When Zach Parise signed with the Minnesota Wild as an unrestricted free agent on July 4th, 2012, it signaled a new beginning for the organization as well as a homecoming for the Minneapolis born forward whose father J.P. Parise played parts of nine seasons with the Minnesota North Stars. Since Parise signed in Minnesota along with fellow free agent Ryan Suter, no player has had more points in a Wild uniform, and perhaps no person has had a more profound impact on the organization. Let’s take a closer look at Parise in this Wild Watch player profile.
In the 2014-15 season, Parise’s third in a Wild sweater, he enjoyed his most productive year statistically with Minnesota. In 74 games, Parise notched 33 goals and 29 assists for 62 points. In 10 playoff games he added 4 goals and 6 assists.
However, Parise’s value to the Minnesota Wild cannot simply be explained with mere numbers. The combination of his clutch scoring, consistent hustle, and pure tenacity along with the struggles and massive contract of Wild captain Mikko Koivu has resulted in many fans calling for Koivu’s ‘C’ to be transferred to the jersey of hometown kid Parise. What fans don’t realize however, is that Parise is a leader for the Wild regardless of what letter he bears over the left shoulder of his jersey.
Parise and Suter were both given the alternate captain ‘A’ before even playing a game with the Wild and both have been outstanding leaders, particularly Parise.
It was January 13th and the Wild had just lost their sixth game in the past seven while dipping below the .500 mark for the first time all season. The Pittsburgh Penguins had just pummeled the Wild 7-2 in embarrassing fashion and Minnesota decided to have a players-only meeting, one that was largely catalyzed by Parise. Whatever was said in the meeting worked because the very next game, the Wild went out and beat up on the Buffalo Sabres 7-0 in Devan Dubnyk’s first start with the Wild. Minnesota then went a remarkable 27-9-3 following the player meeting in Pittsburgh and secured a playoff berth in doing so.
Parise went on to score 20 of his 33 goals throughout that vital stretch of the season while helping the Wild salvage what once looked like a doomed season.
Parise finished last season strong while scoring at a point-per-game clip in the playoffs, and now he’s picked up right where he left off.
You can’t ask for much more out of one player than what the Wild got out of Parise during an improbable comeback victory over one of the Wild’s biggest rivals, the Colorado Avalanche, on opening night. Parise completed a hat-trick while scoring the Wild’s first and last goals of the game in a 5-4 victory at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
In a game that saw very few Wild players have quality performance, Parise was a spark plug all night for Minnesota. He was hard on the forecheck, an offensive threat all night, and, as usual, he was a leader.
In the game, Parise made a play that truly epitomizes who he is as a player. With the Wild down 4-1 in the second period, Parise took the puck in the offensive zone just below the right circle. He turned up ice and was immediately leveled by Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. With the puck back at the point, Parise instantly got up and went straight to the front of the net. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba then took a shot through traffic that wound up falling in front of Jason Pominville in the slot; Pominville then slid the puck through a couple of skates onto the waiting stick of Parise who took the puck from in tight and roofed a shot over the glove of Semyon Varlamov and into the back of the net.
It was Parise’s second goal of the night and it started a sequence that saw the Wild score four goals in 5:07 and steal the game from the Avalanche. Parise netted the eventual game-winning power play goal for his 10th career hat trick. He scored another goal two night’s later in St. Paul to help the Wild defeat the St. Louis Blues and start the season 2-0 for a second consecutive year.
Parise’ four goals have him tied for 1st amongst the NHL’s scoring leaders and also account for half of the Wild’s goals on the season thus far.
Parise has been a dangerous offensive player in the league for many years, but he’s never been a pure skill player. Most often, he simply out-works and out-wills his opponents while scoring most of his goals from the gritty areas of the ice. He is a microcosm of what the Wild want to be as a team. A smart, defensively sound, hard-working team that never quits.
With a roster that includes 12 players who are 25 years of age or younger, Parise is a vital part of the Wild. The young players get to watch Parise every game and see his relentless nature. They get to learn from him every day when he practices just as hard as he plays and is often the first man on and the first man off the ice. He is a shining example for every young hockey player to follow.
Parise may not wear the captain’s ‘C’, but make no mistake, he is the Minnesota Wild’s leader.
Nate has been a Minnesota Wild contributor at The Hockey Writers since 2014 and previously spent time covering the University of Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey team. For everything Minnesota Wild related, follow him on Twitter @natebauer.