Minnesota Wild: Top 3 players who will be better in 2019

ST. PAUL, MN - MARCH 03: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild camps out in front of the Nashville Predators net during a game at Xcel Energy Center on March 3, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - MARCH 03: Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild camps out in front of the Nashville Predators net during a game at Xcel Energy Center on March 3, 2019 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) /

To say that the 2018-2019 season was disappointing for the Minnesota Wild would be an understatement. They missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 season and had their franchise record of six straight trips to the postseason snapped. The core of the team was torn apart as former general manager, Paul Fenton traded away Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter.

That disappointing season has led everybody and their mother to write off the Wild as a contender for the upcoming season. During KFAN’s “Brusso Radio” at the Minnesota State Fair, Wild coach, Bruce Boudreau had this to say about the state of the team.

"Most of the players on our team had never missed the playoffs. And this has not exactly been a summer of great news or people praising our team. I mean XM Radio said if there’s a team to win a Stanley Cup in the next five years, how would you rate them? And they rated us 32nd and there’s only 31 teams in the league (Seattle makes it 32 starting with the 2021-22 season). So, when you hear this kind of stuff, if it doesn’t make your blood boil a little bit, then you’re not the kind of guy I want on our team. So I think there’s going to be a lot of guys starting from training camp that were genuinely ticked off that people don’t think that we’re as good as we are.This is no disrespect to Bill Guerin, I said, “You know before last year, the two previous years, we had a 106 and 101 points. Fourth overall in the NHL.” He looked at me and goes, “Really, I didn’t realize that.” So I mean we didn’t need a lot of changes last year. We were a good team. … We have a lot more in our tank and we’re going to surprise a lot of teams this year and people are going to think Minnesota’s on the downtrend, but I firmly believe that from forwards 1 to 12, we’re deep. We don’t have superstars or Connor McDavid or anything, but we have great depth up front and I think our defense bringing back all six guys that were here last year and adding Brad Hunt as a seventh is really strong. It’s like, “Bring it on. We’ll be ready.”"

If the Wild are going to get back to the postseason they will need a combination of bounce back seasons from their veterans and breakout seasons from some of their youngsters. Here are three players that will be better this season than they were last season.

  1. Jason Zucker: Last season Fenton attempted to trade Zucker at every turn. A player can say that doesn’t impact his play, but it had to have had an impact on his performance. Zucker is coming off a solid 42 point season for the Wild. He scored 21 goals and recorded 21 assists. He finished sixth on the team in points, third in goals and sixth in assists. Those numbers for Zucker are respectable. However, the Wild are likely expecting more from him in 2018-2019, especially when you consider Zucker had a career-year during the 2017-2018 season. That season he finished with 64 points, scoring 33 goals and recording 31 assists, all career-highs for the winger. Zucker may not score 33 goals this season, but one would expect him to be more in the 27-30 range.
  2. Eric Staal: The veteran center had his worst statistical output during his Wild tenure. Stall finished with 22 goals, 30 assists and 52 points. In 2017-2018, Staal scored 42 goals, which is the second highest mark of his career. Staal is unlikely to reach the 40 goal mark this season, but one can expect him to get back to 60 points by scoring 31 goals and 34 assists this season.
  3. Zach Parise: Why is Parise on this list when he enjoyed his best statistical output since 2014-2015? Last season Parise scored 28 goals and registered 33 assists, finishing with 61 points. Those numbers are impressive. It’s even more impressive when you consider that the veteran winger played through a broken foot during the final month of the season. Mats Zuccarello playing alongside Parise is the thing this writer is most excited to see this season. During his time as a member of the Wild, Parise hasn’t skated with a playmaker quite like Zuccarello. The talented Norwegian will create more opportunties for Parise and I think Parise could finish with 30 or more goals and 33 or more assists as he looks to lead the Wild back to the postseason.