Minnesota Wild January Report Cards: Evaluating Every Player’s Performance

As January has come to an end, it is time to deliver the report cards for each Minnesota Wild player. Let’s examine every player’s performance in the month of January. I’ll be focusing on analytics, but will combine box stats, the eye-test, and other factors.

The Minnesota Wild have had a modest start to the season, but they have to make several improvements and adjustments as the season progresses in order to maximize their full potential.

One of the bright spots of the report cards is seeing some young faces near the top. The Wild are notorious for being dependent on their veterans and having a lack of impact from the youngsters on the roster.

The players have been ranked accordingly by the best to the worst January performances as well as broken down into four different tiers.

Note: All data is from January. Therefore, the overall numbers so far this season may differ as games have been played in February. It is also important to note that this is a small sample size.

Tier 1 — A (The Best On The Team)

1. Joel Eriksson Ek has been the Wild’s best forward – and player – this season and the biggest surprise too. The 24-year-old center has been a top defensive center in the NHL but has displayed that he can be an effective offensive contributor as well. Eriksson Ek recorded a team-high 5 goals and 4 assists through 10 games in January.

He has a 55.77 Corsi for percentage and 69.38 expected goals for percentage which both rank 1st on the team. Looking at Dom L of the Athletic’s game-score which is a mix of points and analytics, Eriksson Ek’s 1.58 average game-score ranks 1st on the Wild.

Furthermore, he ranks 2nd on the team in goals for per hour and expected goals for per hour. Everyone knows Eriksson Ek is superb defensively, but he has been a force offensively this season. On the defensive side of things, he has picked right up from where he left off. He ranks 2nd in goals against per hour – behind Foligno – and is 1st in expected goals against per hour.

He has been an excellent shot suppressor and has been controlling high-danger offensive opportunities. The Wild are witnessing a breakout emerge right in front of their eyes.

2. Jordan Greenway was very impactful in the 2019-20 campaign, but he wasn’t able to produce at a rate that was expected of him in terms of point production and goal scoring. The 23-year-old winger made a huge jump from an underwhelming 2018-19 season. It almost felt inevitable that he would break out this season due to his positive underlying numbers.

Greenway had 10 points in 10 games in January and it appears he is finally being the productive top-six winger the Wild knew they had in him. He’s been proficient on both ends of the ice.

Greenway has a 44.02 Corsi for percentage and a 55.88 expected goals for percentage. Greenway’s 1.15 average game score ranks 2nd behind only Joel Eriksson Ek. He ranks 3rd in goals for per hour and 7th in expected goals for per hour. He has been a quality offensive contributor which is an element the Wild really desired from him that wasn’t always evident last season.

Greenway has established himself as one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL and he has kept that tag so far this season. He ranks 4th in goals against per hour and 12th in expected goals against per hour, albeit the latter is because the Wild are one of the best defensive teams as a whole. He has been above average at suppressing high-danger chances, but he hasn’t been effective at suppressing shots as an entirety.

Russo had this tweet about JEE and Greenway back in 2015.

3. Kirill Kaprizov and Greenway are interchangeable, the margin between their impact thus far is negligible. The Wild’s highly-touted prospect has exceeded all expectations. He has had a phenomenal start to his NHL career and looks like a very developed player already.

He had 2 goals and 6 assists in the 10 games in the month of January, which is huge for a rookie. Kaprizov has a 50.67 Corsi for percentage and a 51.05 expected goals for percentage. In terms of game-score, Kaprizov’s 0.99 average ranks 3rd on the Wild.

Kaprizov has been a monster offensively for the Wild this season in terms of goal scoring. He leads the Wild in goals for hour, albeit he ranks near the bottom in generating offense as displayed by his low expected goals for which ranks below-average league-wide.

He ranks near the bottom among Wild players defensively, but he is just below-average defensively league-wide. It is important to note that his ability to be impactful offensively and still not be terrible defensively is an indicator of what the Wild could be getting in him long-term in terms of two-way play.

4. Matt Dumba has been the Wild’s best defenseman in the month of January. After struggling last season after returning from a season-ending injury in 2018-19, it finally looks like vintage Dumba is back. He hasn’t been afraid to throw his body around and hasn’t been hesitant to utilize his tantalizing shot.

