If you’ve been paying attention to Gone Puck Wild lately, and shame on you if you haven’t, then you know school has begun as Wild fans brush up on their knowledge of the new teams within Minnesota’s division. This week, we’ve saved the best for last, as that team just so happens to be your very own Minnesota Wild. Going through Sunday, we’ll break down the Wild’s major additions and subtractions, strengths and weaknesses, prospect pool, 2013 draft class and team outlook as we get you caught up on what you need to know before the puck officially drops on the regular season.
It’s fitting that the conclusion of Minnesota Wild Week should come at the half-way point of the preseason for Minnesota, because it gives us an opportunity to look back at how far we’ve come.
If you’ve been listening, watching the highlights or reading about Minnesota’s training camp and preseason, you know that it seems like every highly touted youngster has been having a great camp. Charlie Coyle has been nothing short of a stallion, Mikael Granlund has been noticeably faster and has been creating plays, Nino Niederreiter looks as good as advertised, Erik Haula has been playing a very confident game, Mathew Dumba has been impressive and even Jason Zucker looked great prior to tweaking his groin. In addition, both Coyle and Granlund have been very good in the faceoff circle. However, not all of them will make the team.
While it was thought that Zucker and Niederreiter would be fighting for third line right wing, it appears Torrey Mitchell has nailed that spot down. That said, it may leave a spot on the fourth line for a guy like Justin Fontaine, Carson McMillan, Stephane Veilleux, Jake Dowell or even Erik Haula to jump into. With the Iowa Wild’s camp opening up tomorrow, you can bet every player that just doesn’t have a shot at cracking the opening night lineup in Minnesota will be sent down. Unfortunately, that could still mean all of the big guns (Granlund, Zucker, Niederreiter, Haula, Fontaine and Dumba) stay in camp.
The reason Coyle wasn’t included in that is because there just isn’t a way he doesn’t make the team the way he’s been playing. Does that mean Granlund is bound for Des Moines? I don’t think so. The way both of them have been playing has been outstanding, and Minnesota still needs a No. 2 left winger to skate with Coyle and right wing Dany Heatley. If Zucker’s injury is something that lingers, expect it to be a two-horse race between “Granny” and Nino.
I wrote earlier in the week that Minnesota’s biggest strength and weakness was its youth. As long as these young guns keep playing their game and sticking to the system, I’ll be happy to eat all the crow they put on my plate. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has set this team up to succeed for many, many years to come–I can’t wait to cover each and every one of them.
Follow Dakota Case at Twitter.com/Dakota_case