The Wild made a couple signings this off-season that you may have heard about.
The hockey-mad market may finally get some hockey that warrants getting mad over this season as Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have injected some star power into a team long trademarked by defensive responsibility.
The Wild were not very good last season – as evidenced by the Top 10 draft pick they earned and the fact that only one player eclipsed 50 points (Dany Heatley led the team with 53). Will management's free spending rub off on the existing core?
Can the new studs – along with a healthy Mikko Koivu – get more out of the likes of Heatley and Devin Setoguchi?
The franchise now has a face (well, a pair of them actually) and an obscene amount of young talent on the way. Can the team put it together to drive hockey's heartland Wild?
With an influx of All-Star talent, fans should not turn a blind eye towards the Wild's deep prospect pool.
Mikael Granlund is the headliner. Taken ninth overall in 2010, the team has been patient with the Finnish stud and he should be ready to step into the line-up this year and is a serious threat to take the Calder Trophy, especially if he gets top minutes.
The depth does not stop there, however. The team has two blue line anchors lying in wait in first-rounders Jonas Brodin (2011) and Mathew Dumba (2012). Goaltender Matt Hackett put up excellent numbers (.922 save percentage and a 2.37 goals-against) in limited duty with the Wild last season and a pair of highly-skilled forwards shone for the Saint John Sea Dogs last season in Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips.
The Wild have also seen 2010 second-rounder Jason Zucker emerge as a point-per-game player in Houston this season after the winger got a brief six-game look in the bigs in 2011-12.
Not to beat a dead horse, but when was the last time the two biggest available NHL free agents willfully chose a bottom-10 team away from some of the game's bigger markets? The Wild gain not only talent but identity with the signings and can ride that wave for the next 13 years. The pair have been consistently excellent thus far in their careers and bring the added bonus of both being proud Americans (and Mid-Westerners at that) to a market whose biggest star thus far was a young Marian Gaborik.
Before the team goes dreaming of competing with the best of the West, they need a clean bill of health. The Wild had exactly three players suit up for all 82 games last season and only an additional four that cracked the 70-game plateau. The more games the team gets out of its top players, the better its chances are of breaking through in a division that only produced one playoff team last season.
A look at where Wild players went during the lockout:
Niklas Backstrom (Dynamo Minsk, KHL), Jonas Brodin (Houston, AHL), Charlie Coyle (Houston, AHL), Mikael Granlund (Houston, AHL), Matt Hackett (Houston, AHL), Mikko Koivu (TPS Turku, Finnish Elite), Johan Larsson (Houston, AHL), Nick Palmieri (Houston, AHL), Marco Scandella (Houston, AHL), Jared Spurgeon (SC Langnau, Swiss Elite)