He has 3 goals – an almost 17-goal pace – and an assist in the 10 games in January. He’s 2nd on the Wild with his 53.26 Corsi for percentage and his 62.54 expected goals for percentage which ranks 6th on the Wild. He recently was injured and placed on IR. Hopefully, it isn’t too serious.

Interestingly enough, his 0.80 average game-score ranks 4th on the Wild. While Dumba is in the middle of the pack on the Wild in goals for per hour, he is still above-average league-wide. Not only does he rank 1st on the Wild in expected goals for per hour, but he ranks 7th among all defensemen in the NHL in this metric.

He has been generating offense at an incredible rate. Likewise, he ranks 1st on the Wild in Corsi for percentage on the Wild. The opposing team struggles to suppress Dumba’s shots which is likely why he is able to generate so much offense.

5. Jonas Brodin has had a good start to the season. The 27-year-old smooth-skating defenseman – who recently signed a seven-year extension – is producing offensively in terms of point production. After a career-high 28 points last season, Brodin tallied 2 goals and 4 assists in his first 10 games in January. He has a 48.41 Corsi for percentage and a 58.32 Corsi expected goals for percentage.

Brodin ranks 5th in game-score with an average of 0.77 on the Wild. For a defenseman known for his shut-down defense and smooth skating, it is adequate to see him 4th on the Wild in goals for per hour and 5th in expected goals for per hour. Brodin has legitimately helped the Wild offensively this season.

Brodin has been below-average at suppressing shots, however, he has excelled at suppressing high-danger opportunities as represented by his expected goals against per hour. He hasn’t excelled defensively to the degree he did last year, but it is likely due to the small sample size.

6. Carson Soucy is the third and final defenseman to make it into tier 1. Soucy, 26, recently signed a three-year contract after a surprisingly great rookie season. He has tallied 2 assists in his first 10 games. He has a 44.80 Corsi for percentage and a 58.79 expected goals for percentage.

Soucy’s 0.64 average game-score ranks 3rd among Wild blueliners and 8th overall. Soucy ranks 8th in goals for per hour and 6th in expected goals for per hour. Despite not having a goal yet, he has been a positive impact offensively.

Likewise, he ranks 3rd in goals against per hour and 3rd in expected goals against. Similar to Brodin, Soucy hasn’t been effective at suppressing shots which is why his Corsi for percentage is so low. However, he is effective at suppressing high-danger chances and shots.

Tier 2 — B (Good)

Jan 24, 2021; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild, Nick Bjugstad #27. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

7. Nick Bjugstad is the only offseason acquisition via trade that has worked out so far. While it is a small sample size and only 10 games into the season, the others have been underwhelming, to say the least. Bjugstad hasn’t exactly produced at a rate that one would hope in terms of point production, but the veteran center has recorded 2 goals and an assist in 10 games. His average game-score of 0.66 ranks him 7th on the Wild overall and fifth among forwards.

His 51.66 Corsi for percentage and 63.76 expected goals for percentage rank 5th and 4th respectively on the Wild. He ranks 7th in goals for per hour and 3rd in expected goals for per hour. While he hasn’t exactly been able to get on the scoresheet, he has been one of the Wild’s best forwards offensively in terms of generating offense.

Bjugstad ranks near the bottom in expected goals against, but he is just below-average league-wide so it shouldn’t necessarily be used against him. Part of it is because the Wild are a good defensive team from the top to the bottom of the lineup.

8. Ryan Hartman had an excellent 2019-20 season and has continued right from where he left off. He has 1 goal and 2 assists in 10 games. By game-score, Hartman’s 0.33 average ranks near the bottom. His 49.43 Corsi for percentage doesn’t stick out either, but his 64.76 expected goals for percentage ranks 3rd on the Wild.

Likewise, his goals for per hour ranks near the bottom, and his expected goals for per hour ranks near and around the middle. However, he has excelled defensively. He ranks 2nd – behind Joel Eriksson Ek – in expected goals against per hour. While he is just about average at suppressing the quantity of shots, he has excelled at limiting high-danger shots. His defensive value so far has outweighed his negative offensive value by a considerable margin.

9. Marcus Foligno recently signed a three-year extension is staying put in Minnesota. He has recorded 1 goal and 2 assists in 9 games. Foligno’s 47.85 Corsi for percentage ranked near the bottom, but his 61.71 expected goals for percentage ranked 7th on the Wild. Foligno’s 0.74 average game-score ranks 6th on the Wild.

