As we inch closer to the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, the Minnesota Wild and their passionate fanbase will be asking a few important questions.
One question that will take center stage over the next few months is who will don the “C” as the team’s next captain after the offseason departure of Mikko Koivu – who held the role for the better part of 12 seasons – to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Here is a list of potential candidates and the qualities they possess that make them viable?
Jared Spurgeon, Defenseman
First up is a player who’s as “Minnesota Wild” as they come and the crown jewel on defense – Jared Spurgeon. At 31 years old, no other player embodies what it means to play for the Wild as he does on so many levels. In addition, he has spent the last 10 seasons leading the charge alongside Ryan Suter in St. Paul.
Spurgeon is a consummate professional and one heck of a defenseman. He’s aggressive, loves to play the body, can move the puck effectively, and is able to put points on the board, with at least 25 points in seven consecutive seasons.
What makes Spurgeon a suitable option as the team’s next captain is his leadership on and off the ice. He’s a hard-working player, a born leader, and an excellent presence both in the locker room and in the community. For a team in transition like the Wild, there is no better candidate who can “show the ropes” to many of the team’s up-and-comers like Calen Addison, Matthew Boldy, Marco Rossi, and Kirill Kaprizov. Wild general manager Bill Guerin and head coach Dean Evason have themselves a slam-dunk captain waiting in the wings in Spurgeon.
Ryan Suter, Defenseman
Next up is Madison, Wisconsin native and long-time NHL veteran, Ryan Suter. Although he turns 36 in just a few weeks’ time, Suter is one of the undisputed faces of the franchise who has devoted his life to helping the Wild win games. A soldier in every sense of the word, he is a natural-born leader who leaves it all on the ice game after game, season after season. Born into a hockey family as the son of 17-year NHL stalwart Bob Suter, Ryan has a reputation of being one of the game’s most reliable, efficient, and outstanding US-born defensemen of his generation.
For all his accolades, Suter is also an outstanding defenseman with an extensive skill set who already sports an “A” as one of the team’s alternate captains. He’s a strong skater, good on his edges, difficult to play against, and a real “heads up” defender in his own zone. A perennial 40-point player, Suter also logs heavy minutes night in and night out, while averaging 25:11 of ice time to go along with 90 goals and 588 career points over a remarkable 15-year career. I have no doubt that he would make a phenomenal captain in the State of Hockey.
Kirill Kaprizov, Left-Wing/Right-Wing
Last but not least, and a proverbial wild card in the captaincy race is the club’s undisputed number-one prospect who will (finally) get a chance to show what he can do under the bright lights of the NHL. This is the talented Russian sniper, Kaprizov. Man, oh man, do the Wild have themselves a bona-fide top-tier stud at their disposal.
At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Kaprizov is a highly-skilled offensive dynamo who has scored at every level. Now, he will get a chance to do it with the Wild starting in less than two weeks’ time.
He’s fast, multi-dimensional, and loves to make plays. Over the past three seasons with CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the mighty Russian has appeared in 160 games tallying a whopping 78 goals and 153 points. For a player in his early 20s (now 23), this is quite the statistical output. Wild fans should be licking their chops at the mere thought of having the Novokuznetsk, Russia native in the lineup this season.
Kaprizov also has previous experience in a leadership role having captained Team Russia at the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championships – a tournament that saw him pop 12 points in just seven games. Coming into this season, it looks as though he will be given every opportunity to thrive in an offensive role under Evason. What a statement it would make if he dons the “C” in the next season or two, especially for a franchise starving for a player of his high-end skill set.
The Race for the “C”
As the Wild continue to navigate their rebuild/retooling process, we can only wonder who will don the iconic “C” in one of America’s most beloved hockey towns. Will it be a blue-line stalwart in the form of either Spurgeon or Suter, or will the organization opt for a fresh (and uber-talented) face in the form of Kaprizov? As the old adage goes…so many questions, so few answers. Stay tuned, hockey fans!