The Minnesota Wild extended their unbeaten preseason record to four by shutting out the Chicago Blackhawks in the “Home Away from Home” game at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. The Wild’s roster was the most veteran-laden we have seen yet this preseason, but it was the depth and surprisingly strong defense that brought home the victory. Connor Dewar and Matt Boldy both managed to get shorthanded goals, while Brandon Duhaime netted the game’s only even strength goal.
Wild’s Forward Depth Even Better Than Last Year
If there was one thing the Wild had last season, it was depth. Players across the roster were contributing in big ways that helped the team achieve its best regular season in their history. With two lines that could score at any moment, an elite shut-down line, and a fourth line that could be trusted in even the most intense moments, the 2021-22 Wild were a force to be reckoned with. How could it be possible then, that the 2022-23 Wild are already looking like they are going to be an even deeper team?
It all comes down to the competition between the young players trying to prove they are worthy of the few roster spots available. So far in preseason action, we have started to see exactly how skilled some of these younger guys are. Whether it’s players getting a second chance like Sam Steel and Tyson Jost, ones trying to stay on the roster like Brandon Duhaime and Connor Dewar, or even prospects attempting to break into the league like Marco Rossi and Calen Addison, all of these players have proven they are willing to fight for a spot, and they all have the skills required to play at the NHL level.
Bottom Six Could Be Fluid
The number of good players puts head coach Dean Evason in the tough position of trying to figure out exactly who will be on the roster for opening night, as well as trying to create lines that make the most sense. Perhaps the most logical conclusion is that when you have that many good options, the lines just don’t matter as much. With everyone getting game time and developing chemistry with a wide group of other players, we may see more movement in the lines from game to game.
Once Jordan Greenway returns from injury there will be seven NHL-quality forwards to fill the third and fourth lines. Freddy Gaudreau, Matt Boldy, Jost, Steel, Rossi, Dewar, and Duhaime are all players that deserve to be playing in the NHL based on their preseason performances, but one of them will be sitting out every game. It creates an atmosphere of internal competition that could help push some of them to play their absolute best in every game because there will always be someone waiting to take their spot that is equally deserving of it.
Defense Surprised in a Big Way
When the initial lineup comes out for the game and five of the six defensemen are prospects, you don’t exactly have the highest hopes for a solid game defensively. Yet somehow they managed to put together easily the best game we have seen so far this preseason, restricting the Blackhawks to just 12 shots on net.
The top pair of Carson Lambos and Alex Goligoski was a minute-munching tandem that just would not allow the Blackhawks through the neutral zone. The pairing of Dakota Mermis and Simon Johansson was quiet in a good way, as they just played their game and made it look easy. Daemon Hunt on the third pairing had perhaps the play of the game when he shut down a three-on-one with pure intelligence and a well-placed stick. The Iowa Wild are going to have an elite defensive core with some of these players manning their blue line.
The Wild are back in action for another away game against the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 4 before finally heading back home where they will face the Blackhawks again on Oct. 6. As we approach the start of the regular season it should be expected that the training camp roster will be trimmed significantly and the opening night squad will start to be unveiled.
Being from the east coast of Canada, I’ve grown up immersed in hockey since before I was old enough to walk. The Minnesota Wild joined the league right as I was trying to find a favourite team and I have been committed to them ever since. I like to take breaks from my day job of writing reports as a Scientist by writing articles about my hockey passion. Follow me on twitter @tysmck15 for my latest.