The list of fifteen greatest Minnesota Wild players concludes with first ever draft pick of the Wild Marian Gaborik. He is hands down the best and most talented player to don a Wild sweater, and to this day remains the team’s all-time leading goal scorer.
The number one player on the list was an impact player right out the gate in his first moments with the Minnesota Wild. The first draft pick in Minnesota Wild history Marian Gaborik, is easily the most talented and successful player ever to wear a Wild uniform. Known for blinding speed, soft hands, and a quick wrister Gabby terrorized opposing goaltenders as a part of the Wild for eight seasons.
In his native Slovakia, Gaborik made a quick name for himself at a very young age. After a very successful first year in junior, he was promoted to the men’s team with Dukla Trencin that same year all at the age of 15. He’d spend two more seasons in Slovakia netting 25 goals in his final season waiting to reach the NHL draft age of 18.
The Wild selected him 3rd overall in the 2000 Entry Draft, and immediately brought him in to play his rookie year in the franchise’s inaugural season in 2000-01. Instantly Gabby had an impact scoring 18 goals in his rookie year, and then quickly following that up next season with 30 goals and 67 points.
The 2002-03 would see Gaborik truly come into his own. He was named to his first all-star team and won the fastest skater competition with a lap around the rink in 13.713 seconds. Even more impressive was that he scored 30 goals again, and went on an amazing run in the playoffs that saw him tally 17 points in 18 games played. Those points would help lead the Wild to their best playoff in franchise history as they reached the Western Conference finals but would lose to Anaheim in four straight games.
Gaborik wouldn’t stop there, as his production began to climb over the next couple of seasons with the Wild. A brief holdout and the lockout season of 2004-05 took a small bit away from his production, but over his next five seasons with the Wild he score 141 goals. In 2007-08 he would notch an astounding 42 goals (the best goal scoring season by any Wild player) and lead the team in points with 83, as the Wild captured their one and only division title capping the best regular season in franchise history.
In the final year of his last contract with the Wild Gaborik would have groin injury that would limit him to only 17 games played. The Wild tried hard to re-sign sign him with a monster deal valued in the neighborhood of $80 million. Alas a deal wasn’t worked out and Gaborik moved on to sign with the Rangers, but he left the Wild as the last player from the original 2000-01 team and the franchise leader in goals, assists, and points.
At the age of 33 Gaborik still has a lot of hockey left in the tank. After a few seasons with the Rangers and Blue Jackets, Gabby landed in his current home with the Kings where he won a Stanley Cup in 2014. Sure he’s had success with other clubs, but not near as consistently as he did when he played with the Wild.
As the record books stand right now Gaborik is still the Wild’s all-time leading goal scorer with 219 scored in a Wild jersey. Mikko Koivu is second with 161 and there’s a good chance he may never catch Gabby’s goal total. Additionally Gaborik is second in points with 437, first in power play goals with 59, first in plus/minus at +54, and third in assists with 218. Basically it says when you think of best all-time in offense for the Wild there’s no question it’s Gaborik.
There’s no telling what could have been if Gaborik stayed with the Wild. He was an offensively gifted player in a system that was designed for defense and still put up the gaudy numbers he did. There has been and might not be another player in Wild history as gifted as Gabby. Say what you will about how his time ended in Minnesota, but you can’t deny he’s the best player to put the Wild jersey on and might be the first player to see his number hang from the rafters in the Xcel Center.