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 honour of their 20th anniversary last season. THW’s Wild team consisting of myself, Aaron Heckmann, Mariah Holland, and Devon Platana 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.
Zach Parise was born on July 28, 1984, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hockey ran in his blood, as he is the son of Minnesota North Stars alumnus Jean-Paul Parise. While Zach is American, his father is Canadian, and even represented Canada at the 1972 Summit Series.
Parise played college hockey at the University of North Dakota. In his draft season, 2002-03, he registered 61 points in 39 games. That performance really shot up his draft stock, which impressed one of the best minds in the game in Lou Lamoriello, and the New Jersey Devils selected him with the 17th overall pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft.
Parise went back to North Dakota for one more season of NCAA hockey, where he had 55 points in 37 games. The following year was the NHL lockout, so Parise played for the Devils American Hockey League (AHL) franchise, the Albany River Rats. There, Parise scored 18 goals and 40 assists in 73 games, which turned out to be a significant development year for the young winger.
When the NHL returned to action for the 2005-06 season, Parise was ready to be a full-time NHL player for the Devils.
NHL Career Before Minnesota
Parise played in 81 games in his rookie season, scoring 14 goals and adding 18 assists. The Devils were a strong team when he entered the league, so Parise got a taste of playoff hockey in his very first year, where he earned three points in nine games.
Parise continued to improve into his sophomore season, as in 2006-07, Parise had 62 points in 82 games, followed by 65 in 81 the following season.
Then, in 2008-09, Zach Parise broke out as a star in the NHL. He scored 45 goals and added 49 assists for 94 points. Forty-four of his points came on the powerplay, and he didn’t shy away from the physical play either, registering 65 hits. He also had six points in seven playoff games, as the Devils failed to get out of the first round.
He finished 3rd in voting for the Lady Byng Trophy and 5th for the Hart Trophy that season. After registering 94 points and still under 25, Parise was suddenly one of the best young stars in the game. He even earned himself a spot on the 2010 USA Olympic roster.
Parise had 82 points in 81 games following his breakout season before only playing in 13 games in 2010-11 due to injury. He was then set to become a free agent but decided to re-sign in New Jersey for one more season at $6 million.
Parise was named captain of the Devils for that season and, after scoring 69 points during the regular season, helped lead the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final, where they eventually lost in six games to the Los Angeles Kings. With the season over, it was once again time for Parise to sign a new contract, and this time he was prepared to test the free-agent market.
Time With The Wild
On July 4, 2012, Parise, alongside his friend Ryan Suter, signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with his hometown team, the Wild.
Parise and Suter were the two big fish in the free-agent market in the summer of 2012, and together they brought hope of a Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey. While that ultimately didn’t happen, Parise will still go down as one of the best players in franchise history.
In 558 career regular season games with the Wild, Parise scored 199 goals and 201 assists for 400 points. Those 400 points rank 3rd all-time in franchise history only behind Mikko Koivu and Marian Gaborik. His points per game while with the Wild was 0.72, which is seventh all-time in franchise history for players with at least 100 games played (Kaprizov is 0.93 but has only played 55 games).
Parise also produced in the playoffs, scoring 37 points in 44 games with the Wild. None more impressive than his two-year playoff run in 2013-14 and 2014-15. In both those playoff runs, the Wild got to the second round in big part due to the contributions of Parise. In 2013-14 he had 14 points in 13 games, and in 2014-15 it was 10 points in 10 games. Great players perform in the playoffs, and those two seasons really help solidify Parise’s place among the all-time best in Minnesota Wild history.
While with the Wild, Parise once again represented his country in both the 2014 Olympic Games and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. His leadership on and off the ice was crucial to the Minnesota Wild as he served time as an assistant caption.
However, time started to catch up to Parise and as the Wild were transitioning to younger, faster players, his ice-time started to drop. This past season was his lowest average ice-time since joining the Wild at 12:25 a game.
With four years remaining on a contract that was paying him $7,538,461 per season, Bill Guerin faced some tough decisions this past off-season. Ultimately, on July 13, 2021, almost 9 years to the day he signed with the Wild, Parise’s contract was bought out.
It’s an unfortunate ending for one of the greatest players to wear a Wild jersey, and it’s hard to imagine him playing for any other team after the past nine seasons. Regardless, Parise accomplished a lot in his time in the State of Hockey, and is well-deserving of his spot as the fourth greatest Wild player of all time.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.