Foligno has been nothing more than average offensively in any way you look at. His point totals, goals for per hour, expected goals for per hour are all average. All of his value has come from the defensive side of the game. He ranks 1st on the Wild in goals against per hour and 4th in expected goals against per hour. He has been superb defensively in suppressing high-danger opportunities.

10. Kevin Fiala has a 52.76 Corsi for percentage and a 53.99 expected goals for per hour which is pretty good. However, Fiala isn’t in the top 10 in game-score and only has 3 goals – no assists – in 8 games. The issue with Fiala – which is holding him back – is his shooting.

According to Hockey-Viz’s finishing charts, Fiala had the best finishing of his career in the 2019-20 campaign. This could be a cause for concern as it could be an outlier. First and foremost, it is way too early to tell whether this is the case or not, but it is something that can’t – and shouldn’t – be ignored.

Fiala is dead last on the Wild in goals for per hour, a huge demotion from his rank of 3rd best last season. Even looking at expected goals for per hour, Fiala ranks 8th on the Wild and barely above-average league-wide.

One facet of Fiala’s game that has changed – in the month of January – is his defensive game. Fiala is above-average league-wide in expected goals against per hour and Corsi against per hour. Not only has he been a efficient shot suppressor, but he has excelled at allowing high-danger chances.

11. Nico Sturm was pointless in January despite playing 9 games. Likewise, his game-score is second to last on the Wild which might paint the picture of an unproductive forward who isn’t ready for the NHL. However, this is not a good reflection of how he has played so far this season, it is actually far from it.

He not only holds a 52.90 Corsi for percentage which ranks 3rd on the Wild, but he also has a 64.76 expected goals for percentage which ranks 2nd. Similarly to Fiala, he is near the bottom in goals for per hour and is way below-average league-wide.

To the contrary, he ranks 4th in expected goals for per hour and 7th in expected goals against per hour. He has been above-average league-wide in manufacturing offense and at suppressing high-danger chances. He has played a lot better than the standard numbers like points may reflect.

Tier 3 — C (Average)

Jan 31, 2021; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild, Cam Talbot #33. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

12. Cam Talbot could arguably be placed in tier 2, but overall has been average, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. He has a respectable .920 save percentage (to keep this season-long would be incredible, but likely a product of small sample size) and has done everything the Wild needed this season.

After having arguably the worst goaltending tandem last season, the Wild needed to get average goaltending at a minimum and they have. Looking at goals saved above expected which takes into account shot quality, Talbot has allowed 0.45 more goals than what was expected.

13. Jared Spurgeon signed a seven-year extension a year ago in September and was recently named the Captain after his predecessor Mikko Koivu signed a one-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets after the Wild decided to part ways with him.

He has struggled so far this season, but he hasn’t been bad by any means. He didn’t score a goal in his first 10 games but tallied 2 assists in the month of January. Looking at game-score, he isn’t in the top 10 either. He holds a 49.81 Corsi for percentage and a 53.60 expected goals for percentage.

He ranks near the middle in goals for per hour and expected goals for per hour, both just below-average league-wide. He has excelled in Corsi for per hour where he ranks 7th on the Wild and he ranks 8th on the Wild in expected goals against per hour. He has been average so far, but it is a small sample size which doesn’t make this very concerning.

14. Victor Rask, who was acquired in the one-for-one trade that sent Nino Niederreiter to the Carolina Hurricanes, has been average for the Wild this season. He has 3 goals in the 10 games in January. He has a 50.64 Corsi for percentage which ranks 9th and a 52.17 expected goals for percentage which is 3rd to last. He is bottom five in game-score, despite scoring 3 goals too.

While he’s been average offensively, he is 5th on the Wild in expected goals against per hour. Rask has been one of the Wild’s best forward in the month of January and excelled at suppressing high-danger chances.

15. Brad Hunt only played 4 games in January, so it is hard to even rank him with such a small sample size and several of those games he played at forward which is hard to judge given he is a defenseman. He has gone pointless and his game-score is low but he’s been steady and average overall.

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16. Marcus Johansson was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Eric Staal. Johansson has been very underwhelming thus far but again it is a small sample size. He has a 49.38 Corsi for percentage which ranks 12th and he is only one of two people who have an under 50 expected goals for percentage on the Wild.

He has 2 goals and an assist in 9 games too. Even looking at game score, his 0.30 average game-score is 4th to last on the team. He’s been nearly average in basically everything and barely made the cut for the 3rd tier.

