One of the magical things about the Stanley Cup Playoffs is to see which players emerge as heroes for their respective teams. Often, the star players come up big in the moments that matter the most, but sometimes it’s the players you might not expect who end up making the biggest impact.
For the Minnesota Wild, it wouldn’t surprise many if Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, or Marc-Andre Fleury step their games up in the playoffs. However, let’s look at some players who could surprise and be postseason heroes in the State of Hockey this postseason.
He might be the least surprising name mentioned here after the type of season he has been having since being called up. However, to become a possible playoff hero in his rookie season would surely be memorable.
What hasn’t the rookie sensation done in his first season in the NHL? On April 24 against the Nashville Predators, he registered a point in his ninth straight game, setting a rookie franchise record. He is up to 15 goals and 38 points in 44 games and certainly hasn’t looked like a newcomer in the league.
Wild fans are already insanely excited for what the future holds for Boldy. Imagine he scored a couple of big overtime winners in the playoffs? He would be a household name in the city before turning 22 years old.
He is someone who makes the players around him better, as he and Fiala have seemed unstoppable these past few months, and his value to this team will only grow over the next couple of seasons. Some monster playoff performances for Boldy could be a fantastic way to finish his rookie campaign with the Wild.
After giving the Chicago Blackhawks a conditional first-round pick at the deadline for Fleury, many would believe it’s a slam dunk he will be the Wild’s starting goaltender in the playoffs. While he likely will be given that opportunity, Dean Evason might have to throw Cam Talbot back into the net if he performs poorly in a couple of starts.
The coach’s job is always to do what’s best with the roster given to him by the general manager. If Talbot gets a chance to start some games in the playoffs for the Wild, and he runs with the opportunity, he will have shown tremendous resilience. It couldn’t have been easy for him to have stumbled a bit this season and then watch his team go out at the deadline and trade for an upgrade. He has something to prove, and that’s that he can still be the Wild’s starting goaltender when it matters most.
Talbot has a history of playoff success, having at minimum a .923 save percentage the last three times he has appeared in the playoffs. That’s not a small sample size either; he played at least seven games in each of those three postseasons. Another strong performance in these playoffs might help answer their goaltending question entering next season.
Sometimes, in hockey, it’s not about the big goals, the beautiful passes, or the diving glove saves. Sometimes, it’s the player who will put his body on the line on the penalty kill in the dying seconds of a game that makes the headlines. Jacob Middleton is no stranger to blocking shots, having registered 118 already this season. He will also be physical when needed, with 114 hits in 62 games.
A few seasons ago, in the playoffs, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner blocked two shots in the final few seconds of a playoff game they were winning by one goal. Not only did he get a standing ovation for his efforts, but it’s something that is still talked about three years later.
If he can come up with some clutch shot blocks in crucial moments, the fans will recognize his sacrifice for the team. To be a playoff hero, you don’t always have to score goals, and Middleton could be a prime example of being just that with his efforts in the defensive zone rather than on the offensive side.
Obviously, no one will become Justin Williams in one playoff run. That takes years of being an elite playoff performer to earn the nickname “Mr. Game 7.” However, beyond the team’s most prominent stars, these are certainly still a few exciting names that could become playoff heroes for the Wild in the 2022 Playoffs.
Sports writer covering the Minnesota Wild. Graduated with a degree in sport media, also working with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.