Outside of the standard off-season additions and subtractions, I doubt that many were expecting to see quite so much competition in training camp for the Minnesota Wild. But there have been some pleasant surprises leading into the season, with a few players showing up in practice and in big — albeit exhibition — moments in the recent weeks.
As we quickly approach opening night, GM Bill Guerin and head coach Dean Evason will make tough decisions about who gets to stay and who heads to Iowa. For now, the Wild will send out close to their best in the pre-season home finale against the Chicago Blackhawks. Here is your projected lineup for the game:
#mnwild lines tonight— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 7, 2021
Talbot to go the distance, Kahkonen to back up.
Hammond, Rau on waivers, Dewar/Lizotte to Iowa
This is close to the same roster we saw last season — offseason transactions included — but with the two surprises of the camp, forwards Brandon Duhaime and Adam Beckman, getting another shot to prove they belong.
Blue-chip prospects Matthew Boldy and Marco Rossi will also be looking to make an impression or face starting the season with the Iowa Wild in the AHL, although it isn't a failure with the logjam of forwards.
Notably absent is Victor Rask, whose spot on the roster is in a precarious place. Despite scoring a powerplay goal in yesterday's game against the St. Louis Blues, Rask may be a casualty of having too many quality players after the team claimed forward Rem Pitlick off of waivers from the Nashville Predators. Going from first-line center to fourth-line winger raises questions about Evason's confidence in Rask, but we likely won't know what the future holds for Rask until just before opening night.
Kaapo Kähkönen will be backing up Cam Talbot after starting the previous game against the Blues.
Can Beckman or Duhaime cement their spot with another strong showing?
With Victor Rask out of the lineup and likely only one or two spots up for grabs, both Beckman and Duhaime will have to continue their powerful training camps to show management that they need to be in the lineup on opening night. Evason has reiterated that some unpopular decisions will be made for the opening night roster but stressed that it's only opening night, and things can change. Can the darlings of camp make it?
Rossi or Boldy, which one is it?
An extension of the Beckman/Duhaime problem, there is a good chance that only one of the two wunderkind makes it onto the opening roster. While they've shown flashes, neither has made it irrefutable that they belong on their play alone. With the first regular-season game quickly approaching, both are going to have to show up to grab a spot.
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. and this should be a fun one.