17. Ian Cole is one of the most interesting cases on the Wild. Since the trade, Cole has looked solid by the eye-test. After looking through the numbers, he’s been average. His 40.91 Corsi for percentage ranks dead last on the Wild and his 52.88 expected goals for percentage is good but ranks 16th on the Wild. He has one assist in 8 games since being traded to the Wild. Even looking at game-score, he’s near the bottom.

He ranks 10th in goals for per hour and 18th in expected goals for per hour. Overall, offensively he has been underwhelming. He ranks 10th in expected goals against per hour which is above-average league-wide. He’s been below-average at shot suppressing, but he has been strong at suppressing high-danger chances.

Tier 4 — Struggling, Have To Be Better

 

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – DECEMBER 19: Minnesota Wild, Ryan Suter #20. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

18. Ryan Suter has had a rough start to the 2020-21 season, similarly to Zach Parise. His 51.17 Corsi for percentage ranks 7th and a 53.79 expected goals-for percentage, both respectable numbers. The veteran blueliner hasn’t scored a goal but has 6 assists in 10 games. His average game-score of 0.55 ranks 11th on the Wild.

Suter, 36, ranks 15th in goals for per hour and dead last on the Wild in expected goals for per hour. Both metrics have him below-average league-wide and overall, he hasn’t been very effective offensively.

On the defensive side of things, he ranks bottom five in goals against per hour, expected goals against per hour, and Corsi against per hour, all below-average league-wide. He hasn’t been any better on the defensive side of things.

19. Zach Parise is struggling and it is evident. The Wild are in trouble if this is the beginning of his decline. His 43.46 Corsi for percentage is 18th on the Wild and his 54.04 expected goals for per hour ranks 12th. He has recorded 2 goals and 3 assists in 10 games. Likewise, he’s been middle of the pack in game-score too.

While Parise has been good in terms of goals for per hour where he ranks 5th on the Wild, he is barely above-average league-wide. He ranks near the middle on the Wild in expected goals for per hour which is a concern for someone known for their offense.

The real issue with Parise is becoming the defensive side of things. While it is a small sample size, Parise is becoming a defensive liability. He’s second to last in goals against per hour, dead last in expected goals against per hour, and dead last in Corsi against per hour.

Not only does Parise allow a huge volume of shots, but he allows a considerable amount of high-danger chances. His little offensive value so far is not even close to outweighing his negative defensive value.

20. Kaapo Kahkonen is a rookie goaltender, it is simple as that. It’s hard to judge a rookie goaltender because the expectations shouldn’t be high. Likewise, he has shown flashes of being a quality netminder, and I do think he has the potential to be an NHL starter. With that being said, purely judging his on-ice performance and disregarding the extenuating circumstances, he hasn’t performed.

Again, he has had some very good games and has shown flashes of brilliance. He finished January with a .903 save percentage and a .857 high-danger save percentage. The latter puts him at 15th in the league among all goaltenders. I think this is most likely why he has looked so sharp from the eye-test. He has been very good at stopping the high-danger chances, but has allowed a lot of low-danger shots in.

Furthermore, Kahkonen was 3rd among all goaltenders in average goal distance. The average distance of a goal that Kahkonen has allowed is 28.73 feet which is an easy explanation why his goals saved above expected is -4.37. He’s been effective at stopping high-danger chances but allows a lot of low-danger goals.

21. Nick Bonino has been the worst player on the Wild this season despite being excellent in the face-off circle. The 32-year-old center has recorded a goal and an assist in 10 games. His game score is 0 which displays how ineffective he has been in the month of January. His 42.86 Corsi for percentage is 2nd to last and his 46.36 expected goals for percentage ranks dead last on the Wild.

Bonino is bottom-five in goals for per hour, goals against per hour, expected goals for per hour, Corsi for per hour, expected goals against per hour, and Corsi against per hour. It really isn’t close, but luckily it is a small sample size and hopefully, he can turn things around, but it is not a good first month with his new team.

Mats Zuccarello is on injured reserve, Alex Stalock is out indefinitely, & Marco Rossi will miss the entire 2020-21 season.

Greg Pateryn who played 3 games for the Wild before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche was not given a report card.

(All Data and Information Via Evolving-Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, Hockey-Viz, Hockey Stat Cards & Hockey-Reference)

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