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The Minnesota Wild finished with 98 points in 2013-2014, tying for the second-most in
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The Minnesota Wild finished with 98 points in 2013-2014, tying for the second-most in franchise history, and put forth a strong showing in two playoff rounds, raising expectations going forward. Evgeny Kuznetsov Jersey . Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Wild team that has a nice mix of proven veterans along with young, inexpensive talent on the rise. When the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, making a big splash in the summer of 2012, it set the franchise on a path to being more competitive, but a big reason that they have been so competitive is the contributions of young players who still have more to give. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Erik Haula, Justin Fontaine, Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin all played roles in the teams success last season and, by and large, there is potential for more from that group. What that inexpensive talent allows, though, is for the Wild to spend either in free agency or in trades, because they have financial flexibility. Add another scorer and a proven defenceman to the mix and a team that gave the Chicago Blackhawks a good test in the second round could be even better next year. A couple of concerns: One, the Wild opened the year with improved puck possession stats, over 56% Fenwick Close through mid-November, but those numbers steadily declined and settled at 48.6% by seasons end, ranking 21st, which isnt worthy of a Cup contender. Secondly, goaltending was great early in the year, with Josh Harding playing out of his mind, but health turned into a major issue and the Wild had four goalies start at least 10 games last year. Some combination of Harding, Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper should be able to stop enough pucks but, given how last season played out, it is a position of uncertainty -- even more than it is for most teams. All things considered, though, the Wild have an interesting roster that should have playoff expectations next season. Lets see what they do with some cap room this summer to see whether expectations should go even higher than that. The TSN.ca Rating is an efficiency rating based on per-game statistics including goals and assists -- weighted for strength (ie. power play, even, shorthanded) -- Corsi, adjusted for zone starts, quality of competition and quality of teammates, hits, blocked shots, penalty differential and faceoffs. Generally, a replacement-level player is around a 60, a top six forward and top four defenceman will be around 70, stars will be over 80 and MVP candidates could go over 90. Sidney Crosby finished at the top of the 2013-2014 regular season ratings at 87.12. Salary cap information all comes from the indispensable http://www.capgeek.com. CF% = Corsi percentage (ie. percentage of 5-on-5 shot attempts), via http://www.extraskater.com. GM/COACHChuck Fletcher/Mike Yeo Returning Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Cap Hit Zach Parise 77.56 67 29 27 56 55.3% $7.538M Jason Pominville 72.86 82 30 30 60 53.0% $5.6M Mikko Koivu 72.53 65 11 43 54 56.1% $6.75M Mikael Granlund 68.99 63 8 33 41 48.4% $900K Erik Haula 66.35 46 6 9 15 48.4% $900K Charlie Coyle 64.81 70 12 18 30 48.9% $900K Matt Cooke 64.58 82 10 18 28 45.3% $2.5M Kyle Brodziak 63.64 81 8 16 24 43.9% $2.833M Stephane Veilleux 55.86 34 3 0 3 40.5% $588K Free Agent Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Matt Moulson 71.51 75 23 28 51 46.6% UFA $3.133M Nino Niederreiter 65.53 81 14 22 36 50.3% RFA $2.795M Justin Fontaine 62.43 66 13 8 21 46.0% RFA $600K Dany Heatley 62.14 76 12 16 28 44.5% UFA $7.5M Cody McCormick 56.74 43 2 5 7 37.8% UFA $1.2M Mike Rupp 54.69 13 0 1 1 48.7% UFA $1.5M Zach Parise is one of the most consistent goal-scorers, ranking 16th since 2006-2007, despite missing 69 games in 2010-2011. His relentless puck pursuit, combined with offensive zone starts, leads to strong puck possession numbers while facing high-quality opposition. Even so, its worth noting that, since his last point-per-game season in 2009-2010, Parise has 169 points in 210 games (0.80 ppg), so thats a more reasonable expectation at this stage of his career. Even more durable than Parise, Jason Pominville has missed a total of 10 games in the past eight seasons, and has been a consistent