With training camp ready to break and the Minnesota Wild getting set to submit their 23-man roster by Friday afternoon, the final few roster spots remain up in the air. While the top three forward lines appear to be set, there is much left to be desired on the fourth line and of course the extra forward or two, depending on which way the Wild decide to go. As far as the defensive corps goes, that too is starting to take shape with the final spot or two left up in the air.
With that, let’s take a look at the projected opening day lineup. TSN.ca has done a team-by-team preview and even went as far as to what they thought the Wild’s opening day lineups would like look from the forward stand point. Credit to the hockey experts at TSN as I feel they are fairly accurate with this one.
The top line is a no brainer, at least to start the season. Koivu in the middle of Heatley and Parise could be one of the top lines in the game this season if Heatley can regain his form that saw him score 50-goals in the past.
The second line appears to be set providing Pierre-Marc Bouchard is cleared to resume game action by the weekend. The only concern I have is putting Bouchard on the wing for two reasons. First and most importantly is his health. Playing the wing versus center will require much more contact in the corners and Bouchard could be one innocent hit away from hanging up his skates for good.
The club is high on Granlund as the number two center, which then forces Bouchard to left wing. Should the Wild struggle to score goals then look for some line shuffling to happen. Many things could happen including Granlund heading down to the third line, but only if he struggles early on.
The top line could also see some adjustments if the team is lacking secondary scoring, but that’s another discussion for another day.
The shut down line as I like to call them. They’ll be instrumental in playing some heavy minutes against the opponent’s top lines in crucial stages of the game. I don’t see this line being broken up a whole lot, unless of course as I mentioned some major line shuffling happens.
TSN has the following:
It’s certainly a possibility and brings an element of toughness that not every team can match. Matt Kassian is on the outside looking in, providing he doesn’t get the 13th or 14th forward position. The other argument is whether the Wild need two tough guys. With the acquisition of Konopka, Kassian could be destined for Houston, at least one would think. But because he has a one-way contract, it’s unlikely as he’d earn his full $550,000 while in the minors.
Nick Palmieri was just signed to a two-way deal and has impressed the Wild organization in Houston and in camp this week.
Mitchell and Konopka are all but locks and Powe may have to play himself out of a position. This leaves Kassian and prospects, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Johan Larsson potentially heading to Houston and waiting for injuries before they get their shot in the big leagues. Should the Wild keep 14 forwards and only 7 defense then I expect Palmieri and Kassian to fill those spots.
A trade is a possibility, but unlikely before the start of the season, meaning TSN’s predictions are looking favorable at this point. Not to say a slow start by the team or any player on the roster doesn’t prompt radical changes that could see a Zucker or Coyle brought in to inject some life won’t happen.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the defense and goaltending situation.
Agree or disagree with these lines? Let us know by leaving a comment.