The Minnesota Wild will have a lot of core players returning to their lineup in 2022-23 and with a new season, there are new expectations. Of course, the Wild’s leaders of Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, and Marcus Foligno will be expected to carry their roles and be mentors to the new players. Kirill Kaprizov and his linemates Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello will also be expected to put up even more points than last season.
While those players have known expectations, there are several others who will be expected to fill bigger roles this upcoming season. Some of them may be more obvious than others but it’s clear things will have to change for the Wild to make it further in the playoffs.
Fleury Becomes Starter
After Marc-André Fleury was re-signed to a two-year contract, things looked pretty good for the Wild’s goaltending situation. They still had veteran Cam Talbot for one more season and it appeared they’d be able to do a 50/50 split for ice time between Talbot and Fleury. However, things didn’t work out as Talbot was unhappy with the signing and was traded.
That still left the Wild with a veteran in Fleury, but instead of Talbot, they now have a young and unproven goaltender in Filip Gustavsson. That means they’ll have to rely almost solely on Fleury for the starting spot. It’ll most likely be a 60/40 split but at the beginning of the season they may play around with a 50/50 to see how Gustavsson handles things early on before getting too deep into the season.
Thankfully for the Wild, Fleury has been in this situation plenty of times throughout his career. As most know, the majority of it was spent being a very successful starter for the Pittsburgh Penguins and in the later years the Vegas Golden Knights. The last couple of seasons, his starts have been a bit less but it’ll jump back up this upcoming season and hopefully, he can step up and lead the team.
Fiala’s Replacement Under Pressure
Whether it be someone they go after in free agency or someone they bring up from Iowa, whoever takes Kevin Fiala’s place will feel the pressure. It appears that player will be someone from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, as general manager Bill Guerin has stated they’re still looking for a bottom-six forward and not a top-six in free agency.
The top candidate is Adam Beckman, who got to show off his talents for a short time last season. He did phenomenal in the preseason and it wouldn’t have been surprising if he’d earned himself a roster slot. However, they had a lot of players to choose from and he went back to Iowa to start the season.
Beckman did join the team and played in three regular-season games for the Wild a short time later when they were without a few players due to injuries. In those games, he recorded a single point as well as four shots on goal, one hit, one blocked shot, and a takeaway. Not bad numbers for his first time in the NHL.
If chosen, it’s obvious not to expect Beckman to put up the 85 points Fiala did this last season but with some more experience he could get there in the seasons to come. He’s only 21 years old and Fiala was 25 when he hit 85 so Beckman has a few years to catch up. It’ll be a lot of pressure to put on his shoulders but from what he’s shown so far, he should be capable of doing it.
Boldy Faces “Sophomore Slump”
When Kaprizov started last season the phrase “sophomore slump” was thrown around a lot, but he proved otherwise as he went on to put up 108 points. Matt Boldy will be going into his second season and of course, everyone will be wondering if he can avoid the slump as well. If he can hit the ice with the strength he did in his first season, he’ll have no problems.
In Boldy’s first season he played in 47 games and registered 39 points. In his first NHL game, he scored his first NHL goal and went on a rampage from there. However, he wasn’t just offensive-minded, he was also focused on his defensive game. In those 47 games, he blocked 24 shots and had 23 hits.
Watching Boldy play, it was hard to believe he was a rookie in the NHL last season, as he skated and handled the puck like a five-year veteran. He’s got a high hockey IQ and knows where he’s supposed to be and when. Guerin didn’t draft him, but he did make the choice to sign him and Guerin clearly knew what he was getting. Boldy is a very well-rounded player and hopefully, he’ll just continue to get better starting with this upcoming season.
Wild Have High Expectations
After how well the regular season went last year for the Wild, they’ll be expected to produce like that again. Especially with pretty much all their top scorers coming back – with the exception of Fiala – and they kept all their top defense as well. The main issue will be their goaltending now that Talbot is gone, as the Wild could’ve been a real powerhouse with Talbot and Fleury together but things just didn’t work out.
Gustavsson will be under a lot of pressure with the big spot he has to fill and the little experience he has so far. As stated before, Fleury will be under a lot of pressure but he’s used to it and will hopefully thrive under it compared to last postseason. The Wild will expect all of their players to step up but they will be expecting big things from these three.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.