The Minnesota Wild have had several new faces join their ranks over the last season. Names like Matt Boldy, Frederick Gaudreau, Jon Merrill, Jordie Benn, Alex Goligoski, and Dmitry Kulikov. They’ve each affected the lineup, some more than others.
Of course, Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, Mats Zuccarello, and Cam Talbot are all fan favorites, but as Valentine’s Day is here, it’s time to discuss the players who have worked their way into fan’s hearts this season. A couple of rookies made the list, as well as two seasoned veterans.
Wild’s Boldy & Dewar Belong Here
Boldy’s addition had fans head over heels for two reasons, his point production and he fit right in with Fiala. His introduction to the lineup was quite impressive, he scored his first NHL goal halfway through the second period of his first game, and it was also the game-winner. He went on to have four points in his next five games. He’s played 12 games and scored four goals plus six assists for 10 points.
His points were one exciting part of his game, the other was his instant compatibility with Fiala. Before Boldy joined the roster, it had been difficult to find a wing that fit well with Fiala. They’d get someone who could play well for a game or two but then fall apart. Things have been different since Boldy arrived, including Fiala finding his scoring stride. He went on a 12-game point streak that tied him for the franchise lead with former Wild player Mikael Granlund.
Another rookie deserves an honorable mention that has made his way into the hearts of Wild fans, and that is Connor Dewar. He’s played 16 games this season and has scored a goal plus tallied three assists for four points. He’s shown more of a defensive side to his game so far with 16 blocked shots as well as three takeaways. He hasn’t made the splash Boldy has, but he’s made subtle contributions that have been just as important.
Wild’s Merrill’s Quiet Contributions
The next player that’s made an impression on fans’ hearts is veteran defenseman Merrill. His entrance to the lineup was quieter than Boldy’s but equally impactful. He hasn’t been a scoring machine like his counterparts on defense, but he’s been the true stay-at-home defenseman. He’s blocked 72 shots in 41 games this season, meaning he’s stopped 72 potential goals.
It’s not just his defensive game that the fans love but his personality on and off the ice as well. His mullet hairstyle has become quite popular amongst both his team and fans. He’s done so well for the Wild this season that he re-signed with them for three years, something his family was quite excited about.
His family has been living in another state due to the COVID situation and not wanting to uproot their children from school. Now that he’ll be staying with the Wild for the foreseeable future, his wife and four young daughters will make the trek to join him in Minnesota. With Merrill’s future pretty certain for the Wild, there’s one more player that fans have fallen in love with, and he’s on the top line.
Wild’s Hartman Earns His Way
Hartman, the final player on this list, has been with the Wild for almost three seasons. In his first two, he did okay but nothing spectacular, and he was just a part of the lineup. This season his game has done a complete 180, and he’s already set a new career-high in points with 33, and he still has 39 games left to play. He’s two goals away from setting a new career-high in goals as well, he’s currently at 18, and five of those have been game-winners.
He hasn’t put together long point streaks but has had points scattered throughout the season, with his longest streak being four games. He’s also had eight multi-point games this season. The final part of his game worth noting is his shots on goal. He has 135 shots this season and sits in second on the team behind Kaprizov, who has 158 shots.
What really made fans fall in love with his play has been his position on the top line between Zuccarello and Kaprizov. It was an unlikely pairing that turned out to be an instant match. His speed and ability to carry the puck to match his linemates are unlike anyone else on the team. Similar to the compatibility of Fiala and Boldy, it was a match that was meant to be.
Wild’s Beloved Player: Author’s Pick
As entertaining as the entire Wild team has been this season, from Kaprizov’s way with the puck to Merrill’s ability to block it, there’s one player that has been the most impressive amongst the choices. That player has to be Boldy. He’s a rookie that doesn’t play like one, instead, he looks like a five-year veteran.
He’s a well-rounded player who can play a strong offense and a good defensive game. He also has the talent to read the play and anticipate where things are headed. He’s played 12 games this season but has made a lasting impression on his teammates and fans. Hopefully, he can keep this up and become the great player he can be to help the Wild on their path to the playoffs.
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.