearly has to go to the starter Talbot, although Kaapo Kahkonen was a steady backup. Talbot played in the majority of the Wild’s games and had a winning record of 19-8-5. He played well enough that Kahkonen didn’t have to stand in very often.
The Wild would have really struggled in the playoffs if they hadn’t had Talbot’s superb play. Of course, the Wild didn’t make it past the first round, but it wasn’t because of him. They had quite a few other issues going on that weren’t Talbot’s fault and he was very worthy of winning the Vezina.
James Norris Memorial: Jared Spurgeon
This trophy was quite a close one for the Minnesota Wild defensemen. They have at minimum four defensemen who could all have been worthy; it was difficult to decide. Those four players were Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, and Spurgeon, each respectively worthy.
Normally Suter would be the one standing out, but this was somewhat of an off-year for him. Spurgeon rose to the top and quite quickly in several stat areas. He even had 102 blocks this past season and had the most points of the Wild’s defensemen. He scored seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points. These stats made him stand apart from the rest and be the recipient of the James Norris Award.
Art Ross: Kirill Kaprizov
An award given to the player that had the most points in the NHL during the regular season, for the Wild, that player was once again Kaprizov. As stated before, he’s going to be a household name once the Wild can nail him down to a contract.
With 51 points leading the team, it’s hard not to see the talent he has when he hits the ice. Even his plus/minus stats were pretty impressive with a plus-10. As well as that stat, he also led the team in power-play goals with eight and second in power-play points with 13. This is the third award he’s won this season, and there’s bound to be more.
Frank J. Selke: Nick Bonino
Many people would argue that Eriksson Ek was the true winner of the Selke, but everyone forgets about Nick Bonino. Many fans felt the NHL skipped over Eriksson Ek when he wasn’t a finalist for the trophy. He’s a worthy candidate, but Bonino was right alongside him and doesn’t get as much recognition.
He had the most blocked shots of the entire Wild forward lineup with 50. He also led in killing penalties, with the most shorthanded time on ice at 102:56 minutes. As far as defensive-minded forwards go, Bonino would have to win this award. He went under the radar a lot as both offensive and defensive stats go and he was always up blocking shots.
His faceoff percentage in the defensive zone was also the best amongst all the Wild’s regular centers at 49.7 percent. That helps a lot in the defensive zone when the center can win it to their defense and work on a breakout to get out of the zone. He’s a great defensive-minded forward and deserved the award.
Lady Byng Memorial: Jared Spurgeon
He was nominated for this award with two other worthy candidates and sadly didn’t make the final cut. Spurgeon was without a doubt the Wild’s winner of this award. When looking at this award, typically, there’s always a name that jumps right to the front and center and this season, that was Spurgeon.
He’s always calm and composed on the ice no matter what is going on and he never waivers. He rarely gets penalties with just six minutes spent in the box this past season out of 54 games played, compare that to the team leader, defenseman Carson Soucy who had 51 penalty minutes in 50 games played.
Spurgeon didn’t let being a leader go to his ego either, after being named captain following the 11-year reign of former captain Mikko Koivu. It wasn’t going to be easy skates to fill for Spurgeon, but he stepped up in the best way possible, continuing to play his style of game. He keeps a level head in all aspects of the game and that is the best kind of leader to have, which is why he was a perfect winner for the Lady Byng. He always acts in a gentlemanly way and at a high level, the exact definition of the award.
Jack Adams: Dean Evason
Another Wild member that was nominated but unfortunately didn’t win was head coach Dean Evason. Since there’s only one head coach per team, Evason is the only winner for the Wild, that doesn’t mean it’s given lightly, however. He has taken a team that did quite well during the regular season and made them even better.
In the past five seasons, the Wild’s best record was 49-25-8 with a .646 points percentage. This season they went 35-16-5 but had the best points percentage of those five seasons at .670 percent. Their record was better despite the shortened season and all that was thrown at them. Evason has technically been the head coach for a season and a half, but with everything Covid has thrown into the seasons, it’s really equal to just a full season.
Just that alone should qualify a new coach for this award but measuring the amount of success that Evason had, it’s surprising he didn’t win the NHL award, he definitely earned it. He’ll more than likely be nominated again in the future and it wouldn’t be surprising if he won.
Maurice Richard: Kirill Kaprizov
His name is a welcome repeat on this list of awards and it’ll hopefully keep happening as the seasons go on. As the highest scorer on the Wild, he was the only possible winner of this award, with second place being seven goals behind.
Kaprizov had 27 goals, which seems like a rather small number compared to others in the NHL, but he is only a rookie and he managed to do that in just 55 games. That number of goals also landed him in the eighth spot in all of the league for goals scored. He was also just 14 behind leader Austin Matthews. If he can score almost 30 goals in just over half a season, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in a regular 82 game schedule.
King Clancy Memorial: Matt Dumba
The Wild have had two winners in the past for this award and one of them was Dumba. He was nominated for another award similar in nature but wasn’t able to bring home back-to-back awards. He’s really stepped up as a leader off the ice in the surrounding community in the past few seasons. On the ice, he’s willing to step in for his teammates when needed and keeps a level head.
