In this edition of Minnesota Wild News & Rumors, the team has named their new alternate captains for the foreseeable future. Next, which players lined up with which in their scrimmages, and what are some other observations and storylines? Finally, the preseason began with a game against the St. Louis Blues, and Adam Beckman made his presence felt.
New Leadership in Minnesota
The Wild announced the newest leadership group members, forward Marcus Foligno and defenseman Matt Dumba. The team deciding to buy out Ryan Suter and Zach Parise over the offseason left two open spots. They now have the two players that were the best choices for the role.
𝘼 new season. 𝘼 new era. pic.twitter.com/uoH7r5nOnR— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) September 25, 2021
Foligno, especially, was a choice that many fans wanted to see. He has an excellent work ethic and is one of the best leaders on the team. In 39 games with the Wild in 2020-21, he scored 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points. It’s the highest total of his career up to this point. He was on pace for about 37 points in 56 games and nearly 54 points in an entire season. Not only was he a solid offensive contributor, but he was also one of the best defensive players in the whole NHL.
Per Evolving-Hockey, he had the third-best expected defensive goals above replacement (xDef) among forwards and the third-best expected goals against per 60 minutes (xGA/60) in the entire league. xDef is the addition of expected even-strength defense goals above replacement (xEVD) and expected shorthanded defense goals above replacement (xSHD), which take into account the player’s contributions in each area of the game using expected goals among other metrics. They contribute to the player’s expected goals above replacement (xGAR). xGA/60 is a regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) rate metric that uses expected goals (the probability of a shot going in based on a variety of different factors like location, shot speed, game state, etc.) to communicate a player’s defense and prevention of high-danger shots.
It’s not just his numbers that were excellent, but his physical play is always noticeable. Foligno plays with no remorse for the opponents, but it’s not something he uses in an overabundance. He intelligently plays the body, not just doing it for the sake of doing it. He’s a solid middle-six, all-around player who is vital to the Wild’s operations on the ice and off the ice.
The next addition was Dumba, a defenseman thrown into trade talks last season due to the expansion draft and the protection rules. He scored 21 points in 51 games and was one of the leaders in expected goals for per 60 (xGF/60), ranking fifth, which is a RAPM metric that takes into account the probability of the player’s shot going in using expected goals like xGA/60. He ended ninth on the team in xGAR, which is a metric that assigns a total value to a player based on a variety of different metrics and factors like xDef. It is related to goals above replacement (GAR). The only reason he didn’t rank higher was because he played around average defense. He was one of their top three defensemen on the season per the xGAR metric behind Nico Sturm and Jonas Brodin, and his off-ice presence is just as significant as his on-ice. He embodies what it means to be a leader, and considering he has been with the Wild for almost a decade; it’s time he gets the honor of leading the team.
Foligno and Dumba were already tremendous leaders for the team, and they were the epitome of the statement, “you don’t need to have a letter on your chest to be a leader for your club.” They both play their roles well in the lineup, and now they have a chance to take the younger players under their wings and give them invaluable advice.
Training Camp Narratives and Lineups
Training camp started, and guess who was able to be there? Kirill Kaprizov. Why? He snuck into the United States. Thanks to a story from Michael Russo at The Athletic, we could go behind the scenes and see how the signing of their best player happened (from Behind the scenes of how the Wild re-signed Kirill Kaprizov and why he was in Florida, The Athletic, September 22, 2021). Notably, we got to understand why he was able to attend press conferences and training camp, albeit only being permitted to do drills by himself like this one.
However, that wasn’t the only narrative of the precursor to games against other clubs. Marco Rossi continued his dominance in drills and scrimmages, and he and Matthew Boldy showed that they could be a formidable duo in the league. Their chemistry is truly unmatched. Additionally, we could see a different Kevin Fiala this season. In his presser, he seemed extra determined to prove his worth. He just signed a one-year deal to shave one restricted-free-agent year off of his contract, demonstrating that he can consistently contribute to the team. In 2020-21, he was an inconsistent scorer, and if he feels that he should be getting more money, he should take a trial deal of sorts. It’s what he did, and we see the product of that.
These are just some of the intriguing storylines to be following during the preseason and eventually the regular season. It’s just the beginning for some players, and for others, it’s a time to prove their worth to upper management and the coaching staff.
Beckman Shines in First Preseason Game
With training camp ending, preseason games begin. We saw the Wild take on the Blues in their first matchup, and the result wasn’t optimal. On the back of James Neal’s hat trick, the Blues took the game by a score of 6-2. Other contributors to the opposition were Brandon Saad, Michael Frolik, and Ivan Barbashev. It was a challenging game for young goaltender Kaapo Kähkönen. However, the most significant development was from the young Beckman, who scored the only two goals for the Wild.
Last season, the 20-year-old forward played with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League (AHL) and put up some good numbers. He scored over a point per game with 17 goals and 10 assists for 27 points in 21 games with Spokane. With Iowa, he scored five points in nine games, but those aren’t the numbers that put him up in the depth charts. In 2019-20 with Spokane, he scored a ridiculous 107 points in 63 games, and he was two shy of scoring 50 goals. He led the entire WHL in points with a gap of nine.
Beckman is a prolific scorer with a nose for putting the puck in the net. In tandem with his skating, his shot makes him an extremely dangerous presence on the ice, and he clearly understands the magnitude of the opportunity. Although a roster spot straight out of camp isn’t likely, a good impression can make a world of difference in getting called up and the next training camp. He showed both in camp and especially in a game setting that he will be a valuable asset to the team in years to come.
It’s important to remember that Beckman not making the team out of camp may be the best thing for him. One more season to marinate in the AHL isn’t the worst thing for a player at his age, and he can always be brought up if things appear too easy or there are roster changes. Either way, he will be helpful in the NHL sooner rather than later.
Jeff is a consistent source for Red Wings content at The Hockey Writers. He was formerly a member of the Predators writing team, and he enjoys watching all sorts of hockey, from juniors to the pros. Jeff enjoys playing for his high school and local teams in Nashville as well. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here or check out his contributions on his Substack, Last Word on Hockey, On the Forecheck, Broad Street Hockey, Hockey Wilderness, and Puck Empire. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck or the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions, you can message his Twitter, @jjmid04.