point producer in that time, with his 495 points in that time ranking 24th in the league. Hes been a solid two-way player throughout his career but, in Minnesota, Pominville is focused on offence, with offensive zone starts and little, if any, penalty-killing time. Underrated as a two-way pivot, probably in part because he doesnt score a ton of goals, Mikko Koivu has averaged more than 20 minutes per game in six of the past seven seasons, always posting strong relative puck possession stats, a trend that has been tilted even more as Koivu is used in a more offensive role when it comes to zone starts. His rep wouldnt be hurt by better playoff production, since Koivu has a goal and six assissts in 18 playoff games over the past two years. When Mikael Granlund arrived in the NHL last year, he was hyped as a potential star, because he was already a dazzling scoring machine in Finland who had nearly a point-per-game in the AHL, but Granlund struggled as a rookie, maanging eight points in 27 games. He was a little better early in his second season before taking off in January, and finished the year with 26 points (5 G, 21 A) in his last 34 games. He still needs to generate more shots on goal, but expectations are once again high for Granlunds offensive potential. Erik Haula started last season in the AHL, but earned his promotion to the big club after scoring 14 goals and 27 points in 31 games. Haula spent much of the season on the fourth line, playing about 10 minutes a night, until late in the year when an injury to Granlund opened the door for a more offensive role and Haula finished the regular season with seven points in his last seven games, then added four goals and seven points in the playoffs, staking a claim to a bigger role which ought to continue next season. Power forward on the rise Charlie Coyle made progress in his second NHL season, even if he didnt finish so efficiently. Hes a big body and can be used as a complement to smaller skilled players on a scoring line or on a line like the Big Mans Line, with Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter, that he skated with in the playoffs. While his suspension in the playoffs understandably brought his ugly repuation back into the light, Matt Cooke had largely changed how he plays the game. Hes no saint, to be sure, but he is a useful checker, who gets force-fed tough minutes with defensive zone starts against quality opposition. Kyle Brodziak has been taking on tough assignments pretty regularly, with fewer than 42% offensive zone starts for six straight seasons, the last three while facing a relatively high level of competition, and while that role leads to poor relative possession stats, last seasons were the worst of his career. 32-year-old winger Stephane Veilleux split last season between Minnesota and Iowa of the AHL. He brings energy, but also has five points in 55 NHL games since the Wild re-acquired him in 2011-2012. It was thought that the Wild might have fleeced the Islanders last summer, acquiring Nino Niederreiter for Cal Clutterbuck and, for the most part, that looks to be the case, as 21-year-old Niederreiter scored 36 points in 81 games all while providing a physical presence and holding his own in possession terms. Justin Fontaines goal production was inflated by a shooting percentage (16.5%) that he wont likely maintain, but the 26-year-old earned a mostly regular role, playing primarily with Cooke and Brodziak. It has been rumoured for some time that the Wild may be the preferred landing spot for unrestricted free agent winger Thomas Vanek. If the Wild are interested, Vanek could fill a role as a scoring winger, sort of what they were bargaining for when they acquired Matt Moulson at the trade deadline. Returning Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Cap Hit Ryan Suter 70.00 82 8 35 43 48.6% $7.538M Jared Spurgeon 70.19 67 5 21 26 52.2% $2.667M Marco Scandella 66.25 76 3 14 17 49.5% $1.025M Jonas Brodin 62.75 79 8 11 19 47.0% $894K Keith Ballard 59.96 45 2 7 9 45.9% $1.5M Free Agent Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS CF% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Clayton Stoner 60.87 63 1 4 5 47.5% UFA $1.8M Nate Prosser 60.00 53 2 6 8 46.5% UFA $825K Hes on the small side, which can present problems against bigger forwards, but Jared Spurgeon is steady, posting good possession numbers while playing more than 22 minutes a night. He is earning respect, not least of all from Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane in the post-series handshake line. The only skater in the league play more than 3500 minutes over the past two seasons, Ryan Suter has possibly been overused because his possession numbers have declined compared to his time in Nashville. This doesnt mean Suter isnt a very valuable two-way defenceman, just that he could be spread a little thin by playing more than 29 minutes a night. By contrast, Marco Scandella is someone who might be able to handle more minutes, putting up solid numbers last season in a defence-first role and earning more ice time late in the year and into the playoffs. Hailed for his outstanding rookie season in 2012-2013, Jonas Brodin wasnt as effective in his second season, seeing his ice time reduced in the last quarter of the year, but hes a 20-year-old who has already played big minutes and that puts him in a relatively rare group. It was probably worth a look to see if Keith Ballard could rebound with a fresh start away from Vancouver, but he couldnt establish himself as part of Minnesotas top six on defence, playing a career-low 13:37 per game while dressing in 45 games. The 31-year-old has a year left on his contract, which could help him keep a depth role on a defence that may have some openings. While there could be openings for prospects like Mathew Dumba and Christian Folin on the blueline, the Wild may want to take a run at a proven veteran like Willie Mitchell, Stephane Robidas or Brooks Orpik could add some experience. Returning Goaltenders Player Rating GP W L OTL GAA SV% Cap Hit Josh Harding 72.13 29 18 7 3 1.66 .933 $1.9M Niklas Backstrom 62.62 21 5 11 2 3.02 .899 $3.417M Free Agent Goaltenders Player Rating GP W L OTL GAA SV% Class 13-14 Cap Hit Darcy Kuemper 72.80 26 12 8 4 2.43 .915 RFA $900K Ilya Bryzgalov 68.83 32 12 9 8 2.68 .909 UFA $2.266M Josh Harding was enjoying a storybook season when issues related to his MS kept him out of the lineup after December 31. Hes expected to be ready for training camp, and that makes the Wild a better team, but other options need to be readily available since Harding has never played more than 34 games in an NHL season. Niklas Backstrom has battled injuries recently and the 36-year-old is coming off his worst NHL season. If Backstrom is healthy, he should still be a contributor, but there may not be a team with more questions hanging on the health of their goaltenders. When Backstrom and Harding went down with injuries, Darcy Kuemper stepped in and gave the Wild credible goaltending (.921 SV% in 24 GP from January on), but also got hurt late in the year and in the playoffs. Nonetheless, the 24-year-old is an up-and-comer who could have a significant role again next season depending on the health of Harding and Backstrom. Top Prospects Player Pos. Team/League Stats Mathew Dumba D Portland (WHL) 8-16-24, +31, 26 GP Christian Folin D UMass-Lowell (HE) 6-14-20, +10, 41 GP Jason Zucker LW Iowa (AHL) 8-5-13, -8, 22 GP Gustav Olofsson D Colorado College (NCHC) 4-4-8, -12, 30 GP Michael Keranen RW Ilves-Tampere (SML) 17-35-52, +12, 52 GP Zack Phillips C Iowa (AHL) 12-21-33, -30, 76 GP Mario Lucia LW Notre Dame (HE) 16-15-31, +1, 40 GP Tyler Graovac C Iowa (AHL) 13-12-25, -23, 64 GP Brett Bulmer RW Iowa (AHL) 11-8-19, -10, 43 GP Raphael Bussieres LW Iowa (AHL) 5-14-19, -5, 61 GP Johan Gustafsson G Iowa (AHL) 2.98 GAA, .903 SV%, 40 GP A dynamic puck-moving defenceman who plays more physically than his size might suggest, Mathew Dumba started last season with the Wild, and fared all right in a sheltered role, before he ripped up the WHL on a powerhouse Portland team. The 2012 first-rounder should have a legit shot at sticking for real next season. Swedish rearguard Christian Folin was signed following his sophomore season at UMass-Lowell and got into one game with the Wild. He has the size, strength and poise to handle the pro game now, so hell compete for a spot with the Wild in camp. Jason Zucker was a second-round pick in 2010 and has a dozen points (8 G, 4 A) in 47 career games with the Wild. He has some offensive upside, but had a hard time cracking the Minnesota lineup last season and has never put up decent possession numbers in the NHL. A second-round pick last summer, Gustav Olofsson is a 6-foot-4 defenceman who can skate and he left school after one year at Colorado College, joining Iowa for eight games. Hes only 19, so has lots of room to develop before hes considered for a spot with the Wild. 24-year-old forward Michael Keranen was signed after a breakout season in Finland, tying for the league lead with 52 points in 52 games. If he can handle the North American game, the creative forward could offer another scoring option. Taken in the first-round in 2011, Zack Phillips is skilled, but has to improve his skating and refine his play without the puck if hes going to challenge for a spot. Next season could be crucial for the 21-year-old to determine which way hes going to go as a pro. A winger with good size who can score, Mario Lucia has completed two seasons with Notre Dame and has more time to fill out his 6-foot-3 frame before embarking on a pro career. 