It’s another Minnesota Wild gameday that doesn’t really mean anything in the end. Yes, it still feels good that our favorite hockey club is 2-0-0 in this preseason and both wins come over the reigning Stanley Cup champions — but, it’s just too bad that this is just a little warm-up and it is too early in the preseason to really get an understanding of what this team looks like.
The Wild have made two rounds of cuts at training camp, but both of them involve players that we knew for sure would not be on the NHL roster and even barely on the AHL roster. It’s becoming more slim and focused, but in both games against the Avalanche the bottom half of the lineup — or even the full blue line — has been depth players that will not be close to leading the team in scoring, or anything like that.
And tonight, it is a slight variation on the regulars and depth concept, but largely the same.
Tyson Jost — Sam Steel — Mats Zuccarello
Adam Beckman — Marco Rossi — Nic Petan
Sam Hentges — Mason Shaw — Mitchell Chaffee
Brandon Baddock — Damien Giroux — Joseph Cramarossa
Jonas Brodin — Jared Spurgeon
Jake Middleton — Calen Addison
Ryan O’Rourke — Andrej Sustr
Up front in the forward group, there is a little bit of excitement to see Sam Steel get another crack at a top offensive contributor with Tyson Jost and Mats Zuccarello, with the latter making his preseason debut. Marco Rossi gets another shot with some more skilled teammates and the bottom-six forwards might just be two lines that also end up appearing in Iowa.
On the blue line, we get three-fourths of the top two pairings we will see to start the season, with Brodin and Spurgeon teaming up and Calen Addison taking Matt Dumba’s spot next to Jake Middleton. And then another potential Iowa duo with youngster Ryan O’Rourke and a grizzled tower of a veteran, Andrej Sustr.
Bonus: We get to see Jesper Wallstedt play actually on our screens, with him taking the first 30 minutes and Zane McIntyre tagging in for the last (most likely).
The roster is slowly taking shape and with every exhibition game, we are seeing more and more realistic roster hopefuls and roster regulars on the ice. At least tonight will be a nice little change from facing the damn Colorado Avalanche, with puck drop against the Dallas Stars at 7:00 p.m.
Can Tyson Jost keep the momentum going?
After scoring twice in the 5-2 win over his former team, the 24-year-old has come out of the gates —albeit preseason— flying. The promise of Jost has always been that of a high-ceiling offensive talent with pedigree, but that ability was never realized with his former club or in 27 games with the Wild last season. Paired with high-end players like Zuccarello or Matt Boldy seems to bring out the best in him, and he’ll get another crack at it tonight.
Will Jesper Wallstedt impress again?
It’s all money with Wallstedt’s appearance in the preseason, and he’s looked good. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Filip Gustavsson is the backup going into the season, but it is nice to see what Wallstedt can do against this pseudo-NHL competition before he heads to the AHL for some time and tears it a new one.
Can Sam Steel endear himself to Dean Evason?
It’s been an exceptionally small sample size, but after being cut loose by the Anaheim Ducks in the offseason, Sam Steel has looked great in a Wild uniform. His offensive talent has been there in spades, but we all know that isn’t the way to win over ol’ Deano. Hard work and effort on the defensive end are the way to stay in this lineup, and that’s never been Steel’s forte.
By playing him on the pseudo-first line, it’s being communicated that the team is interested in seeing what they’ve got in the young centre, but can he win over the head coach with some solid defensive play tonight?