After the level of success the Minnesota Wild had during last year’s regular season, it’s going to be hard for fans to accept anything less. They had the best record and most points in franchise history with a record of 53-22-7 and 113 points plus a fifth-place finish in the NHL.
There will be a number of fun stories to watch as this new season unfolds, from their goaltending situation to Marco Rossi joining the team, and a few offseason surgeries that may take a toll on the opening roster. However, there are several more that will draw everyone’s eyes as the 2022-23 season begins.
Kaprizov’s New Expectations
Kirill Kaprizov was a player who carried himself like a veteran from the moment he played in his very first game. He may have struggled a little along the way but played with an air of experience you don’t see in many rookies, as he surprised everyone by recording 51 points in 55 games and a Calder Trophy win in his first season.
Kaprizov then followed it up last season with his sophomore numbers of 108 points in 81 games and was the first-ever Wild player to score 100 or more points. He also set a number of records and with respect to those numbers, everyone is wondering what’s next for “Kirill the Thrill”.
After Kaprizov had such dominating performances in his first two seasons, it’s easy for Wild fans to expect an even higher level of production for this coming season. He’s known for his competitive edge and his ability to lift his game up to the next level. With his high points last season, he’ll be aiming to crush that – especially since he was just shy of 50 goals, as he finished with 47.
The coaching staff will also be expecting big things from Kaprizov and not just in the scoring department. He’ll be considered more of a veteran now and have somewhat of a leadership role. He won’t be the captain, but someone that the younger players can look up to. Thankfully, as long as he can stay healthy, those are expectations that he can meet.
Can Dumba Bounce Back?
Matt Dumba is in the last season of his contract and he needs to bounce back if he wants to stay in Minnesota. His main problem especially during the 2021-22 season has been staying healthy and, since he’s a top defenseman, that’s clearly a priority. He missed over 20 games due to injuries last season and while they can’t always be prevented, he needs to make sure he’s able to contribute this season.
Despite the injuries, Dumba managed to put up 27 points, not a career-high but still placed him in the top half of the team for points. The Wild need him to find his game from the 2017-18 season when he had 50 points, but that player may be gone for good. Everyone is aware of his fight with Matthew Tkachuk back during the 2018-19 season when Dumba ruptured a pectoral muscle, and that injury appears to have changed him forever.
If Dumba can reach way down and find a way to be himself from five seasons ago, the Wild may be inclined to re-sign him after this season is over. If he can’t produce, they can’t re-sign him at his current $6 million a season, as they have too many young prospects that need to be brought up. They may miss his veteran experience, but they still have Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin who can mentor the young players coming in.
This coming season will be make-it-or-break-it time for Dumba. As great of an asset he is to the community, he needs to prove himself on the ice as well. The Wild would love to keep him, but he has to find a way to stay healthy and put up bigger numbers than he has the last couple of seasons.
Dewar & Addison Are Ready
Speaking of young players, the Wild have quite a few that will be making appearances this season. Two of those names have been cracking the lineup off and on the last few seasons and now they may have earned permanent spots. The first is Connor Dewar, he was a fixture at the end of last season and while he only played one game in the postseason, he proved his worth.
Dewar worked hard to earn his spot and in 35 games during the regular season he scored six points, not a big number but he also tallied 44 shots on goal. While his scoring touch will hopefully find more success this season, he already proved he’s a valuable defensive-minded forward. In those 35 games last season, he blocked 22 shots and logged 48 hits, all while getting just under 10 minutes of ice time per game.
The Wild will be expecting Dewar to find his next level of play this season as he’ll take his spot back on the fourth line, most likely with Brandon Duhaime and Marco Rossi. He’s not the only youngster they will be placing their faith in, however, Calen Addison’s spot may be a bit harder to snatch. The Wild are still in a predicament when it comes to their defensive core in the fact that they currently have too many players.
That doesn’t seem like a bad thing, but they’re all capable of playing in the NHL and shouldn’t be sent to the American Hockey League (AHL) due to lack of roster space. While a trade could still be in the works, time is getting tight to make something happen prior to the start of the season. If they can’t make something work, Addison may be starting in the AHL because he would be one of the odd guys out.
Even with the news from last month that Jon Merrill could miss the start of the season due to offseason surgery, Addison may still not have a spot. Currently, the Wild have Spurgeon, Brodin, Dumba, Merrill, Jacob Middleton, Dmitry Kulikov, and Alex Goligoski. If Merrill can’t play at the beginning of the season, chances are his spot would be taken by Kulikov or Goligoski.
While it doesn’t seem likely Addison will be slotted into the lineup right away unless something happens, he’ll be a player to watch as he’s been ready to take a permanent spot in the lineup for a while now. When he finally gets one, he’ll be eager to play hard to show he’s earned it and wants to keep it. In 15 games played last year for the Wild, he had four points, which were decent but his main priority was defense. He blocked six shots, threw 12 hits, and only amassed two penalty minutes while playing around 13 minutes a game.
Wild Have Exciting Season Ahead
The Wild have so many exciting things to look forward to this season, from Kaprizov going for his second consecutive season with over 100 points to Rossi making his mark on the lineup. With all the young prospects the Wild have who are joining the lineup or will be in the next few seasons, it’s impossible not to see the bright future they have and hopefully, this season is just the start.
Mariah Stark (Holland) is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.