Welcome to the second installment of Minnesota Wild News & Rumors where we keep you up to date on the latest news, rumors about the team. In case you missed it, the first edition on Monday featured the return of fans to Xcel Energy Center, Bryce Misely’s tryout contract, Marcus Foligno’s injury, Kirill Kaprizov’s hat trick, and Zach Parise who was a healthy scratch.
This second installment features the Carson Soucy suspension, Kaapo Kahkonen’s rise, and how Wild prospect Matthew Boldy has excelled at Boston College.
Item #1: Carson Soucy Suspension
Wild defenseman Carson Soucy will not play in Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche since he will be serving a one-game suspension. In Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, Soucy was given a five-minute major for charging Conor Garland. However, he was not given a game misconduct, which is likely the reason he was given the suspension.
Soucy left his feet on the play and elbowed Garland into the boards as a result. It was an unnecessary move, and the one-game suspension is a fair punishment. The NHL is trying to stop these kinds of plays and avoid dangerous hits altogether.
Minutes later, Soucy left the penalty box and was jumped by Arizona’s Lawson Crouse. The 23-year-old winger took half a dozen cheap shots at Soucy even after he was down on the ice. Crouse was given 2-5-10 as the instigator and was ejected from the game. Soucy was given five minutes for roughing despite being the victim in the situation. Some believe Crouse deserved a game suspension on the play. It is one thing to make a statement for a teammate, but throwing cheap shots when a player is already down, has no place in the game. The inconsistencies in implementing the NHL’s Player Safety rules is frustrating.
Item #2: Kaapo Kahkonen’s Success Continues
A big reason behind the Wild’s success this season has been the development of rookie goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. He has been a calming presence who has brought stability to the net, something the team has lacked for several seasons since the former Wild tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock.
Tuesday night’s win was Kahkonen’s 9th straight. He is now three wins away from tying Ross Brook’s NHL record of 12-straight wins in his rookie season. Over the past nine games, Kahkonen has a .947 save percentage and two shutouts.
Among goalies who have played at least 15 or more games this season, his 1.34 goals saved above expected – a metric that takes into account the quality of shots – ranks 10th in the NHL. Likewise, his 7.61 goals saved above average – a metric that takes into account workload – ranks 7th.
Kahkonen has flourished, and it will be interesting to see if he takes over as the clear number one goaltender or if he splits starts evenly with Talbot, who has also had a strong season. Despite the many scouting reports that projected him to be a backup, he looks like a legitimate starter in his rookie season, which is a very positive sign for the future.
Item #3: Matt Boldy Bound To Make An Impact
Forward prospect Matt Boldy was named a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. The prestigious honour is given to the top player in the NCAA, and the selections were voted by 61 NCAA Division-I head coaches and fan ballot online. According to NCAA.com, the criteria for the award includes “outstanding skills in all phases of the game, strength of character on and off the ice, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements.”
The Wild drafted Boldy 12th overall in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He ranks near the top of the team’s prospect pool, and he is a huge reason why they boast one of the strongest prospect pipelines in the NHL. The 19-year-old is bound to make an impact at the NHL level. After his college season is over, general manager Bill Guerin has the option to burn the first year of Boldy’s contract. Not only could he join the big club for the last few weeks of the regular season, but also for the playoffs assuming they make the playoffs.
If he doesn’t make his NHL debut this season, he will likely make the team out of training camp next season. If so, 2021-22 would be another season that the Wild bring one of their top prospects to play in the NHL. He has had a phenomenal season for Boston College with 10 goals and 20 assists in 21 games.
The Wild’s future looks bright with Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Marco Rossi, Boldy, Calen Addison, and Kahkonen. There’s a good chance this will be the best team the Wild has ever iced if they can fill a few holes in the lineup.
Aaron Heckmann covers the Wild for The Hockey Writers & Zone Coverage. His data-driven articles are focused on solving problems, telling stories, and discovering unique storylines. Find him on Twitter @aaron_heckmann.