Minnesota Wild Fifteen Greatest Players: #7 Brian Rolston


Brian Rolston only spent three seasons with the Minnesota Wild, but they are statistically three of the best seasons ever.  His slap shot and outstanding two-way play is still talked about all over the State of Hockey today, and can be called the best in franchise history.

The best slap shot in the history of Minnesota Wild belongs to the player who checks-in at number seven on the fifteen greatest Wild players.  Brian Rolston only played three seasons for the Wild, but he’s left a lasting mark on the franchise and opposing goaltenders.  His hard shot from the point helped propel the Wild to their best regular season in 2007-08, and his time with the Wild were by far his best seasons of his 17 season NHL career.

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The Michigan native started his journey to the NHL in the NCAA opting to stay in state to attend Lake Superior State.  Before even starting his college career, he would be drafted by the New Jersey Devils with the 11th overall pick in 1991.  For two seasons at Superior State, Rolston would tally 110 points (51 goals and 59 assists), appear in two frozen fours, and would be a key part of Lake Superior’s 1992 NCAA National Championship by scoring the game winning goal in the championship game.

Rolston stared with the Albany River Rats in the AHL for the 1993-94 season and quickly rose to the NHL with the Devils to include making their post season roster in 1995 and eventually hoisting the Stanley Cup with his teammates.  After stints with the Avalanche and the Bruins, Rolston would sign as a free-agent with the Wild in the summer of 2004, and quickly become one of the Wild’s best scorers.

In three seasons with the Wild, Rolston would gain instant notoriety around the NHL as possessing one of the best slap shots in the league.  His shot would net him 30 goals in all three seasons with the Wild (34, 31, 31), only Marion Gaborik can boast three straight 30+ goal seasons in a Wild uniform.  In addition to Rolston’s shot, he was also known as having an outstanding two-way game as he received votes for the Selke Trophy two out of his three seasons with the Wild.

Where Rolston’s slap shot became legend was in on the penalty shot and in the shootout.  On November 6th 2006 Rolston was granted a penalty shot in a contest in a 2-1 Minnesota against the Canucks.  He took the puck at center ice, skated over the blueline, and then fired a slapper from the top of the right face-off circle to beat Roberto Luongo low on the glove side.  It was an amazing play that Rolston would duplicate two more times in the shootout, to be equally impressive.

After the 2008 season the Wild had issues negotiating a new deal with Rolston, so they traded his rights to the Lightning before free-agency started to get something instead of losing him outright.  Rolston would play five more seasons for the Devils, Islanders, and Bruins but he would never see the 30 goal seasons he enjoyed in Minnesota.  He retired after the 2011-12 season after 1,256 career NHL games.

Although Rolston only spent three seasons in Minnesota, he still ranks very high in all offensive categories in the Wild record book.  He is 6th all-time in goals and points, and 7th all-time in assists.  Perhaps even more impressive is his shot is so highly regarded that Sports Illustrated ranked his shot #8 all-time in the history of the league.

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There’s no telling how much higher those numbers would have been had he stayed with the Wild longer.  Still it was enough to endear him to Wild fans who might never see a shot like Rolston’s ever again.  Players like Mathew Dumba may have a great shot, but he doesn’t have a Brian Rolston great shot.