Now that everyone has probably heard the news about the Minnesota Wild trading Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings for University of Minnesota defenseman Brock Faber and a 2022 first-round draft pick, it’s time to talk about who will replace the former 33-goal man. There were a lot of mixed reviews on the Wild’s return for Fiala, some loved it, some hated it. However, regardless of feelings towards the trade, neither Faber nor the player they pick in the draft will likely be ready to go straight to the NHL in 2022-23.
It’s already been stated that Faber will be returning to his college team for this season and most draft picks take some time in the minors before they join their respective team in the NHL. So that means the Wild still need to find a replacement for Fiala, but as many want that player to come from free agency, they may have just as good of luck of finding someone from within their own system.
Wild’s First Choice: Adam Beckman
The Wild have a lot of talented, young players on their Iowa Wild roster and many fans were able to see them in action during the 2021-22 preseason. One of the players that stood out was Adam Beckman, as he was quick and very assertive for a player who’d yet to play an NHL game. With his performance it appeared he should’ve earned himself a spot in the NHL, however, there were a lot of other players who performed well also.
Beckman didn’t have to wait long to get his chance. Barely two weeks after the season got underway, he was brought up to fill in after the Wild were without several forwards for varying reasons. He played in three games and tallied a single assist for one point and he did so in the Wild’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why should Beckman get Fiala’s spot in the lineup? It may be difficult to throw him in on the second line, but he’s a speedy player who gives his all every shift and he seems like he’d make a good pairing opposite Matt Boldy if they choose to keep that line intact. The only issue is that they both play the left side, but one could probably take the opposite side and have no issue. While he didn’t have a lot of time to showcase his talent in the NHL, his American Hockey League (AHL) season went pretty well.
Beckman played in 68 games for the Iowa Wild and recorded 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points. He’s also not afraid to take shots, as he had 203 shots on net in those 68 games played which would’ve put him in the top five had he remained in the NHL and tallied those shots. He should definitely be the first choice when it comes to filling Fiala’s empty spot. Of course, he doesn’t have the big numbers yet but once he gets some more games under his belt, he’s proven he has a lot of potential. As an added bonus, he also has two seasons left on his current contract.
Wild’s Second Choice: Mitchell Chaffee
After Beckman, Mitchell Chaffee would be a logical choice, as they’re pretty equal in terms of skill. While Beckman spent three games in the NHL this past season, Chaffee played in two. He wasn’t able to accumulate any points but he did have a shot on goal. His appearance in the lineup was towards the end of the regular season when the team had a number of players out due to injury.
While Chaffee didn’t have any points, he did bring a physical side to his game with seven hits in those two games. He didn’t make the same splash Beckman did but he did have an impressive season in the AHL with the Iowa Wild. He played in 49 games and recorded 23 goals and 16 assists for 39 points, five more than Beckman.
Chaffee’s another player that has proven his ability to score even though he hasn’t had a lot of time to show what he can do at the next level. However, the next logical step would be to bring him up, and being paired with someone like Boldy could help him adjust and be a stronger player.
The main reason Chaffee is not the number one choice, despite having a high number of points, is that he may not be around next season. He’s currently a restricted free agent and it’s hard to say if the Wild will re-sign him or let him move on.
Wild’s Third Choice: Nick Swaney
Nick Swaney’s not as high on the list because he hasn’t played an NHL game just yet. However, he had a promising 2021-22 season with the Iowa Wild. He played in 62 games and scored 16 goals plus 22 assists for 38 points. Without seeing how he performs at the next level, it’s obviously difficult to say how he’ll do if brought up.
While Swaney isn’t first on the list, there’s no reason they can’t bring him up to the NHL at some point. Besides the AHL, he also spent time with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs where he won two NCAA Championships, which is basically the equivalent to the Stanley Cup at the college level. However, like Chaffee, it’s hard to say if he’ll be around for next season, as he’s also a restricted free agent and the Wild will have to decide what their next move will be with him.
Why should the Wild choose someone from inside their own talent pool? Because they don’t have a lot of room to add from free agency and with moving someone up that they’ve developed, they have somewhat of an idea of the player they’re dealing with, plus it may be cheaper. As great as it would be to nail down someone who can score 85 points, the reality is, that they’ll have to start with someone a little less flashy but could be developed into that player in the future.
As tough as it was to lose Fiala, the Wild have a number of talented players on the Iowa Wild who could easily step into his spot. They may not be scoring machines right away but they have the potential to be and Beckman should be the first choice. He proved he can keep up in the NHL and he fit in quite well. It doesn’t matter that it would be the second line as long as he’s paired up with Boldy, who can play with anyone, it could work. The Wild just have to be willing to give it a chance. They have enough to worry about with other contracts, so take the pressure off looking in free agency, and use who they already have.
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.