6-foot-5 centre Tyler Graovac broke through offensively in his final junior season, scoring 38 goals, and improved as his first pro campaign progressed. The 2011 seventh-round pick could be a steal if he continues on his upward trend. A big physical winger who has played 14 games with the Wild, Brett Bulmer has battled injuries, but remains an intriguing prospect if he can stay healthy. Drafted in the second round in 2012, Raphael Bussieres didnt produce much in his first pro campaign, but hes only 20-years-old. See if he can raise his game over the next year or two to throw his name into the mix for a spot in Minnesota. A sixth-round pick in 2010, Johan Gustafsson made the move to North America last season and needs consistency and improvement if hes going to take the next step. While hes already played 106 NHL games, it may be worth keeping an eye on Jonathon Blum, a restricted free agent who didnt hurt the Wild in 15 games that he played with the big club last season. Wild advanced stats and player usage chart from Extra Skater DRAFT18th - Alex Tuch, David Pastrnak, Dylan Larkin FREE AGENCYAccording to http://www.capgeek.com, the Wild have approximately $46.8M committed to the 2014-2015 salary cap for 15 players. Check out my possible Wild lineup for next season on Cap Geek here. Needs: One top six forward, depth forwards, one top four defenceman, depth defencemen.What I said the Wild needed last year: One top nine forward, depth forwards, depth defence, starting goaltender.They added: Nino Niederreiter, Matt Cooke, Justin Fontaine, Keith Ballard, Mathew Dumba. TRADE MARKETJustin Fontaine, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Niklas Backstrom. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Nicklas Backstrom Jersey . The move is retroactive to Aug. 1. Hosmer was originally hit on the hand in the first inning of a July 20 loss to Boston. He has played most of the time since, but missed a few contests due to the injury, then departed Thursdays win over the Twins and had tests that revealed the fracture. Custom Washington Capitals Jerseys .com) - Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 51 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder took down the struggling Bucks 114-101 on Tuesday. http://www.officialcapitalsfanstore.com/authentic-lars-eller-capitals-jersey/ . So it was understandable if he was a little shaky early in his return to the Texas Rangers rotation. He spent most of the outing searching for his best stuff, but still managed to shut down the struggling Minnesota Twins offence.TORONTO - From P.K. Subbans passionate fist pump and through a series of fluky bounces, the Montreal Canadiens showed in their regular-season opener the kind of poise that helped them reach the Eastern Conference final.Tomas Plekanec responded to a late goal by Morgan Rielly with one of his own 96 seconds later as the Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in a back-and-forth affair Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.These things happen, and its how you respond to it, Subban said. It happened to us a few times last year and I thought we responded well. Were a resilient group in here. It doesnt surprise me that we came right back.It was a perfect shot by Subban that gave the Habs the lead 8:41 into the third period when a tired first line for the Leafs, consisting of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel, left the 2013 Norris Trophy-winning defenceman alone at the top of the face-off circles.Then the NHL curtain-raising game between the two long-standing rivals got weird. Rielly threw the puck in front, and it managed to carom in past Montreal goaltender Carey Price to tie things up with 2 minutes 19 seconds left.Plekanec, who scored earlier on a breakaway and was arguably the best player on the