COACH: Mike Yeo
2014-15 RECORD: 46-28-8, 100 points (fourth in Central, lost to Blackhawks, 4-0, in second round)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.77 goals per game (12th); 2.41 goals per game (6th); 15.9 power play pct. (27th); 86.3 penalty kill pct. (1st); PDO: 100.2 (15th); Corsi For pct.: 51.0 (16th); Fenwick For pct.: 52.2 (7th); face-off pct.: 49.9 (15th)
NOTABLE ARRIVALS: D Mike Reilly, F Zac Dalpe
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: F Kyle Brodziak, F Chris Stewart
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
OUTLOOK: Three years after they joined the Wild as a package deal, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter find themselves on a team not unlike the ones they left—clubs that were built around the goalie and wanting for one more game-breaking forward. The effect that netmandier Devan Dubnyk had on transforming the Wild’s 2014-15 season can be demonstrated by 100 different statistics, but his record (27-9-2) compared to Minnesota’s before the trade that brought him in (18-19-5) sums it up nicely. Dubnyk, the savior, however, only comes once.
Now the Wild have to learn to be competitive with Dubnyk the incumbent, whose .914 career save percentage is a far cry from the obscene .936 he posted down the stretch last season. To make up the difference, the Wild will need more offensive contribution from their young forwards. Veterans Parise, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu are known quantities. But there’s hope that Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter—both 23—can improve on their combined 76 points from last season. A bounce-back season from Thomas Vanek would help too.
Defensively the Wild are aware that they've been riding Suter the workhorse a little too hard (29:04 TOI last season), so the young legs of Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella and possibly coveted college free agent Mike Reilly—who are all 25 or younger—will be counted on to give him more breathers. In what is sure to be another Central Division dogfight, how effective the younger players up and down the roster are will go a long way toward deciding if the Wild make the playoffs and get beyond the second round for the first time since 2003.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Zucker
Las Vegas’ favorite son scored 21 goals in just 51 games during an injury-shortened 2014-15. His return to health and Vanek’s struggles could combine to give Zucker, 23, a permanent top-six role. He chipped in only five assists last season, but that number could improve quickly as he finally gets power play time this season.
PREDICTION: 95 points, sixth in the Central