Minnesota Wild Fifteen Greatest Players: #8 Wes Walz


Wes Walz is perhaps the hardest working player in Minnesota Wild history.  He earned his place among the Wild greats with physical yet speedy play, that yielded him a franchise record 14 shorthanded goals.

When looking at the definition of hockey journeyman, the player at number eight on the list of the fifteen greatest Minnesota Wild player’s picture in the dictionary right there next to the words.  Wes Walz had a very nomadic existence before he signed with the Wild before the 2000-01 inaugural season.  Like many of the original Wild players he would find a home and his game after signing in Minnesota.  Walz’s hard work on the ice endeared him right away to the coaches and the fans who loved to watch his efforts over seven seasons with the Wild.

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Walz would begin life in the WHL where he played outstanding hockey for two seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes scoring an astounding 244 points (83 goals and 161 assists).  That stat line would not escape the NHL scouts, and so Walz was drafted 57th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 1989 draft.  The Bruins thought so highly of Walz, that they brought him in to play in two NHL games right after the 1989-90 WHL season ended.

From the start Walz had a hard time translating the scoring he had done in the WHL into scoring in the NHL.  As a result of his NHL slump, he never played a full NHL season in seven seasons after being drafted into the league.   After the 1995-96 season Walz decided to take his game over to Europe to gain some more stable playing time and some confidence.  In four seasons in Switzerland he would work hard to improve his game, and in the summer of 2000 he signed with the Wild with an eye on finding that full-time NHL season that had eluded him.

In Minnesota Walz would find that full season and then some in 2000-01.  Walz from the get go in training camp was seen by Head Coach Jacques Lemaire as a grinder who he called his “checker”.  He brought a physical two-way game to the Wild, mixed in oddly with some very awesome speed.  Possibly the most remarkable stat from that first season for Walz was that he scored 18 goals, seven off which were shorthanded.

With the Wild, Walz would gain a reputation as one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL gaining Selke Trophy votes in four of his seven seasons with the Wild.

Walz’s best moments as a Wild player came in the 2003 playoffs.  He would score 7 goals, 6 assists, and 2 short-handed goals leading the Wild to their one and only Western Conference Finals appearance.  Perhaps the most impressive individual accolade was that Walz’s 2 shorthanded goals were the most of any player in those playoffs.

In the 2007 Walz would leave the team for personal reasons on November 1st, and then after a month of being away from the team he would announce his retirement on December 1st.  Walz at the time of his retirement was the franchise’s leader in games played, but has fallen to eight on the list with 438 games in a Wild sweater.  Most notable though is that Walz is the current franchise leader in shorthanded goals with 14.

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Walz has continued to be a huge part of the Minnesota hockey community even years after his retirement.  He currently is an in-game analysist for Fox Sports North, and coached both his daughter and son at East Ridge High School in Woodbury.  Walz still shows love for the game of hockey even after all these years.  It was that love that propelled him to be a great player even when it seemed he couldn’t make it, and that’s why Walz is truly a great Wild player.