It's been a long off-season, but hockey is finally back! Training camp is still another week and a half away, but it's serious business time for several key Wild players. CapFinn Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund will be playing for Team Finland, while the "$98 Million Twins", assistant captains Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, will be wearing the good old Red, White and Blue for the United States. Former Minnesota Wild and Gopher forward Thomas Vanek will be representing Austria on Team Europe. He was named to Europe's roster while playing for the Wild earlier this year.
This Week's (Wild-related) Schedule
Tuesday, September 13th - Team Finland vs Team USA 6:00 PM CT (ESPN, SN1, TVA Sports)
Saturday, September 17th - Team USA vs Team Europe 2:30 PM CT (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)
Sunday, September 18th - Team North America vs Team Finland 7:00 PM CT (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)
Game of the Week
This is a toughy. A final exhibition clash/quasi Sochi bronze-medal rematch between Parise, Suter, Granlund and Koivu, or the Finns facing perhaps the tournament's most dangerous team in the Connor McDavid-led North American U-23s? I can't decide.
Key Player(s) of the Week
If you're a Wild fan, which I'm assuming you are, your eyes should be heavily focused on Minnesota's wingers - Parise and Granlund.
Parise battled through pain and numbness in his lower back and legs for much of last season, missing all of the club's six postseason games against Dallas. With an early off-season and extensive rehab, it sounds like he's good to go. With the Wild in "win-now mode", Bruce Boudreau is counting on a strong showing from his top left winger both for Parise's country and his NHL team.
Then there's Granny. Maybe the best thing that could happen for Minnesota in this tournament is that the young Finn can rediscover his old scoring touch while playing on his captain's wing. More scoring and playmaking opportunities with less defensive responsibility might be just the ticket to open up the offensive flood gates.
In almost any pro sport, Minnesota has become infamous for being the sports market where athletes come to kill their careers. That has to end sometime. Granlund has such amazing potential; it's vitally important he unlocks it somehow.