In a recent interview with The Athletic’s, Michael Russo, Minnesota Wild head coach, Bruce Boudreau hinted at the team’s line combinations. Needless to say the line combinations discussed look better on paper than the line combinations that the Wild put out for their final game of the 2018-2019 season.
Boudreau hinted that his first line would be Jason Zucker, Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello. Zucker and Staal both had ‘down’ years this past season. Staal’s 22 goals and 52 points were the lowest of his Wild tenure. Zucker had a career year in 2017-2018, scoring 33 goals and registering 64 points. This past season, with trade rumors swirling, Zucker scored 21 goals and finished with 42 points.
Pairing both Zucker and Staal with a player like Zuccarello, who can create for both of them could have both Staal and Zucker in store for bounce back seasons. It’s not out of the question to expect Staal to post a 30 goal with another season of 30 or more assists. If healthy there is no question Zucker will a season more on par with his 2017-2018 performance.
The Wild signing Zuccarello is one of the most underrated moves from this offseason. Yes, maybe the length of the contract is not ideal, but there is no denying that Zuccarello will be a playmaker for the Wild this season. Look no further than the Norwegian’s performance in the postseason for the Dallas Stars this past season. In 13 games he scored four goals and recorded seven assists.
The second line would consist of Zach Parise, Luke Kunin and Kevin Fiala. Pairing Parise, who plays with so much heart and grit with Fiala makes a lot of sense. Fiala is a player that will flash and than disappear for long stretches. In what could be a breakout season for the youngster there is no better player to pair him with than Parise. This line screams speed and it would be fun to watch the ole veteran play alongside two of the young breakout candidates for the Wild.
The third and fourth line combinations will hinge on the health of Mikko Koivu. For the sake of this article lets say he is healthy and ready to go. With Captain Koivu starting as the center for the third line he would be flanked by youngsters, Ryan Donato and Jordan Greenway. Donato and Greenway were roommates during last year’s Olympics in South Korea.
If you love energy and grit, than you’ll love the fourth line pairing of Marcus Foligno, Joel Ericksson Ek and Ryan Hartman. It may not be the flashiest of lines, but this line will never get outworked.
The Wild are coming off a disappointing season in which their streak of six straight playoff appearances was snapped. Make no mistake about it though, this is a talented team. They may not have a household name, but they have a lot of talented players up and down their roster. It will be interesting to see what the line combinations will be when the Wild open the season on Oct. 3. Until then, sit and think about how great that line of Zucker/Staal/Zuccarello is going to be!