ice for either team, responded by banking a pass attempt off Leafs rookie defenceman Stuart Percy and in with 43 seconds remaining.It was two bad bounces back-to-back, so karma, I guess, said Price, who finished with 24 saves on 27 shots. It was up-and-down, pretty emotional at the end. But absolutely happy to get that win.The win snapped a streak of four straight losses to the Leafs on opening night for the Habs.Its even better to win these games when you play the right way, and I thought we did a lot of things well, Subban said. Still some areas we have to clean up, but I thought executing some new things in our game plan, I thought we did that very, very well today.Montreal coach Michel Therrien praised his players for skating better after the Leafs took the play to them in the first. Toronto had the games first five shots, but Max Pacioretty scored on the Habs first shot 4:42 in, which stunned an already subdued crowd of 19,375.The first shot they got went in the net, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. It kind of took a little bit of wind out of our sails.Winger Brandon Kozun, the biggest surprise of the Leafs camp, took the shot that Nazem Kadri tipped past Price for the tying goal. Kozun not only got his first point on his fourth shift in his NHL debut but his energy was noticeable on the second line.I though there were times out there where we played really well, Kozun said. The first period I thought we had something going, parts of the third, but I think there was a bunch in the second period where the team in general couldnt sustain anything.Perccy, who was also making his NHL debut and earned a positive review from Carlyle despite being in the wrong place on Montreals game-winner, made the pass that set up Tyler Bozaks power-play goal late in the first period. T. J. Oshie Jersey. Plekanec tied it back up for the Habs 4:34 into the second after a picture-perfect outlet pass by Alexei Emelin found the veteran centre behind the Toronto defence. One of four alternate captains along with Andrei Markov, Subban and Pacioretty, Plekanec was downright dominant.Hes playing with two good offensive players in (Alex) Galchenyuk and (Brendan) Gallagher, and he scored two big goals for us, Therrien said. Pleky was really good.It was more than just Plekanec that got the Habs off to a strong start. The second line of Pacioretty, David Desharnais and P.A. Parenteau flashed some early chemistry and contributed.We had everybody involved today, Subban said. Our forwards definitely should feel confident right now with the way theyre putting the puck in the net.The Habs have no time to let the win sink in, as they travel to Washington to play Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on Thursday night. After making it to the East final last spring, Subban and Price understand theres a long way to go this season before they can even think about the playoffs.I dont think in this room were going to set any goals further than the next game, Price said. That really simplifies things. You dont start overcomplicating things. If you just keep your mindset on preparing for that next game, it simplifies everything and really makes it easier.The Leafs have some more time to ponder things before hosting Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. Some mistakes of youth hurt them when the Habs tilted the ice in the opener.In the first period we did a good job of making them dump pucks, keeping them slowed down in the neutral zone, which gives us more time moving the puck out of our zone, captain Dion Phaneuf said. When we stopped moving our feet, thats when we got into trouble.Montreal was there to capitalize.a€?They came really hard at us and we were not skating really well, Therrien said. A lot of credit goes to the Leafs for the way they performed in the first period. I thought in the second period, our transition was much better, we started to skate and we started to play our game.Notes a€” Bernier finished with 28 saves on 32 shots against. ... Winger Jiri Sekac made his NHL debut for the Canadiens. ... The crowd gave Walter Gretzky a nice ovation when he was shown on the video boards on his 76th birthday. ... The first three Leafs players honoured on Legends Row a€” Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower and Teeder Kennedy (represented by son Mark) a€” dropped the pucks for the ceremonial faceoff.---Follow @SWhyno on Twitter ' ' '
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