The Wild have a decently strong top 6 forward group that gets the job done. But here are two possible line combinations that would work wonders for the Wild.
The Minnesota Wild’s top-six forward group includes a good mix of veterans and youth. The two top 6 veterans are, Eric Staal(35) and Zach Parise(35) The youth that plays (or should play) in the Wild’s top-six are the 23-year olds Jordan Greenway, Kevin Fiala, Joel Eriksson Ek, and 22-year old Luke Kunin.
So, what additions and subtractions can be made within the roster to provide a dangerous top 6?
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The last Wild game before the NHL pause was March 8th, 2020 against the Ducks where we saw Kevin Fiala scored the OT winner. The Wild’s first line looked like this:
LW: Jordan Greenway C: Eric Staal RW: Kevin Fiala
There is not much I’d change about this line. Greenway is a big power forward who drives the play relatively well. His size generates offense as he knocks guys off the puck allowing Fiala to swoop in and work his magic. Eric Staal adds the much needed veteran leadership to the line that consists of two 23-year olds.
Although Staal may be getting old, his contribution to the Wild as the first-line center is needed. Fiala is Fiala and there isn’t much I could tell you about him that you wouldn’t already know. He is a superstar and is a huge reason the Wild got back into playoff contention.
The second line is where I’d make two changes if I were interim head coach Dean Evason. First off I’d keep Zach Parise right where he is as the second-line left-winger. Parise is mainly a consistent 20+ goal scorer in the NHL. Second, I’d bring Ryan Donato up from his fourth line LW role and switch him over the center. Third, I’d bring up Mats Zuccarello from the 3rd line and play him as second-line RW.
With these changes, the bottom six lines would be:
LW: M. Folgino C: J. Eriksson Ek RW: L. Kunin
LW: A. Galchenyuk C: M. Koivu RW: R. Hartman
Zuccarello is mainly a pass-first guy and likes to distribute the puck a lot more than he likes to shoot it. Donato is the opposite, a shoot-first guy. If Donato has the chance to take a shot in the slot he will. Parise is a winger who crashes the net hard with aggression. Parise has a good shot but is usually known and seen as the guy who parks himself in front of the net and battles. He will pick up those loose pucks and put the rebounds from teammates shots in the back of the net.
So, why would they fit together? Well, given that Zuccarello likes to dish the puck to his teammates rather than shoot, Donato loves to shoot the puck and was the 8th best in goals per 60 minutes, behind some elite company, and lastly, Parise who likes to battle in front of the net could put any loose puck in the back of the net. So Zuccarello can feed it to Donato who will rip a shot on goal where Parise will be standing to either tip the puck or pick up some loose change.
If the Wild are down by a goal and Fiala just came off the ice then Evason should roll this line. I am certain with Zuccarello’s passing and playmaking skills, Donato’s heavy shot and quick release, and Parise’s net-front presence, they are certain to score you some meaningful goals when needed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this sneaky line combination and if you think it would work out.
All ages courtesy of NHL.com