Minnesota Wild 2020-21 NHL season preview

Minnesota Wild 2020-21 NHL season preview
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The 2020-21 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to preview all 31 teams. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at how the offseason affected each team, the most interesting people in the organization, and the best- and worst-case scenarios. Today, we preview the Minnesota Wild.

Minnesota Wild 2019-20 Rewind

Record: 35-27-7 (78 points); sixth in the Central Division; 10th in the Western Conference.

Leading scorers: Zach Parise (25 goals), Kevin Fiala (54 points).

Some believed that the Minnesota Wild should have tanked in 2019-20. Generally speaking, they did not, but last season ended up being a mixed bag anyway.

At minimum, there were big changes up top. Stunningly, the Wild fired Paul Fenton in favor of Bill Guerin during the 2019 offseason, even though Fenton was only GM for one turbulent season. (You might say that Fenton’s term lasted only slightly longer than the whip of a lizard’s tongue.)

Despite changing GMs, the Wild still seemed content to compete as much as possible last season, rather than embrace a rebuild. For the most part, the drastic changes happened in-house. While Bruce Boudreau survived the GM change, he didn’t make it through the 2019-20 season; eventually, Dean Evason went from interim to full-time head coach.

Amid all of that front office turnover, the Wild found themselves in a familiar place: the playoff bubble. They performed well enough to enter the NHL’s odd Qualifying Round, yet the Canucks bounced them unceremoniously after four games.

Sure, you can take some good things from the past season. After showing flashes of brilliance, Kevin Fiala enjoyed a breakout year. Especially right before the pandemic pause. Jared Spurgeon stood out on a defense that probably deserved more credit. And Zach Parise quietly plugged along as a player who probably gets defined too often by his contract. (Fascinatingly, his career Devils vs. Wild stats are remarkably similar. At least from a goals and assists standpoint. [His all-around game did fall off over the years.])

Aside from trading Jason Zucker in February, Bill Guerin mainly put his stamp on the Wild during this offseason. While there was a head-scratching move every now and then, quite a few of them made sense. Amusingly enough, some real optimism came from drafting Marco Rossi, even without tanking.

Now, will this translate to the Minnesota Wild bursting through the playoff bubble? If not now, then down the line? That’s tough to tell.


Cam Talbot (free agency), Marcus Johansson (trade), Nick Bonino (trade), Nick Bjugstad (trade), Ian McCoshen (free agency), Andrew Hammond (free agency).


Devan Dubnyk (trade), Mikko Koivu (free agency), Eric Staal (trade), Ryan Donato (trade), Luke Kunin (trade), Alex Galchenyuk (free agency).

2020-21 Minnesota Wild season preview Guerin Rossi draft
(Photo by Brandon McCauley/NHLI via Getty Images)

3 Most Interesting Minnesota Wild

Kirill Kaprizov

In recent NHL history, there have been hot prospects who took oh-so-long to leave Russia. Sometimes, it really only felt like they were overseas forever. In other cases, it started to feel like people were awaiting the arrival of a ghost. Was this would-be star actually a fictional character?

Luckily, many of those same players lived up to the hype. Players like Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeny Kuznetsov proved that they were worth the wait.

Could the same be true of Kirill Kaprizov? He’s one of the true wild cards of the 2020-21 season. If he’s fine, that’s a nice boost for the Wild. If Kaprizov can be mind-blowingly good off the bat, then the Wild’s ceiling could be higher than expected.

At minimum, hopefully we see moves like these in actual NHL games, not just training camps and practices:


• Cam Talbot

Kaprizov isn’t the only wild card for the, um, Wild. He’s one of the most exciting ones, though.

Generally speaking, there’s less sizzle to incrementally improving goaltending, but the steak might yield key results for the Wild. Simply put, Devan Dubnyk was a disaster last season. As in, he played a key (involuntary) role in getting Bruce Boudreau fired. With Dubnyk floundering, the Wild had to ask a little too much of Alex Stalock.

Cam Talbot didn’t look otherworldly for the Flames. If he did, they probably would have kept him, rather than splurging for Jacob Markstrom.

But Talbot was solid. If the Wild maintain their strong defense, then a solid goalie could make them a tougher out. (Kaprizov has a better chance of making them more interesting on-ice, though.)

• Marco Rossi

Picking someone like Rossi is tricky because of the key question. Will Marco Rossi be an interesting player on the Wild? Could he bounce between levels, not quite sticking with the big club?

To many draft knowers, the Wild got quite a gem by picking Rossi ninth overall. Ideally, Rossi can serve as the sort of game-breaker the Wild desperately need. You can bet Minnesota fans daydream about Rossi and Kaprizov creating magic for years to come.

But the Wild need to handle this situation properly.

There’s a risk in rushing him to the NHL. With COVID presenting added variables, there’s the chance of extra development disruptions. (Even under normal circumstances, these things can sometimes get derailed.) It’s not the greatest sign to see Rossi listed as one of the biggest disappointments from the World Juniors via Corey Pronman’s poll of scouts (sub required), either.

Actually, Rossi will be an interesting player to watch, whether he sticks with the Wild or not.

Best-Case Scenario

Again, the Wild were a stout defensive team in 2019-20, one derailed in part by shabby goaltending. The hope is that their netminding can rise to at least a solid level. From there, maybe the Wild added just enough offensive flair to make this a viable team at scoring, too? Fighting for a division title would be a nice jump from years of slugging it out for a playoff spot.

Worst-Case Scenario

The Wild probably could have kept Koivu and Staal around at a low cost. It’s understandable that they wanted to keep spots open for younger players, but it’s not certain that they’ll be a better team in 2020-21. Being stuck in puck purgatory while enduring disappointing seasons from Kaprizov and Rossi would dampen much of the optimism surrounding this team. What if they look back in a year or two and realize that they truly needed to blow things up and rebuild?

Pointsbet – Minnesota Wild Stanley Cup odds

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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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    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

    Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

    ullmark game 2
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    BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

    “I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

    David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

    Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

    “We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

    The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

    Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

    Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

    DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

    “It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

    Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

    “I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


    Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

    “We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


    The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

    NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


    Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.

    Boldy’s goal with 1.3 left in OT lifts Wild over Devils

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    NEWARK, N.J. – Matt Boldy scored with 1.3 seconds left in overtime and Filip Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

    The game was a chippy, defensive struggle. After two scoreless periods, the Devils were outshooting the Wild 22-19.

    Minnesota finally broke through 6:41 into the third when Mason Shaw scored his seventh goal of the season on a wraparound.

    Timo Meier answered for the Devils five minutes later with his 35th goal of the season on a wraparound of his own.

    New Jersey was unable to convert on a late power play, and the teams went to overtime.

    It was a back-and-forth five minutes of extra hockey, with both goaltenders making good saves. After Jack Hughes hit the post for the Devils, the puck caromed off a post to Boldy and he beat the buzzer with his 23rd goal of the season.

    Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 shots for New Jersey.

    NOTES: The Devils are 10-4 in overtime, while the Wild improved to 4-5.


    Wild: Play at Philadelphia on Thursday night.

    Devils: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.

    Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through ’26-27

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    DENVER – Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

    The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

    Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

    This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

    “Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

    It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

    In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

    “His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

    Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

    “Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

    Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.