The Minnesota Wild need to start planning their succession plan at goalie. Devan Dubnyk’s play has been slowly declining and there is no outrunning father time. At 33 years old, Dubnyk is still a solid goaltender and is under contract until the 2020-2021 season, but the Wild need to start planning for life after Dubnyk.
This past season was Dubnyk’s worst as a member of the Wild. He gave up 163 goals (a career-high) and saw his save percentage drop to .913, the lowest mark of his Wild tenure.
One could explain his decline due to the wear and tear he has endured over the years. His 66 games started this past season was the highest in the league. In 2017-2018 he finished 10th in the league in games started. The year before that he finished fifth and in 2015-2016 he was second in games started.
With Dubnyk’s free agency on the horizon the Wild need to find his successor. They currently have three intriguing options in the pipeline. Are any of them long-term answers between the pipes for the Wild?
The Wild drafted Hunter Jones in the second round of the 2019 draft. This past season he had a save percentage of .902.
"“I was high on Jones up until about halfway through last season, playing on the mediocre Petes team, he started to struggle,” Bell said. “That’s pretty normal, but I had hoped he’d marry the team a bit more. That being said, there’s still lots to like about his game when he’s on. He has great positioning, vision and rebound control – all key aspects of goaltending. He needs to work on his skating, but that will get better with time and work. As of right now, I’d put Jones down as a fringe starter for his ceiling. There’s a chance he can one day be a number one, but he definitely has some improvements to make before that happens. It will also be a few years still before he’s ready.”"
The former Minnesota Golden Gopher signed a two-year entry level contract at the end of last season. During his time with the Gophers he had a .924 save percentage.
"“There’s a lot of potential with Robson,” Josh Bell, a contributor for TheHockeyWriters.com said. “He played well for the University of Minnesota, and I’ll be very interested to see how he and Kaapo Kahkonen split starts in Iowa next season. By signing him to a two-year entry deal and burning the first year, the Wild have given themselves one season to really watch how he translates to the pro level. “He has great vision and positioning. This season will be extremely telling of what’s to come for the goalie. As of now, it’s likely between him and Kahkonen to be the successor to Dubnyk within the system, and I’d give the edge to Kahkonen.”"
Speaking of Kahkonen, he spent last season playing for the Iowa Wild. In 39 games he had a save percentage of .908. Bell believes that Kahkonen is in line to become Dubnyk’s successor.
"“Right now, I think Kahkonen is the next starter for the Wild,” Bell said. “Robson could give him a run for his money, but it looks like it’s the Finnish goalie’s job to lose. He has excellent positioning, great rebound control and his movement is the best in the Wild’s system, other than Dubnyk (for now). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kahkonen be the backup for the Wild this season, but more likely, he’ll be the first call-up for any injuries. Wild fans should start keeping a close eye on the netminder, as I think he’ll have a big sophomore season in the AHL.”"
The Wild added two goaltenders to their pipeline in the 2019 draft. They’ll likely be looking to add more talent to that position via the 2020 draft.
"“Kahkonen looks like he could be the next starter, while Robson and Jones have potential,” Bell said. “But that doesn’t mean the Wild can’t look to the draft to add a new netminder to the mix. The Wild are likely on their way to a lottery pick in the 2020 draft, and it just so happens that there’s a generational goalie in the draft in Yaroslav Askarov. If the Wild get a chance at him, he’s a hard piece to pass up. He already looks to be the best goaltending prospect since Andrei Vasilevskiy or every Carey Price. After him, Czech goalie Jan Bednar is the next best thing. However, If they don’t land Askarov, it may be better to wait for the 2021 draft to try and land Swedish prospect Jesper Wallstedt. He’s likely the second-best goalie in the next two drafts.”"