After a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Xcel Energy Center on September 17th, Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo acknowledged that his team was “still in scrimmage mode”. In the four games since, the Wild have been an impressive 4-0, outscoring their opponents by a total of 12-7.
In those four games, roster hopefuls like Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Justin Fontaine and Matt Dumba have also been impressive. Coyle’s three goals and all-around dominant performance on the ice has locked him up as the team’s No. 2 center. However, a hard choice will have to be made regarding Niederreiter, Granlund or Zucker, though most likely it’ll narrow down to just Granlund and Zucker. In the end, Mike Yeo will have four really solid lines he can roll in all situations.
That said, what Wild fans have witnessed this preseason is unlike anything seen in the State of Hockey in recent memory. Every game so far has shown scoring ability from nearly every line. There’s no question the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville is going to be good, but the second line of a combination of Zucker, Granlund, Coyle, Niederreiter and Dany Heatley may be downright dynamic.
Last season, no other Wild forward created as much electricity inside the “X” every time he touched the puck than Jason Zucker. This year, it’s Charlie Coyle. In 37 games last season, the majority spent on the top line as a complimentary piece to Koivu and Parise, Coyle would lead all Wild rookies in scoring with eight goals and six assists for 14 points and a plus-3 rating. He also played a key role in setting up Parise’s goal in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks.
This season, Coyle has a chance to be “the man” on a line with Heatley and one of Niederreiter, Zucker or Granlund. In four games during the preseason alone this year, he has been a point-per-game player.
It started with this.
Then, finally, a beautiful breakaway goal that had fans leaping to their feet.
After an impressive preseason, Minnesota is ready to get back into the playoff picture with a quality start to the season. The success of the team may hinge on the success–or failure–of Mr. Coyle in his sophomore campaign. If he keeps on doing what he’s doing, 20 goals and 50 points shouldn’t be out of the question for one of Minnesota’s newest rising superstars. Keep your eyes on this one, folks; he’s going to go far in the NHL.
Follow Dakota Case at Twitter.com/Dakota_case