Zach Parise is having a sneaky-good season for Wild

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Tuesday night’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

If you ask a random hockey fan how they feel about Zach Parise, you might hear terms like “washed up” in response. That’s not really fair to the Minnesota Wild winger who’s proving he has quite a bit left in the tank, but it’s understandable why some might make such assumptions.

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For one thing, Parise has a scary contract. There’s no denying that it’s frightening to imagine how poorly this can go for a 34-year-old carrying a $7.538 million cap hit through 2024-25.

It doesn’t help matters that injuries have been an issue for Parise, too. He was limited to just 42 games in 2017-18 after back surgery, and missed at least eight games each season since 2013-14.

Parise’s likely being dismissed thanks to a combination of those injuries, that contract, and the Wild being unable to get over the hump from good to great. Yet, it turns out, Parise’s actually been looking a lot more like the player who once made a 13-year contract sounded like a pretty smart idea.

So far in 2018-19, Parise’s appeared in 64 games, missing only two of the Wild’s contests.

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He’s not just showing up, either. Parise’s generated 24 goals and 54 points this season. That .84 point-per-game clip actually matches his average from one of his later Devils seasons (2011-12), and ties his best marks so far with the Wild (interestingly, he hit .84 points per game in 2013-14 and 2014-15, too).

The veteran forward leads the Wild in goals and points, while checking out in the sort of analytics-friendly ways that become tougher and tougher to dominate as players grow older. Consider, for instance, his high placement according to Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement, arranged in this chart by The Athletic’s Sean Tierney:

Players like Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr have really set a high bar for ageless hockey, but this remains pretty remarkable work by Parise. After seeing his ice time sink a bit during the previous two seasons, he’s averaging 18:42 TOI per game, not far from his Minnesota average of 19 minutes (with some shorthanded time included).

As you can see from Tuesday’s Playoff Push, the Wild would hold a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if they began today, but the margin of error is excruciatingly small.

The Wild have needed every bit of effort from veterans such as Parise and his pal Ryan Suter, particularly after Minnesota decided to roll with a not-quite-rebuild by moving out more proven scorers for younger players.

Parise’s effectiveness isn’t as in-your-face as it once was when he was mercilessly forechecking opponents during his Devils’ peak, but his resurgence has been inspiring nonetheless. The Predators and other opponents would be wise not to count Parise out just yet.

2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion and Nashville Predators fan Josef Newgarden will be an ‘Inside-the-Glass’ guest tonight during the first period of Wild-Predators. He will join Pierre McGuire and John Walton (play-by-play), who will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick.

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NBC Sports will take fans inside the sounds and passion of hockey with a one-hour special – “Wired: Stadium Series – Penguins vs. Flyers” – that will utilize audio from players, coaches and referees from the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on NBC. It airs March 5 at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN here.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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