College Hockey

The 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild: A Potential Stanley Cup Contender Part One

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The rebuild of the Minnesota Wild is well and truly underway, and the future is the brightest it has been in a long time. Young players like Joel Erikson Ek, Jordan Greenway, and Carson Soucy have all taken the next step in their development this season with the Wild, along with their lineup including Russian superstar Kirill Kaprizov. With all that in mind, it might be more precise to call it a retool since they are far from tanking for draft picks this season. but challenging for a playoff spot. Outside the roster, the Wild has some very exciting prospects, and added depth coming up could bring them into contention sooner rather than later; maybe even as early as 2023-2024.

What Would The 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild Look Like?

The reason the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild is due to the impending emergence of young talent like Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy, Calen Addison, and Marat Khusnutdinov. They will be vital parts of the Wild in the future to help Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala take the Wild to the next step. Especially down the middle where the Wild has looked shaky at best this season, the addition of Rossi and Khusnutdinov will be given some much-needed center depth to the lineup.

Photo by Dinur Blum

A quick few disclaimers before going into the lines in greater detail. This won’t feature future draft picks, since they are magic beans, and it’s hard to tell what happens in the coming years. Therefore, it will only feature players that were on the Wild roster at the time of writing (3/27/2021). Secondly, this speculates in the future where the Wild lose Matt Dumba to the Seattle expansion draft or via trade beforehand meaning that Seattle selects Cam Talbot instead. That is why neither is on the lineup. This is also part one where the focus will be on the forward lineup and another that focuses on the defense and goaltending can be found later tonight.

The First Line: Kirill Kaprizov – Marco Rossi – Kevin Fiala

This line is pure skill and has all the things you want in a top line in the NHL. It has the potential to be just as electric as the Avalanche and Bruins current first line. Kaprizov is taking the role of the absolute superstar similar to Nathan MacKinnon and David Pastrnak, who has the ability to score and create goals from anywhere on the ice. It’s something that has been seen plenty of times this season.

Rossi is a slightly unknown entity. His potential is without a doubt sky high, but due to the long-term effects of COVID-19 his 2020-2021 season was put on hold. He will be back for next season, but questions are if he lost a small step compared to what it would have been. If he reaches his potential however he can become a player like Patrice Bergeron. He could be a major workhorse who is good on both ends of the ice and can make his teammates shine offensively. While Bergeron’s defensive ability is higher than the presumed ceiling of Rossi, the vision and playmaking of the Austrian could be even greater. Especially with two great wingers on his line.

Lastly is Fiala, who similar to Mikko Rantanen is a great goalscorer who has amazing speed and hands. Last season especially, Fiala broke onto the season with fantastic hands and a wicked shot, that made him the main guy on the Wild. This season, he has shot the puck a bunch but the bounces just aren’t going his way, and he has been shuffled around the lineup a lot. Bring him two linemates with similar speed and ability and he will shine as a creative goalscoring winger with a lot of high-end speed.

The Second Line: Matt Boldy – Marat Khusnutdinov – Adam Beckman

After the elite first line, the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild can post a really strong second line. One that on a lot of future versions of the Minnesota Wild would have been the top line, but on the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild it has to settle as the second line. The major part of it is Boldy, who has had a wonderful season in the NCAA with Boston College.

Outside that, he impressed hugely at the World Juniors and he will likely be a major part of the Minnesota Wild as early as next season. He’s strong, hardworking, and a great net-front presence. He will help the Wild in both the second line but also on the powerplay, which really needs a great net-front presence to get going. A role Boldy shined in for the USA world junior team.

Another player who took part in the 2021 World Juniors was Khusnutdinov, who was playing as the first-line center for Russia. While Boldy was impressive throughout all his games, Khusnutdinov only showed flashes of brilliance for Russia. However, one quality became very obvious when evaluating Khusnutdinov’s game. He is faster than most and that combined with the strength of Boldy could be a match made in heaven.

