New coach, new forwards... no defensemen. It should be an interesting year in Minny. To help us figure out what's going on, we brought in Wild expert and all-around good guy Bryan Reynolds from Hockey Wilderness. We asked Bryan seven fantasy questions related to the Wild... check below to see his answers.
Any don't forget to give HW a look. If you like the Wild (and since you obviously like fantasy hockey) you should sign up for the HW fantasy league. It might be the only fantasy league in the world where Mikko Koivu gets drafted before Steven Stamkos.
Before we begin, I want to apologize to everyone I mention in this year’s post. Last year I chose Guillaume Latendresse, and he went on to have the worst season of his life due to conditioning and injury issues. With that in mind, I am sorry to anyone who may be hurt as a result of being mentioned by me in this post. Apparently, I’m EA Sports curse of fantasy hockey.
Q1) Wild Breakout of the Year?
As much as I want to go with Latendresse again, just for the humor and irony of that selection, and the fact that it is a contract year for him, I am going with Devin Setoguchi. The Wild have long needed players like Setoguchi, and GM Chuck Fletcher went out and got them. He told media and fans that "he gets the puck, he shoots the puck," which, if he winds up on a line with Mikko Koivu, could be very good for Setoguchi’s numbers. I often hear things like "he was on a line with Joe Thronton, and didn’t capitalize, why will he now?" The simple answer is this: because Koivu will find Setoguchi, just like he found Antti Miettinen. The difference is that Setoguchi will bury the chance, while Miettinen enjoyed playing a good game of "give a souvenir puck to the kid in the upper deck."
Q2) Darkhorse Breakout on the Wild? Pierre-Marc Bouchard has always been over looked. Hell, the Wild & NHL websites still list him as a center, despite the fact that I have never seen him skate a single shift at the position. He can be frustrating at times as he skates into the zone and spins away from the defenders, often times leaving himself open to have his pocket picked. At the same time, his moves are flat out dazzling, and defenders are terrified to over commit for fear he’ll make the sick pass and make them look stupid.
Butch is starting camp on the second line with Matt Cullen and Latendresse, meaning there is some risk in this pick. Cullen skated most of last year on the third line, and Latendresse was... well... not. If Cullen stays where he should be, and Latendresse is actually healthy and ready to go, Bouchard could see some prime chances to make the highlight reel. He won’t score you goals, but if you need an assist specialist, don’t overlook Butch. Plus, he does this:
Which, you know is completely disrespectful, but should count for at least two.
Q3) League-Wide Breakout of the Year?
Following the logic of the past few seasons, it will be Taylor Hall. Why you ask? Because I drafted him last year, and he didn’t do much, and now I have an aversion to do so again. The same thing happened to me with Steven Stamkos. I drafted him in several leagues his rookie season, then figured he needed some time to develop. We all know where that got me. Short one Steven Stamkos and never to see him again in any keeper league so long as I live. The Oilers are still a very bad hockey team, and have done nothing to improve their goaltending situation, but as Hall grows into the game, he is going to have a breakout year. This is that year.
Q4) Player likely to Breakdown on the Wild? With the departure of Brent Burns, the onus of being the top offensive type on the blue line falls to Marek Zidlicky. He is a 40+ point defenseman to be sure, but his injuries last year, his age creeping up, and the pressure to perform will all lead to the inevitable Minnesota sports conclusion of epic failure. We don’t even have the benefit of a contract year to bolster the issue. Zidlicky is prime for a fall off in points, and with the young defensive corps, is not going to see much help. I wouldn’t avoid him like the plague, but I hear the guys coming to pick him up.
Q5) Best Fantasy Prospect on the Wild?
Mikael Granlund continues to be the answer for all things Wild prospect related. He is showing mad skills in the Finnish Elite League as well as World Championships, and Wild fans drool at every sighting of the kid. He scores on sick shootout goals, lacrosse style goals, regular goals, in traffic goals... he just scores goals, that’s what he does. Nothing is guaranteed in life, but with the way this kid plays, if your league drafts prospects before they sniff the NHL, pick this kid up. Like... yesterday.
Disgusting. Simply disgusting. Not sure he could pull that off against an NHL goalie, but it’s still damn fun to watch.
Q6) How do you see the Wild goalie situation playing out this year? Niklas Backstrom is a lock to be the starter. He is still the best goalie in the organization, and Josh Harding is coming off an absolutely destroyed knee. Backstrom is a top level goalie, despite what people want to spew about him. Even setting aside my ties to the team, Backstrom is, in fact, a better goalie than Roberto Luongo. Given even a small amount of support from his team, Backstrom is a game changer, and should be welcome on any fantasy team, just so long as the owner is comfortable putting their season on the Wild winning games.
Jared Spurgeon will be on the team out of camp. From what coach Mike Yeo told Mike Russo of the Minneapolis StarTribune recently, it sounds like the plan is to have Scandella start in Houston and play top pairing minutes rather than being a bottom pairing guy in St. Paul. Nate Prosser is close, but behind guys like Justin Falk and Scandella. So to answer the question, rather than give you a run down of the defensive prospects of the Minnesota Wild, Jared Spurgeon will see some second PP squad minutes on the point. He has the shot, he has the vision, and he has the ability to make the play. It likely isn’t a 20 goal, 30 assist season for Spurgeon, but he should be in the 25-30 point range by the end of the year.
Great work, as always, from Bryan. If you have any more Wild related questions hit us up with a comment and we, or Bryan, will give them a shot.