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Iowa Wild Players Recalled Unlikely to See Any Playoff Minutes

The Wild's depth means the Iowa Wild call ups will probably enjoy the playoffs from the press box.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild recalled eleven players from the Iowa Wild on Tuesday for the playoffs. Even without these players, the Wild should have enough depth, since tremendous NHL caliber players like Schroeder and Folin are already finding themselves on the wrong side of the depth chart. The Minnesota Wild are already one of the deepest teams in the second season, and also are remarkably healthy even though they have been playing must win, playoff style hockey since January. Considering Charlie Coyle played with a separated shoulder last year (and part of the playoffs with two separated shoulders), it seems incredibly unlikely that the roster regulars would sustain injuries serious enough to merit being entirely replaced by different healthy players. In the playoffs, guys play with injuries that would hospitalize most normal people.

But if the Wild suffer many injuries, a few of the Iowa players are candidates to play. Tyler Graovac, Brett Sutter, Michael Keranen and perhaps Jonathon Blum have more realistic chances to be inserted into the lineup if Wild players are injured as the playoffs continue. Graovac and Sutter are candidates to play on the fourth line without the team losing much of the production, and they would provide a presence similar to that of the current fourth line. They are both players with some size, are strong both defensively and have offensive skills too. Blum is an effective defenseman, but judging by Yeo's usage of him in previous seasons, he would slot in behind Prosser, Folin and probably Bickel too. Especially in the Blues series, it would be crazy to use Bickel, since the Wild's game plan is to keep their cool even when being provoked. Bickel is almost worse at losing his cool than he is at playing high level and fast hockey. But Yeo seems to like Bickel, and respect the role that he plays, so Bickel would probably be ahead of Blum if Prosser and Folin were already added to the lineup.

If a top line player cannot play, adding Keranen in a top six role could allow the Wild to keep the third and fourth line stable. While the Wild could increase the minutes and expand the roles of Nino or Vanek or even put Fontaine or Schroeder on the first or second line, having skill on every line is one of the Wild's biggest strengths, and they have a better chance to put their best performance on the ice if they have skill and speed in every role. There may be a situation where Keranen would draw into the lineup.

Guys like Guillaume Gelinas, Kurtis Gabriel and Zack Mitchell would be pretty far down the depth chart, so much of the current roster would have to be completely decimated before it would be necessary to put them in the lineup. Gelinas missed so much time during the regular season that it's unlikely that he would be prepared or effective in actual in game situations, especially considering he struggled in Iowa this year. Olofsson hasn't played since he suffered his pre-season shoulder injury, so even though he is a good defenseman and one of the Wild's best defensive prospects, I can't imagine a situation where he would play in place of regular Wild defensemen, even in a situation where several defensemen sustain injuries. While Zack Mitchell had a great season by Iowa Wild standards, he would not be as effective as the fourth liners already waiting for playing time, nor would he be as deft at that role as Graovac or Sutter.

In the case of a serious goaltending situation, I wouldn't be surprised to see John Curry ahead of Nik Backstrom on the goaltending depth chart. Curry had a decent year in front of a lot of struggling kids and he also looked serviceable when playing in Minnesota on a couple of occasions. But if either Curry or Backstrom draws into actual action, the Wild are probably in serious trouble, and that situation is unlikely to happen.

For the Iowa players called up, spending time with the big club is an education about the rigors of NHL playoff hockey. They can see how much effort veterans like Koivu and Parise put into game day preparation or be influenced by a younger regular like Coyle practicing his shot before practice even begins. One of the benefits of the great leadership that the Wild have in their room is that every player sets a good example for the young prospects about the best way to be a professional hockey player. It's also a chance for them to get hungry to make the parent club sometime in the future and should motivate them as they go to off-season training.