Minnesota Wild hockey is close to returning. With expanded NHL rosters expected for these expanded playoffs, the Wild has a chance for young players to make immediate impacts. Whether it’s Kirill Kaprizov or Sam Anas, the team has some quality depth they could add, if things go their way.
The NHL and NHLPA are still negotiating, so nothing is set in stone yet. We don’t know how many additional players will be added but we can make some safe assumptions. Obviously, the risk of players being sidelined for weeks due to positive COVID-19 tests plays into these assumptions. If anything, it seems like 28 would be on the low side.
Refresher: The NHL’s Return-to-Play Plan
Regarding possible roster size for the 24 teams in Return to Play, while the NHL has suggested 28 skaters plus goalies, that still has to be negotiated with the NHLPA through the Phase 3/4 agreement to come. So roster size may or may not change again depending on NHLPA.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 6, 2020
CURRENT WILD ROSTER
Prior to the season’s abrupt hiatus, the Wild had 21 skaters on their roster, and two goalies. If we assume 28 is the new number, my Edina math (and all 7 of my tutors) tells me that’s seven additional skaters.
This was the Minnesota Wild squad before the season postponed:
|1st||Jordan Greenway||Eric Staal||Kevin Fiala|
|2nd||Zach Parise||Joel Eriksson Ek||Luke Kunin|
|3rd||Marcus Foligno||Alex Galchenyuk||Mats Zuccarello|
|4th||Ryan Donato or Victor Rask||Mikko Koivu||Ryan Hartman|
Wild Defensive Pairs:
PREDICTING THE CALL-UPS
Thankfully, the Wild shouldn’t have too much of a problem figuring out who to bring with them to the playoffs. It’ll just come down to roster spots and signing rules (in the case of Kaprizov). So, this makes my job easy (not that it was ever hard). Let us dig in.
KIRILL KAPRIZOV — RW/LW
After the league suspended play on March 12th, they revised their “reserve list” rule, to prohibit teams from signing anyone to a new contract that included play for the 2019-20 season. Under normal circumstances, Kaprizov could have come over from Russia, when his contract expired with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow, and immediately joined the Wild’s roster.
But as we’ve all said 198,374,532,098,475 times over the last few months, we aren’t in normal times. While NHL deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, has continuously supported the change in ruling, the NHLPA has been fighting tooth and nail to get it changed. This is due to their belief it is unfair to selectively change the CBA on a whim.
We’ll see how this gets resolved. Expect drastic headway to be made in the coming weeks, either way. If the rule is changed back to normal, and teams are allowed to sign new players before the year resumes, it’s been widely reported that we’ll see Kaprizov suit up for the Wild immediately. That means we’d see our new Russian youngster take the ice against the Vancouver Canucks, in the first round of the expanded playoff. LFG.
KAAPO KAHKONEN — G
Not only did he lead the AHL with 25 wins, seven shutouts, and an asinine 2.07 goals-against average and .927 save percentage (all of which would lead the Wild)……… but he also has some NHL experience. He started five games for the Wild this season and he won his first two.
While the team shouldn’t completely bail on star Devan Dubnyk (Alex Stalock also won 20 games), we’ll obviously see Kahkonen. Hell, if the Wild can have unlimited goalies, then we might see all of them.
SAM ANAS — RW
Anas is another AHL All-Star wing player, who is looking to finally break into the league. The NHL’s return-to-play plan may be the perfect opportunity.
As the Iowa Wild’s all-time leading scorer, Anas has amassed 197 points in 259 games. He even led the AHL with 50 assists and 70 points in 2019-20. Although *only* 27 years old, time may be running out for Anas to have a meaningful NHL career.
I absolutely think he will get his shot, come July.
GERRY MAYHEW — LW/RW
Needless to say, the kid can play. He notched 39 goals in only 49 games and even scored twice for the Minnesota Wild, in 13 games this year.
GERRY MAYHEW FOR THE WIN!!!! pic.twitter.com/2vAJjTXT87— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) October 31, 2019
BRENNAN MENELL — D
Our first d-man on the list, Menell is another bonafide player in the AHL. He has tallied the second most points for a defenseman in 2019-20, with 47. Throw in a strong power-play presence and he will fit right in with the current defensive pairings.
NICO STURM — C
Sturm is such a versatile player, that he can fit nearly anywhere in the lineup, if called upon. With 32 points (12 G, 20 A) in 55 games, he should get another shot at the National Hockey League, after tallying two assists for the Wild this year.
KYLE RAU — C
The Golden Boy. I just threw up in my Edina mouth a bit. I’m going to need some cake to help clear this awful Eden Prairie taste out.
Rau has struggled to make an impact in his NHL career (Florida Panthers, Wild). He’s scored only two goals and tallied three assist, over 42 career games. He remains a constant force down in Iowa, though, especially in 2019-20, when he racked up 43 points (14 G, 29 A) in 51 games.
I mean, who doesn’t want to see Rau get back to his game-winning (diving) goals, like we saw in the State Tournament so long ago?
LOUIE BELPEDIO — D
At a spry 24-years old, Belpedio fits in well with the Wild’s defensive identity, of dispersing the puck in the offensive zone. While his stats weren’t eye-popping in 2019-20, notching just 20 points (5 G, 15 A) in 62 games, he has some NHL experience and would slot in nicely.
MAT ROBSON — G
The backup to Kahkonen at Iowa, this is a no-brainer, with no goaltender limits. Robson went 11-10-5 in 2019-20, with a 2.97 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. That’s not spectacular, but lord knows what can happen when a player is given a shot at the pros.
Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan