The Minnesota Wild department at The Hockey Writers is starting a series that will look at the franchise’s top 10 players all-time in honor of their 20th anniversary last season. THW’s Wild team consisting of myself, Aaron Heckmann, Devon Platana, and Justin Walters voted on this list, and it will begin with the 10th spot as we work our way down to the best player in franchise history.
We’ve made it all the way to the number two spot in this list, and that respectfully belongs to Marián Gáborík. One of the best players to ever take the ice for the Wild, it’s only fitting his name is near the top.
He was drafted third overall by the Wild in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, and to this day he is the highest draft pick they have ever received. The next closest was Benoit Pouliot, who was picked fourth overall in the first round of the 2005 Entry Draft. Gáborík didn’t have to wait long to get his start either, he jumped into his first season just a few short months later at the ripe age of 18.
Continuing with his firsts, he didn’t wait long to score his first goal. In fact, he scored his first-ever goal in the Wild’s first franchise game, and it turned out to be the franchise’s first-ever goal as well. Three firsts in one game, and two of them turned out to be franchise firsts.
He stayed with the Wild for eight seasons before heading to the New York Rangers during free agency. He spent three-and-a-half seasons there before heading to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a short stint of two half-seasons, and was then ultimately traded to the Los Angeles Kings. He went on to win his one and only Stanley Cup with the Kings in the 2013-14 season. He spent four-and-a-half seasons there before being traded to the Ottawa Senators, where he finished his career.
However, his contract lived on after he quit playing. He was traded from the Senators to the Tampa Bay Lightning nearly two seasons after he was done playing. He was listed as a long-term injured reserve for the last two seasons, but his contract just expired this past season, so he was getting paid for the last two years even though he didn’t play a single game.
Tenure With Wild
He starred in eight seasons with the Wild, was their first rookie standout, and it could have been nine if not for the 2004-05 lockout that affected so many players. He played in 502 games and scored 219 goals. He assisted on 218 goals, and accumulated 437 points. Of those 219 goals, 43 of them were game-winners.
In his rookie season, he scored 36 points, which put him in second place on the entire roster. As far as goals, there was a three-way tie for the lead, and he was one of those three along with former Wild players Wes Walz and Darby Hendrickson, all three had 18 goals each. The next season he finished second once again, but by the third season he took over the top spot with 65 points, 30 goals, and 35 assists.
He was in the top ten over the next few seasons, but regained the top spot in his second-to-last season with the Wild, where he amassed 83 points, 42 goals, and 41 assists. His 83 points remain the most points a Wild player has ever scored in franchise history.
Why is Gáborík Deserving?
He’s deserving because he’s scored the most points of any player to wear a Wild sweater in a single season, a whopping 83 points. He was part of many of the franchise firsts, like its first goal, and its first game. He’s been one of the best players to ever play for them. His 219 goals lead all Wild players, along with his 43 game-winning goals. He brought with him a whole dynamic that made everyone around him better, similar to how Kirill Kaprizov plays his game.
Gáborík set the standard for what fans were hoping all Wild rookies would turn out to be like. Unfortunately, over the seasons they haven’t had a lot of luck. They would have flashes here and there but ultimately the player would either leave or fizzle out. He was the real hope but once he was gone the Wild were without for quite a while.
He made the first seasons of Wild hockey fun and exciting. As a new expansion team, no one expected them to be successful, yet by their third season in the league they made it all the way to the Western Conference Final. That achievement had a lot to do with Gáborík and his 65-point regular season, plus his 17 postseason points.
He earned this spot on the list in so many ways, including how he scored goals, the fact that he took part in many Wild firsts, and he helped create a fun dynamic for fans to enjoy, on what was a brand-new team at the time. He definitely deserved this spot on this very prestigious list.
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.