The Minnesota Wild unveiled the groups of players for the start of training camp and we are going to dive head-first into speculation and assumption — gobbling up those two nouns with both hands.
It ultimately makes sense for head coach Dean Evason to already pair up some players in hopes that they will stick through the entirety of camp, preseason, to then be on the ice together during the regular season and have an already established chemistry. We do also know that Evason is obsessed with the idea of chemistry between players and hardly ever breaks up a line even if it’s not really working. Stubborn in a somewhat successful way.
So with that in mind, let’s take a deep dive and try to think of some easy combinations when it comes to the groups in training camp.
Forwards: Nic Petan, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman, Mike O’Leary, Adam Beckman, Joseph Cramarossa, Mitchell Chaffee, Damien Giroux, Caedan Bankier, Josh Pillar, Kirill Kaprizov
Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Ryan O’Rourke, Jared Spurgeon, Andrej Sustr, Turner Ottenbreit, Benjamin Finkelstein
Goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury, Jesper Wallstedt
Immediately, you notice that the top line from last year of Ryan Hartman, Mats Zuccarello, and Kirill Kaprizov, remain in-tact. That will not change and I doubt those three will ever play with anyone else for a long period of time ever again with Evason behind the bench. And because those top stars are in this group, there’s not a whole lot else in the forward crop that will be playing games in St. Paul this season. Adam Beckman can get a taste, but I bet Evason is trying him out with Mitchell Chaffee and Joseph Cramarossa for the top line in Iowa. You’re welcome Tim Army.
On the blue line, it’s been noted that Evason will start training camp with the top-four swapping partners. Jared Spurgeon will be playing with Jonas Brodin — forming this ultra mega fantastic two-way pair that can rule the entire world — and therefore Matt Dumba will play with Jake Middleton. Another interesting note here is that Ryan O’Rourke might be paired with Andrej Sustr in what could be Iowa’s top pairing, if the veteran is passed through waivers.
And of course, you get the present and the future in your goaltending tandem.
Forwards: Tyson Jost, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Steven Fogarty, Ty Ronning, Hunter Haight, Mason Shaw, Mikey Milne, Nick Swaney, Brandon Baddock, Tanner Kapick
Defensemen: Jake Middleton, Matt Dumba, Joe Hicketts, Daemon Hunt, Carson Lambos, Kyle Masters
Goaltenders: Zane McIntyre, Filip Gustavsson
Jordan Greenway will be out injured for the first bit of the season, but he is still here with his forever linemates in Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. But, Evason’s first initial replacement for the injured winger is here as well. Tyson Jost must be hoping that he can make enough of an impression to get a stable top-six winger role during his time next to two of the best defensive forwards in the entire world. Other than that, in this forward group, Mason Shaw and Nick Swaney form the next guys up duo and we get new draftees with Hunter Haight and Mikey Milne at camp.
On the blue line, as we already mentioned, it’s going to be Jake Middleton and Matt Dumba paired off; and then it’s a bunch of inticing names. Joe Hicketts and Daemon Hunt could be another pair that Evason is trying out to make Tim Army’s job a little bit easier when it comes to defensive pairings in Iowa, and then we get two guys that will be returning to junior hockey.
Oh, and there’s goaltenders.
Forwards: Matt Boldy, Sam Steel, Brandon Duhaime, Marco Rossi, Connor Dewar, Sam Hentges, Vladislav Firstov, Sammy Walker, Servac Petrovsky, Frederick Gaudreau
Defensemen: Jon Merrill, Alex Goligoski, Simon Johansson, Dakota Mermis, Calen Addison, David Spacek
Goaltenders: C.J. Motte, Thomas Milic, Hunter Jones
Ah, perfect. We get to the part in the lineup where we get to be overly excited for some young players. Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy are projected to start the season together, and instead of centering a line, it appears that Evason is going to have Frederick Gaudreau start on the right-wing of this duo. A nice little defensive bonus for two already decently two-way young forwards. And then we also get the prospective fourth line of Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime centering Sam Steel to start out training camp. This can certainly be a needle-mover and a very young bottom-six line to provide some scoring depth. In addition to those two lines, we might also get one of Iowa’s scoring lines with Sam Hentges, Vladislav Firstov, and Sammy Walker being in this same group.
On the blue line, it most likely will be Alex Goligoski paired with Calen Addison to start the season with Jon Merrill out injured. And then another Iowa thing with Simon Johhansson and Dakota Mermis as a shutdown pairing.
Honestly, it might just be us going through this training camp and the potential opening day lineup player-by-player; but the excitement is through the roof to see what these lines can do.
To give a little bit of a teaser, let’s look at what might just be the lineup on Oct. 13, when Minnesota opens up its season against the New York Rangers.
Kirill Kaprizov — Ryan Hartman — Mats Zuccarello
Tyson Jost — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Matt Boldy — Marco Rossi — Frederick Gaudreau
Connor Dewar — Sam Steel — Brandon Duhaime
Jonas Brodin — Jared Spurgeon
Jake Middleton — Matt Dumba
Alex Goligoski — Calen Addison
Hell. Yes. Let’s go.