The Minnesota Wild has, in recent memory, been a team that’s contained a great defensive core. They lacked goaltending for a few of them, but their defense has been within the top five of the NHL in the past seven years. The core will be mostly the same for the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild, but with a few key addition and losses due to the expansion draft in the 2021 off-season.
A quick few disclaimers before going into the defensive pairs 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 lost Matt Dumba via trade beforehand meaning that Seattle selects Cam Talbot instead. That is why neither is on the lineup. This is part two of the series which focuses on the defense and goalies of the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild. Part one on the forward lineup can be found here.
Defensive Pair 1: Jonas Brodin – Calen Addison
Without Dumba in the lineup, the Wild will have to find a replacement for him for the top four. Luckily they have an almost identical replacement in their system. When Jason Zucker was traded to Pittsburgh, Minnesota acquired a great defensive prospect in Calen Addison. Addison is an offensive and puck-moving defenseman who has a fantastic vision and hockey IQ. In the WHL he was dominating last season and this season, he has been a great defender for the Iowa Wild in the AHL, scoring 9 points in 13 games. While losing Dumba would hurt the Wild short-term, the long-term effects are softened with Addison in the lineup for the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild.
Addison’s partner on the top pair will be Jonas Brodin, who has been one of the NHL’s most underrated players. He has been one of the best defensive defensemen in the league and he has even started to add some offense to his game this season. He is the defenseman that rarely makes mistakes and does all the small things right. On the line with Addison, he can allow the young offensive defenseman to move the puck up ice without worrying about Brodin being caught off guard defensively.
Defensive Pair 2: Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
The old guard of the Minnesota Wild is still here and it would be foolish to split up a line that has worked for multiple seasons. The two know each other well and have a ton of experience. Both supplement each other extremely well. Ryan Suter is the defensive master who shuts down top forwards with strong defensive play. At the same time, he is an iron man who eats minutes with very consistently good defensive play.
On the other end is the new captain of the Minnesota Wild Jared Spurgeon, who is a great two-way defenseman in the league. Despite his smaller frame, he has made a great career due to his hard work in both ends of the ice along with silky smooth hands. With Suter, he is able to be more offensive and use his great vision and speed to generate chances without getting caught if the puck is turned over.
Defensive Pair 3: Carson Soucy – Ryan O’Rourke
The last pair of the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild blueline is Carson Soucy and Ryan O’Rourke. The past two seasons have been Soucy’s breakout with the Wild. He has been a great addition and really adds some depth to the backend where he has been a strong defensive player who constantly is capable of shutting down forwards and who isn’t scared of throwing his weight around. Offensively, he has looked better this season and has developed into a more complete and stronger defenseman in the league. He is a great depth guy that can allow Suter, Spurgeon, and the other older defenders on the Wild some rest without any worry for a dip in quality on the ice.
O’Rourke was the Wilds second-round pick of the 2020 draft and so far it looks like a hit. He is what you want in a stay-at-home defenseman, who works harder in every shift. On top of that, he is a very good puck-mover with a heavy slapshot. The Canadian has played in the AHL this season and at the age of 18 hasn’t looked out of place. He looks like a great defender that will be a part of the Wilds defensive core. He will most likely play his rookie season for the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild and look impressive with Soucy as a strong mentor.
Goalies: Kaapo Kahkonen And Hunter Jones
The starter of the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild is not surprisingly going to be Kaapo Kahkonen. The Finish netminder has been stellar this season and has posted phenomenal numbers with Talbot. Together, they have formed one of the NHL’s best tandems. However, Talbot’s age + the Seattle expansion draft could mean that by the 23-24 season, the net will be Kahkonen’s. A task he should be more than ready for since his performance this season has been nothing short of spectacular.
Backing him up will be Hunter Jones who has been struggling in the AHL, but so has most of the Iowa Wild. His play in the OHL shows he is a good goalie with a ton of potential. If he can have time to grow into the professional game and develop into his full potential, he could be a very solid number two for the Wild that can give some breathing room for Kahkonen when he needs a rest and to avoid Kahkonen being overworked early on in his career.
Honorable Mentions: Filip Lindberg, Filip Johansson, Marshall Warren
Should Jones not work out or if he can’t fully transition to the pro level, the Wild has a second backup option in their system. Filip Lindberg has been great for Umass the past two seasons and is a goalie who does look very promising. He will likely get the chance with Iowa next season and form a tandem with Jones and then it’s up to who plays better who gets the nod as the backup of the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild.
On the defensive side of the prospect pool, both Filip Johansson and Marshall Warren have looked very promising the past season and will most likely be called up to the lineup in case of an injury to one of the top 6. Both young but with the abilities to make be a good seventh guy in the league.
Combine this with the offensive depth of the 2023-2024 Minnesota Wild and this is a team that can challenge for the cup and you would expect to make it deep in the playoff. Even in a division with the Colorado Avalanche.
main image creditEmbed from Getty Images