When the Minnesota Wild acquired center Tyson Jost from the Colorado Avalanche, there was just initial excitement that this team made a move prior to Monday’s trade deadline (for me, personally) and then just one big question to ask: Where will Jost play in the lineup?
We’re all empty-headed Neanderthals that just want to look at groups of three names of forwards next to each other at the end of the day, so when someone new is added it just sparks a new wonder of what new combination we will see.
Before we dive deep into what other forwards Jost might play with, let’s just try to understand what type of player he is. When he was drafted all the way back in 2016, he was seen as one of the standard smallish and offensive centers. During his time in Colorado, because of the amount of talented centers they have just always had, he’s been flung around the bottom-six, or on the wing at the top of the lineup. This has led him to growing his defensive game immensely, and he might even be better defensively than offensively — considering what we have seen in the NHL.
Maybe head coach Dean Evason can tap into his offense (similar to what he did with Ryan Hartman earlier this season) and suddenly we have another top-six center, but as of right now, he’s a strong defensive center that struggles a bit offensively, and has a below-average shot (has had a sub-8.0 shot percentage his last three seasons).
You know who that sounds exactly like? Frederick Gaudreau.
With Matt Boldy and Kevin Fiala
While it feels that they are equal players as of right now, Jost just feels to have more offensive potential, and that might just be based on prior draft pedigree, but I will accept that bias. So, an initial gut reaction would be for Gaudreau to drop down to Sturm’s prior fourth-line center role — likely in between Brandon Duhaime and Nick Bjugstad — and for Jost to get some of the most talented players he’s ever played with, to center a line with Boldy and Fiala.
But that is just one option that could see a fit with the newly acquired Jost.
With Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello
Jost will certainly not be just thrown into the lake of fire on the top line with Kaprizov and Zuccarello right away, but if he succeeds with some offensive players down the lineup, and Ryan Hartman keeps on being just average — the Wild’s first-line center has six points in his last 10 games — then maybe it is more of an option.
The 24-year-old might not be the perfect center to be on the top line, but he can at least provide a similar ice-clearing role like Hartman did earlier this season. The typical third-man-in on the rush and making sure the two wingers have enough space on the ice to perform their elite playmaking.
I doubt that he will even get there at some point the rest of the season, but maybe it’s something we see later.
Maybe, just maybe, Dean Evason loves the chemistry of his top-three lines so much, that Jost will just replace Sturm’s spot in the lineup exactly and he will center the fourth line. And right now, I would bet a lot on that being the spot where he plays against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. It’s simple, it’s not ruffling any feathers — Evason loves the Gaudreau line so much, he will keep playing Hartman on the top line because it’s worked well enough, and obviously, the Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, and Marcus Foligno trio is never being touched unless it’s an emergency.
This just feels the most likely, for now.
As pointed out by The Athletic’s Michael Russo almost immediately after Jost was acquired, the young center has averaged 1:57 on the penalty kill, which is the fourth-highest among Avalanche forwards this season. And again, that is a simple pure swap of Sturm and Jost in terms of positions, as Jost will probably be on the second penalty kill unit after Eriksson Ek.
For the power play, Jost has barely been on the man advantage for Colorado this season, and again considering that Sturm wasn’t on the power play as well, Evason might want to keep his current units right now, unless he somehow ends up scoring piles and piles of goals in the next couple of weeks. Then he can get some time on the power play, possibly.
Jost might just end up being a more expensive but younger version of Sturm, or he can get that spark of development similar to Hartman has this season, and blossom into a powerful two-way center. Now we just wait and see.