The final part of the top six might be less known to the more casual fan, but Adam Beckman had a fantastic 2019-2020 season in the WHL. He had 107 points for the Spokane Chiefs, and that got him promoted to the Iowa Wild. He hasn’t played a lot this season, but last week he got back to the WHL and he is back to his dominant way. His hockey IQ especially is one that the line with the speed of Khusnutdinov and the strength of Boldy can benefit from to make one of the stronger second lines in the league.

The Third Line: Marcus Foligno – Joel Eriksson Ek – Jordan Greenway

They started the 2020-2021 season together and were by far the best line for Minnesota, so with added top-line strength, it doesn’t make sense to split up the so-called “GREEF” line. All three players have been instrumental to the Wild success this season, but especially Eriksson Ek who has had a breakout year. His offensive qualities and abilities to score scrappy but very important goals as well as Selke quality play was a huge part of the great start the Wild had this season. He has taken the mantle after Mikko Koivu who left after last season, as the shutdown center for the Minnesota Wild.

Another player having a breakout year on the line is Greenway who finally has developed into great power forward. He is a constant presence on the ice with a big body that he isn’t scared of throwing around which generates a lot of turnovers. In 32 games, he has 20 points and most of them come from tenacious work behind the net or in the corners.

Photo by Dinur Blum

The last part of the third line is Marcus Foligno, who is the team’s tough guy and also has been able to put up points with Ek and Greenway. He is the hardest working player on the roster and recently it was rewarded with a three-year extension with the Minnesota Wild. He is fearless and will fight anyone who goes after one of the teammates and he is a true heart and soul player for the team. Add in 16 points in 23 games and he completes the third line for both the 2020-2021 and 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild.

The Fourth Line: Connor Dewar – Nico Sturm – Ryan Hartman

Last is another hard-working line with a lot of determination and a bit of coherence from the current season with both Nico Sturm and Ryan Hartman staying together. Both are great players who can do the less noticeable things to perfection and who work hard in the defensive zone. Hartman is very similar to Foligno and is another really good working two-way forward or grinder to have on the fourth line.

Sturm is far more skilled offensively than Hartman, and this season should have had a bunch more points to his tally than the measly seven he currently has. He has been outstanding and has been good at getting the fourth line shifts some offense. He is the ideal fourth-line center in the NHL and allows the Wild to run all four lines with confidence.

The last player in the lineup is Connor Dewar, who is yet to make his NHL debut. However, the talent and abilities of him have been very apparent for a long time. Back in his junior season, he was the captain of the Everett Silvertips and scored 81 points in 59 games. In the AHL this season he has 11 points in 14 games and it seems like his NHL debut is coming shortly. He has a lot of potential and could easily be someone who could be a top 6 player in the league at some point in his career. To have a guy like that on the fourth line is a major luxury.  

Honorable Mentions: Zach Parise, Mats Zuccarello, Alexander Khovanov, Damien Giroux

To quickly wrap up part one of the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild, a few notes on those who didn’t make the lineup. Especially Zach Parise and Mats Zuccarello, who are two established names on the Wild roster. Parise has been with the Wild since 2013 and has been a constant top 6 guy for the Wild. However, rumblings are that some turmoil between Dean Evason and Parise might be happing and recently he was put as a healthy scratch. It’s also rumored that Parise was almost traded last trade deadline and questions are if and when the Wild pull the trigger.

Zuccarello could also be gone despite currently being a major part of the line with Kaprizov who is working extremely well together. However 2023 is a long way away and while he is under contract, it might be a contract the Wild will want to move to afford other younger players.

Photo by Dinur Blum

The last two players are both young guys who I believe will be great depth for the Wild should someone get injured. It’s even easy to argue that both might be in the lineup over Khusnutdinov or Dewar, but they will be the first Evason will look for if injuries occur.

That concludes part one. Stay tuned for part two that will be up shortly, where the focus will be on the defense and goaltending.

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