Which rookies have the best shot at cracking the lineup?
If the previous question was the easiest, this ranks a very close second. The answer at forward begins and ends with one name: Colton Gillies. If you had asked me 2 weeks ago I would have thought there was no way this kid would make the roster LET ALONE put himself in position to play most nights but he has impressed Coach Lemaire so much that it would seem he is this years version of James Sheppard.
Gillies has an opportunity most rookies don't get (especially on a defending division champion) in that he will most likely see time in scoring situations. It is no secret that Coach Lemaire loves to jumble up the lineup and with some key members of the power play units gone Gillies will definately get a chance to shine. While Gillies is young he has the one thing you can't teach and that is size. While he could afford to add another 10-20lbs to his frame, his height will definately be an advantage. The fact that he plays center, a position the Wild have been thin at of late will only enhance his chances of making an impact right away.
The key for Gillies will be to work on his defense. While he is a gifted offensive player he has yet to put up a positive +/- at any level. The team needs scoring to replace what they have lost but fact is the easiest way to get into Lemaire's doghouse is to not be responsible defensively. If I were Gillies I would spend the next week on the hip of Mikko Koivu absorbing anything and everything he has to say. With his size and reach he could be quite the penalty killer and if he shows dedication to improving defensively throughout the year he will almost never be in street clothes.