The Minnesota Wild shone brighter than the Dallas Stars on Thursday night as they collected their third preseason win in as many games. Five different Wild players found the back of the net against veteran netminder Anton Khudobin, while prospect Jesper Wallstedt limited the Stars to just two, despite facing some strong offense. While preseason games can be misleading, the Wild certainly look like a team that is poised for a strong start to the regular season.
Wallstedt Is Worth the Hype
It will come as no surprise to Wild fans that Wallstedt is an outstanding goaltender. The hype surrounding the young netminder is intense and yet he somehow manages to consistently outperform even the loftiest expectations. The 19-year-old was given a full 60 minutes to showcase his talents against the Stars and he did not look out of place for a minute, stopping 33 of the 35 shots he faced (.943 save percentage). He displayed maturity and composure in his first full game which is rare to find in a young goalie.
While it is unlikely Wallstedt will start the season on the NHL roster, it almost seems impossible that we don’t see him at some point in 2022-23. While some European goaltenders have a tough time transitioning their game to North America, Wallstedt’s main talents of poise, positioning, and rebound control seem to be quickly adapting to the higher level of play. His calmness under pressure provides his team with a sense of trust that will no doubt help pull them through a long regular season one day.
Rossi & Jost Show Versatility
If there was a major point of failure for the Wild last season it was their special teams. With plenty of penalties on both sides of the ice in their most recent game, Marco Rossi and Tyson Jost decided they would change that. Both were relied upon heavily in powerplay and penalty kill situations against the Stars and did not disappoint.
In a strong bid to earn his roster spot, Rossi opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal and continued to be noticeable for the entire game. By consistently outplaying his opponents in every situation he provides the air of a player that is always dangerous, drawing in the defense and opening up space on the ice for the rest of his team. He finished the night with two points after collecting an assist on Jonas Brodin’s goal.
Not to be outdone, Jost has taken his opportunity for top-line minutes and used it to show that he may deserve to be there. He was all over the ice against the Stars and his determination paid off in the form of a three-point night. With five points in two preseason games, it is looking more and more like he will find himself in an elevated position on opening night.
New Top Defensive Pairing Brings the Offense
If there were any doubts about Brodin moving up to the top pairing beside captain Jared Spurgeon, they are long gone. Both players logged around 23 minutes of ice time, with three and half minutes on the penalty kill, and looked like they hardly broke a sweat. Brodin put the Wild up by two in the second period and Spurgeon found the back of the net early in the third as the veterans showed they have more to offer than just being a shut-down defensive pair.
While the Wild are not lacking in defensive skill, they will need every player on the team to provide a bit more offense this season, since they will be without their second highest point producer in Kevin Fiala, who was traded in the offseason. If the newly formed duo of Brodin and Spurgeon can manage to be consistent point producers in the regular season, the Wild may find themselves in an even better position than last year. It is no secret to Wild fans that they have some of the most underrated players in the league, but if things continue trending in the right direction, it looks like every fan will start to notice these two for what they really are: an elite top defensive pairing.
Game four of the Wild’s preseason schedule will find them up against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Oct. 2 for their “Home Away from Home” game at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Being from the east coast of Canada, I’ve grown up immersed in hockey since before I was old enough to walk. The Minnesota Wild joined the league right as I was trying to find a favourite team and I have been committed to them ever since. I like to take breaks from my day job of writing reports as a Scientist by writing articles about my hockey passion. Follow me on twitter @tysmck15 for my latest.