The 2019-20 Minnesota Wild will not be particularly good. Their core is aging and the prospect pool, while improving, is not stocked with top talent. The team is in the early stages of a rebuild but there are still some interesting players to watch. Several of them could feature prominently this season and stake their claims for key roles moving forward. The team drops the puck on the regular season Thursday against the Nashville Predators.
2019-20 Minnesota Wild Players to Watch
Fans will want to see what veteran Mats Zuccarello brings to the table on a big contract. The wing has been a quality option over his nine-year career with the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars. Zuccarello has scored 352 points in 509 NHL games. Last year was perfectly fine with 12 goals and 40 points in 48 games. His big moment came in the playoffs where he scored 11 points in 13 games as the Stars blew past the Winnipeg Jets before falling to eventual champs St. Louis Blues.
Big things are expected from the newest Wild forward even if the team is going to be bad. Zuccarello will be a top-six option and used heavily on the power play. His age and recent production don’t scream “elite” but he is easily one of the more entertaining players Minnesota has at the moment.
Kevin Fiala could be one of Minnesota’s big breakout players this year. He joined the Wild thanks to a trade that sent Mikael Granlund to Nashville. Fiala is expected to help improve a top-six that struggled to generate consistent offence in 2018-19.
Fiala scored just seven points in 19 games after the trade, but ultimately posted 39 in 83 games between Minnesota and Nashville last season. He is capable of much more as he scored 48 points for Nashville in 2017-18. The Wild are hoping he recaptures some of that scoring magic next to veterans like Zach Parise or Eric Staal. Fiala is expected to provide a boost on either the first or second line. He is a big part of the team’s current rebuild phase and should be watched accordingly.
Jared Spurgeon narrowly edges out fellow defender Matt Dumba as one to watch due to the Spurgeon’s shiny new contract. The 29-year-old had an outstanding 2018-19 with a career-high 14 goals and 43 points. He will again be a big part of the team’s blue line despite Dumba’s return.
Spurgeon is also one of the team’s more physical options as he led the Wild in blocked shots with 145 and applied 91 hits, good for fifth last season. He can do a little bit of everything and remains an option for the top defencive pairing. Minnesota’s blue line is talented, expensive, and crowded but Spurgeon will play a big part this year. He just might not score much more given the Wild’s depth.
Devan Dubnyk has been one of the most heavily-used goaltenders in the league since joining Minnesota. His numbers reflect that as his production has declined over the past several seasons. While he has started no fewer than 59 games the past four seasons, Dubnyk has posted lower goals-against-averages in each of the past three. He had a solid 2.25 GAA in 2016-17 which went up to 2.52 in 2017-18 and finally 2.54 last year. The defence in front of Dubnyk is among the league’s best but he needs to step up now.
The reason Dubnyk is so key to Minnesota this season while they work through a rebuilding phase is that the team doesn’t have a quality backup. Alex Stalock isn’t much of a threat to steal starts and top goalie prospect Kaapo Kahkonen is still developing with the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa. Watch Dubnyk especially closely this year; the team might seek to bring in someone new if his numbers drop even further despite the team in front of him.
Rebuilding teams love to find diamonds among their bottom-six and Jordan Greenway could be that for the 2019-20 Minnesota Wild this year. He has an enticing physical profile at 6’6″, 227 pounds and is a good skater who can drive play. He isn’t a great scorer at this point but still managed to put up 12 goals and 24 points in 81 games in 2018-19, which was his first full campaign.
Greenway needs to get more used to his size to protect the puck. He can’t rely on simply being bigger than most players anymore like in college when he scored 92 points in 112 games with Boston University. His ceiling will be much higher if he can use his frame to keep the puck away while also being a solid forechecker. Minnesota’s lines could fluctuate a good amount this year considering their mix of ageing veterans and mostly unknown youngsters.
This gives someone like Greenway a prime opportunity to prove he’s part of the Wild’s future top-six.