The Minnesota Wild are back in preseason action against the Colorado Avalanche tonight at 9 PM ET, only this time they’ll suit up as the road team. The Wild came away with an overtime win on Sunday against an admittedly star-less Avalanche squad after being up by two goals at the end of the second period. While preseason games rarely hold much value in terms of how well teams compare to each other, it is always fun to start the season off with a win.
Projected Lineup is Prospect Heavy
The Wild will roll into Colorado with a completely different lineup than they had just two days ago, and this one is loaded with prospects. Barring any gameday changes it sits as follows:
Jost – Steel – Boldy
Duhaime – Dewar – Petan
Milne – Fogarty – Firstov
Baddock – Walker – Hentges
Mermis – Johansson
Goligoski – Sustr
Hunt – Hicketts
Gustavsson – McIntyre
Newly-signed free agent Sam Steel is going to be the first-line center with Matt Boldy and Tyson Jost on his wings. The trio of young first-round picks may have the potential to be a solid scoring option in the regular season if they are able to develop some chemistry. Dakota Mermis and Simon Johansson will also look to develop some chemistry as the top defensive pairing, although their talents will likely be found in Iowa this year. Recently acquired Filip Gustavsson will be honored with the start and Zane McIntyre is slated to take over halfway through the game.
Competition for Roster Spots Continues
In terms of internal competition and who is going to be on the main roster opening night, the highly touted duo of Marco Rossi and Calen Addison made sure all eyes were on them in the preseason opener, but Steel and Sustr may be the duo to watch tonight.
It is widely thought that Rossi and Addison are locks to make the NHL roster, and that may be true, but with Jordan Greenway and Jon Merrill both expected to miss the first five or more games, there are openings available for other players to grab. Even with Rossi and Addison on the roster, the Wild will need at least one more forward, and likely will have to find someone to act as the 13th forward and seventh defenseman.
Steel has been gifted a very interesting opportunity tonight, as he not only will be the main man in the faceoff dot, an area the Wild struggled with last year, but he will also be centering Boldy, who is in need of someone to connect with after his linemate Kevin Fiala was traded. A line of young first-round draft picks has a massive amount of potential and if Steel can show that he has a connection with Boldy, and potentially even Jost, that trio may be something we see more of moving forward.
On the blue line side of things, keep an eye out for the man that will be hard to miss, 6-foot-7 Andrej Sustr, who will be paired up with Wild regular Alex Goligoski. Sustr has a legitimate shot at a bottom pairing role over Addison and this will likely be his opportunity to show that he can blend well with Goligoski’s style of play. The Wild’s right side is on the smaller side of things and Sustr provides a remedy for that, while also being a capable defender.
Tougher Second Match-up Against the Avalanche
Even though the first game against the reigning Stanley Cup champions was a win, it will likely be a less favorable match-up tonight. In game one the Wild had the upper hand by playing at home with a veteran-laden roster, as well as only playing half of Colorado’s split roster. Tonight the roles will be reversed as the Wild are relying on a squad that has little to no time playing in game situations together and without confirmed lines for the Avalanche, could be facing some of their deadlier players.
It may help the Wild to play against some of the league’s best tonight, as a solid game against the Cup champions could prove more impactful than a game against a depleted roster. To accurately get a sense of where a player sits regarding their abilities at the NHL level, they have to play against NHL-level players. The best way to train is against better players, and the Avalanche obviously have some of the best in the business.
*Fans can catch the game tonight on Altitude or ESPN+
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.