The Minnesota Wild made a lot of changes to their defensive core in the last month. They started the landslide changes by buying out Ryan Suter’s contract, which is still a shock to some. The next changes were Carson Soucy being selected at the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, and both Ian Cole and Brad Hunt leaving during free agency.
The Wild quickly filled those defensemen spots almost as quickly as the players left. They even added a forward, but one spot they didn’t address at all was their goaltending. They currently have four goaltenders on their roster, Cam Talbot, Kaapo Kahkonen, Andrew Hammond, and Hunter Jones, though there are two problems with that list. First of all, Talbot and Hammond are both over the age of 30, so that could become a factor in the future. The second problem is that Jones has no NHL experience and he’s very young, at just 20 years old.
That leaves Kahkonen, who is also young but has proven himself in net last season, though he only has 29 games of NHL experience. Most NHL teams would expect their backups to have more games than that, but the Wild don’t have a lot of options. They are in good hands with Talbot, but who knows how long he’ll be able to keep this streak up.
Two Capable Starters
The Wild should consider themselves lucky being they have two goalies who are very capable in the net. Obviously, Talbot is likely to remain the starter after having such a good season where he started 33 games and had 19 wins. He also only let in 86 goals on 1,008 shots, which came out to a .915 save percentage (SV%).
That percentage actually ties with former Wild goaltender Nicklas Backstrom’s save percentage over 409 games combined. That’s pretty good for one season, when Backstrom played nine for the Wild. Talbot is a goalie they can rely on, as long as he’s able to stay healthy. He’s very consistent when it comes to his mental game, and when he’s on his game, it’s very hard to get anything past him.
Behind every starter, there has to be a backup, some more capable than others. The Wild are in good hands when it comes to their number two goaltender. Kahkonen is going to be their future if they can hang on to him, and they were already able to keep him from falling into the hands of the Kraken, especially considering early projections were that he would be the original selection, instead of Soucy. The Wild were not only lucky with his playing skills, but also that the Kraken passed and they were able to keep their future in goaltending.
Like Talbot, Kahkonen’s record was pretty decent. He started 23 games this past season, and had 16 wins. He faced 692 shots, and only let in 68 goals, for a SV% of .902. These stats don’t seem that impressive, until everyone finds out it was basically his rookie season in the NHL.
He’ll actually still be a rookie in the NHL this upcoming season, because he didn’t play a full 25 games last season, and the season prior he played in less than six. So, he has one more season of being a rookie, considering he’ll probably play more than 25 games if they have a full 82-game season.
The Backup Backups
Almost everyone knows who the top two goaltenders are for their respective teams, but do they know who would take their place if an injury occurred? I know I used to have a hard time knowing who the third-and-fourth-string goaltenders were, respectively. First up, for the third-string, they would more than likely go to an experienced veteran, who has started games before. For the Wild, that’s Hammond.
Hammond is 33 years old and has been in the NHL since the 2013-14 season. He’s only officially played five seasons in the NHL, as the rest have been spent mostly in the American Hockey League (AHL). The real concern with him is that he hasn’t played an actual NHL game since the 2017-18 season, and that was just one game. The last time he played more than four games in a season was over five seasons ago, when he played 24 games for the Ottawa Senators.
He does have experience playing in the NHL, though results have been mixed. First, the bad: out of the five seasons he played, he had just one winning season. Now, the good: that winning season amounted to 20 wins, and one loss. It’s really hard to say if he’s still a capable goaltender without seeing him in a recent NHL game, however, he could also be struggling to get ice time because he’s always the backup and not able to show what he’s capable of. The Wild’s other goaltender has no NHL experience at all yet, but he’s only 20 years old, soon to be 21.
Their next up-and-coming goaltender after Kahkonen, and just ahead of the recently-drafted Jesper Wallstedt, is Jones. Not a lot is known about him just yet, but he did spend last season with the Iowa Wild, the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate team.
He played in 19 games and went 9-9-1 with a SV% of .886. Those stats aren’t the most impressive, but he’s just starting out on his soon-to-be NHL career. As said before, there’s not much known about him apart from his career as a teenager. This upcoming season everyone should be able to see what he’s truly capable of, since he’ll more than likely be in the net a lot more with Kahkonen moving up to the big leagues.
The Wild have some good things going for themselves in terms of goaltending but they have a long way to go when it comes to their third-and fourth-line goalies. Thankfully, they have a strong starter in Talbot, and an equally strong backup in Kahkonen, but what happens if they both get injured?
Goaltending duty would then fall to Hammond and Jones, and with all respect to the both of them, one hasn’t played an NHL game in five seasons and the other has no experience in the NHL. The Wild may want to try to pick up another goalie who has some NHL experience recently, and has a pretty good record, but that can be a lot to ask.
On the other hand, they could both play outstanding when the pressure is on. Hopefully, the Wild don’t have to find out anytime soon, and they can have two healthy, reliable goaltenders throughout the season. Still, it can’t hurt to always be on the hunt for another reliable third-line goalie, just in case the need were to arise.
Do you think the Wild’s goaltending is fine or does it need some fine-tuning? Let us know in the comments section below.
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.