The Wild officially played their 28th game last night and are at the halfway mark of the season, let’s hand out midseason awards. For each award, there will be a frontrunner and runner-up followed up with a short explanation.
Frontrunner: Kirill Kaprizov
Runner-up: Joel Eriksson Ek
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Kaprizov has easily been the Wild’s most valuable player. He has been dominant offensively while still being roughly average on the defensive side. The 23-year-old has 25 points in 27 games. His edgework, speed, and playmaking are next to none. He’s already the best player to wear a Wild Sweater since Marian Gaborik.
The runner-up is Joel Eriksson Ek who the Wild have witnessed a breakout this season. He’s one of the best defensive centers in the NHL, but his offensive game has exploded. It frankly came out of nowhere. He’s been a strong two-way force and is a huge reason why the Wild have been successful.
Frontrunner: Kirill Kaprizov
Runner-up: Kaapo Kahkonen
Once again, Kaprizov has been a force for the Wild. He leads the Calder race and frankly, most likely has it in the bag at this point. The Wild’s highly-touted prospect has had no issues transitioning to the NHL from the KHL.
Rookie goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen struggled to start the season, but he has really found his game and looks confident between the pipes. He has nine straight wins and has been one of the best NHL goalies over this span. The way he is trending, he could end be near the top in the Calder Trophy race.
Frontrunner: Jonas Brodin
Runner-up: Matt Dumba
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This could have gone either way. There is no wrong answer between Brodin and Dumba. The margin between the two is razor-thin. I gave the edge to Brodin solely because he has significantly improved his offensive game so far this season. After signing a seven-year extension, it is evident that it is paying dividends for the Wild. Brodin has 5 goals, 9 assists, and 14 points in 26 games.
Likewise, Dumba has notched 5 goals, 6 assists, and 11 points. After having a season-ending pectoral injury in 2018-19, Dumba didn’t look like the player last season that led all NHL defensemen in goals before his injury in 2018. This season, he has looked much better and he has had good underlying numbers too. While it hasn’t necessarily translated to the scoresheet in terms of point productions, he has been very good.
Both defensemen have had a strong season and have been integral pieces to the Wild’s defensive core.
Frontrunner: Joel Eriksson Ek
Runner-up: Marcus Foligno
Marcus Foligno has been the Wild’s best defensive forward and is one of the best in the league once again this season. The issue is that this award will never be given to a bottom-six forward which is why Eriksson Ek wins this. While I am giving it to Eriksson Ek, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that Foligno has been a monster defensively.
Eriksson Ek has a legitimate case to win the Selke Trophy and could easily be a finalist this season. He’s been one of the best two-way forwards and has flourished, albeit he needs more ice time and a larger role.
Frontrunner: Kaapo Kahkonen
Runner-up: Cam Talbot
Kaapo Kahkonen has been very strong this season and is making the case for the starter role. Kahkonen has saved 1.34 goals above expected based on the quality of shots he has faced. Furthermore, he has a .927 save percentage so far. While Cam Talbot has been good this season, Kahkonen has been one of the best goaltenders over the past few weeks. There definitely isn’t a huge gap between the two netminders as they have both been good this season for the Wild.
This has been one of the biggest storylines behind the Wild’s strong start. After having one of the worst goalie tandems last season, it is refreshing to see the Wild get strong goaltending.