With all his contributions to the surrounding community, Dumba is a no-brainer for this award. He goes above and beyond for the areas around the Twin Cities. He also helped start the Hockey Diversity Alliance program in the NHL that promotes diversity through the game of hockey. His commitment to that program, plus his on-ice qualities, made him the clear winner of the King Clancy.
Ted Lindsay: Kirill Kaprizov
His name is like a broken record, but it’s a good thing. The Wild have gone so long without a superstar standout that having Kaprizov’s name be said over and over is a welcome sign. Of course, being the leading goal scorer and point-getter for the Wild means, he would have to qualify as the most outstanding.
That’s not to say there weren’t a few other players who had great seasons as well but none to the likes of Kaprizov. He is everything the Wild had hoped for and more, especially with him making his rookie debut during a season where almost everything was changed. As stated before, it’ll be interesting to see him adapt to a more normal season and if he can continue to shine and continue to win awards.
William M. Jennings: Cam Talbot (Honorable Mention: Kaapo Kahkonen)
This award goes to Talbot almost by default. Being the award is given to the goaltender who’s played at least 25 games and has the lowest goals-against total, it has to be Talbot. Kahkonen would have won it if he had played in one more game during the regular season.
He fell short by one game, playing just 24, but he allowed only 68 goals while Talbot had 86. Nothing against Talbot who is a great goaltender and helped the Wild have such a successful season, but it’s rather disappointing that Kahkonen couldn’t get in on one award because he was one game short. He’ll always have next season, however.
Mark Messier NHL Leadership: Matt Dumba/Jared Spurgeon
This one was a little difficult to pick just one winner, so it went to two Wild players. Dumba was picked for all his contributions to the community, but Spurgeon has great leadership qualities on the ice and in the locker room as well.
They’re both leaders in their own way and Spurgeon has done a good job in his first season as captain, especially during all the tumultuous changes throughout it. Splitting the award between the two of these players seems the fairest as they both could have won it. Together they complete each other with Spurgeon’s on-ice qualities and Dumba’s off-ice that make a perfect pair and seems the greatest way to give a leadership award.
Jim Gregory GM of the Year: Bill Guerin
This one can go a little into the offseason with what the Wild just announced this past week, even prior to the Parise/Suter buyout announcement, Guerin had started making moves in the right direction. He has done something the Wild haven’t been able to do in years and that’s starting to make the team younger. Nothing against general managers of the past, but the team was not having the success they should have and things needed to change, Guerin is not afraid to do that.
He made moves to get Kaprizov here and make room to sign the young future of this team. Obviously, the team needs some veterans but not ones that are taking up nearly a fourth of the cap space. He maybe hasn’t gotten the team where it needs to be yet, but he’s making big pushes towards it and people are taking notice and he’ll be up for the award again in the future.
Bill Masterton Memorial: Zach Parise
The Wild have had a winner of this award in the past with former goaltender Josh Harding. The only player who really seemed to stand out in regards to this award would have been Parise. As an older player who has dealt with his fair share of injuries, mainly his back, he has fought back many times. Even this season, he faced a two-week Covid related pause to the season twice and the second time, he really seemed to bounce back better than before. He may not be with the Wild anymore, but he’ll make another team happy with his determination.
He did have one slip-up during the season that cost him some playing time, but he smoothed things out rather quickly and moved on. Parise is typically calm, composed, and doesn’t let a lot bother him, which is how he can be so dedicated to the game of hockey and win this award.
NHL Foundation Award: Matt Dumba
A lot of NHL players start their own foundations and do a lot of good in their communities with charity work, Dumba is one of those players. He’s worked very hard to become involved with his communities and working with the people in them.
As mentioned before, his work with the Diversity Alliance Program has had a great reception in the NHL and is doing great work to better hockey communities around the country. He would be the number one pick for the Foundation award and he’s made it clear he loves to help out the communities of Minnesota. Dumba is the definition of this award and players can learn from him.
Most Improved: Kevin Fiala
He hasn’t been on this list once yet and not because he’s not deserving. He just happened to get beat out by linemate Kaprizov a few times. With Parise and Suter out of the picture, Kevin Fiala will be able to move up the ranks behind Kaprizov. He started the season with just three points in eight games, but he had 14 points in 13 games towards the end of the season.
He was determined to have a good season and he went out and did just that. He improved throughout the season and it really showed. It’ll be interesting to see how next season goes once the Wild nail him to a contract.
Best Hair: Kirill Kaprizov/Marcus Foligno
This award happens to be a favorite tradition in the Minnesota State High School hockey tournament every year and it had to be included with the pros. As the new guy to the team, it didn’t take long for fans to fall in love with both Kaprizov’s play and his hair. His flow got attention every time his helmet came off and the camera focused on him.
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Marcus Foligno can’t be left off this list as he has a recognizable flow as well. He’s a Wild player that has had great hair ever since he joined the team. He, like his teammate Kaprizov has hair that gets noticed as soon as his helmet is taken off and he had to be mentioned for the award.
Author’s Final Notes
It was hard to pick a winner for some of these awards, and for others, it was fairly easy. Some of them I went a little out of the box because other players deserved recognition as well. The Wild have some award-winning players on their team and that’s something to be proud of.
The extra awards were added for a little fun. Something a little different than normal and it also got some other deserving players mentioned as well. Hopefully, the Wild will have some more award winners in the future.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.