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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Minnesota Wild

Can Devan Dubnyk continue his marathon of excellence?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild
Devan has been a valuable asset towards their recent strong standings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Twenty-eighth up are the Minnesota Wild who are in their 18th season, they have made the playoffs the last 5 consecutive years (3 times being ousted in round 1).

I will highlight this fact again because you will notice a trend among the teams I have in the 4th, 5th and 6th spots: The Wild are one of 5 teams who have never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals (Arizona Coyotes, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets are the 4 others.)

Basic Stats:2016-2017 NHL Standings: 5th
Western Conference Standings: 2nd
Central Division Standings: 2nd
Goals for Rank: 2nd
Goals against Rank: 7th

Overview: Minnesota Wild. The third oldest team in the league (thanks partially to the addition of 40 year old Matt Cullen as well as 32 year old Kyle Quincy) will look to build . Many of the oldest parts of this roster are on offense where Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Eric Staal are all over 31 years old and all were among the top 8 in the team in points. The team was very efficient serving as the 3rd highest scoring percentage last year at 10.4% (Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter were the top 4 scorers and all shot over 13%). The team will be hoping to reignite the 20 goal scoring capabilities out of Tyler Ennis who has been injured plagued over his last two seasons (and traded away Jason Pominville who was the only one of the top 7 scorers on the team with a sub 10% shooting last year (is it possible the team could be even MORE efficient this year in scoring?). The team made moves in the offseason to become more aggressive trading away Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. Marcus having more hits those both of them combined, will look to help improve Minnesota who, as a team where the 2nd lowest in hits per game last year (15.7; the average in the NHL last year was 21.7) Losing Marco hurts you defensively, he had 76 blocked shots and a history of strong defensive play. Kyle Quincy can try to backfill but those are big shoes to fill. Minnesota was able to keep opposing teams to the 6th lowest scoring percentage driven partially by their strong PK unit which allowed the 3rd fewest Power Play goals of any unit. The core defensive top 4 of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jona Brodin and Mathew Dumba are among the top 10 in the league combining in plus minus for a +87! Last year the Wild had the second highest goal differential (+57; Washington was at +84). They will have similar levels of success this year. In net Devan Dubnyk is the ultimate marathoner as they can push him for consecutive starts exhaustive work loads and he’s always up for the task. As long as he keeps up his amenable demeanor this team will be among the top teams in the league. He was 7th in GAA and 6th in Sv% last year.

Major Additions: Matt Cullen, Tyler Ennis and Kyle Quincy
Major Subtractions: Martin Hanzal, Marco Scandella, Darcy Kuemper

Prospects and Picks:
- Joel Erikson Ek. The 20th overall pick in 2015 had quite the 2016-2017 career playing 1 AHL game (with 1 goal) 15 NHL games (7 points) and 26 games in the SweHL (scoring 16 points). He should have a chance at cracking the lineup this year and producing on the 3rd or 4th line. If he can produce up to his work ethic, I think he could crack the top 6 by year end. His major knocks were his size and his talent which he uses effort to offset.

- Alex Tuch. The 18th overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft, Alex went on to play for two seasons at Boston College scoring 62 points over 77 games. He played 57 games in the AHL with the Iowa Wild last year scoring 37 points before Minnesota called him up for 6 games last year where he scored no points with a -3. He’s a long term investment, he will not come into the league producing at a full click, he clearly has a learning curve that he works to overcome each year.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
- Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon I don’t think they will necessarily beat last year’s numbers but I think they are oft forgotten in their production (combined 78points) and more importantly their +/- where they were +77 last year. It’s possible their power play points increases a bit as they had a combined 17 last year.

- Joel Eriksson Ek. I mentioned him above, he will likely start on the 4th line but I think two things “could” happen. 1. He gets time on the second pp unit and sneaks in a few power play points. 2. An injury occurs coupled with his strong play on the 4th line and he gets top 6 minutes. Either way he is in my “don’t draft but keep on your watchlist”.

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $2.1MM with 22 players signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 4th
Western Conference Standings: 2nd
Central Division: 1st

NHL 5th: Washington Capitals (Eastern Conference 3rd; Metropolitan Division 3rd)

NHL 6th: Nashville Predators (Western Conference 3rd; Central Division 2nd)

NHL 7th: Toronto Maple Leafs (Eastern Conference 4th; Atlantic Division 1st)

NHL 8th: Chicago Blackhawks (Western Conference 4th; Central Division 3rd)

NHL 9th: Tampa Bay Lightning (Eastern Conference 5th; Atlantic Division 2nd)

NHL 10th: Anaheim Ducks (Western Conference 5th; Pacific Division 2nd)

NHL 11th: Ottawa Senators (Eastern Conference 6th; Atlantic Division 3rd)

NHL 12th: Montreal Canadiens (Eastern Conference 7th; Atlantic Division 4th)

NHL 13th: New York Rangers (Eastern Conference 8th; Metropolitan Division 4th)

NHL 14th: Calgary Hurricanes (Western Conference 6th; Pacific Division 3rd)

NHL 15th: Carolina Hurricanes (Eastern Conference 9th; Metropolitan Division 5th)

NHL 16th: San Jose Sharks (Western Conference 7th; Pacific Division 4th)

NHL 17th: Dallas Stars (Western Conference 8th; Central Division 4th)

NHL 18th: Philadelphia Flyers (Eastern Conference 10th; Metropolitan Division 6th)

NHL 19th: Winnipeg Jets (Western Conference 9th; Central Division 5th)

NHL 20th: St. Louis Blues (Western Conference 10th; Central Division 6th)

NHL 21st: Boston Bruins (Eastern Conference 11th; Atlantic Division 5th)

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)