After concluding the preseason with a solid 3-1 record, the Minnesota Wild are proud to present their 2022-2023 opening night roster.
Jonathan Huberdeau (A)- JT Miller (C)- Clayton Keller
An Offensive threat every time they step on the ice, the line of Huberdeau, Miller, and Keller look to put themselves among the league leaders in points during the 2022-2023 season. With a mix of playmaking, scoring, and defensive awareness this line has the potential to be among the league's best.
Although not originally drafted by GM Rafuse, Huberdeau was a target for trade based on his passing, leadership, and defensive ability. His $5.9 million cap hit didn’t hurt either, and although he has UFA status after this season, he will be a priority to re-sign long term in Minnesota.
Speaking of UFA’s, JT Miller is also going into the final year of his contract, and is also a priority to be re-signed. To this point GM Rafuse said “We love Miller as a player and he is a leader in our locker room, we gave him the “C” and hope he can lead the Wild for many more seasons.”
Finally rounding out the line is Clayton Keller. Finally coming into his prime, Keller is a dynamic offensive player who is capable at both ends of the rink. Riding shotgun to gifted playmakers like Miller and Huberdeau should see Keller put up a ton of goals and be an offensive threat every time he steps on the ice.
Brandon Saad- Matthew Barzal- Tyler Toffoli (A)
This line could be described as the vanilla line. They aren’t flashy, but do the little things extremely well. Saad provides the line with the ability to score goals in bunches, but is also defensively responsible and can play top line PK minutes effectively.
Barzal will have a ton of pressure on him this season. As the main piece coming back in the Draisaitl deal, he will have to prove that GM Rafuse made the right decision moving on from the perennial all-star. Although Barzal had an off year last year he is a dynamic player that is capable of scoring big goals, and setting up his linemates. Time will tell if he has a long-term future in Minnesota but early pre-season signs were positive and he is looking like a great fit on the second line.
Rounding out this group is Tyler Toffoli. Much like Saad he possesses a great balance of offensive and defensive attributes that coaches love. Although there is nothing flashy about his game, he is effective in getting in open spaces and scoring big goals.
Rem Pitlick- Christian Dvorak- Luke Kunin
This line shall be referred to as the “potential” line. Each of these guys were drafted based on their potential for improvement. Pitlick had a career year last year and should bring a blend of grit and “offensive” flashes that can be expected from a bottom 6 winger.
Dvorak was drafted with the expectation that he will improve throughout the duration of his contract. Right now, he still brings qualities essential to the bottom 6, but GM Rafuse hopes to see his role expand in the coming years and possibly take over as the team's number 2 C next year if retaining Miller is not an option.
Luke Kunin brings a blend of bottom 6 qualities and should compliment his linemates. At 24 the clock is ticking on more offensive potential, GM Rafuse hopes that he will flourish with 3rd line minutes and ultimately be able to play a role in the top 6 in the future.
Ryan Lomberg- Michael McLeod- Nathan Bastian
The “crashers” and “bangers” line! This line is under no illusions of the role they play on the team. Their job is simple, work hard, hit, and hit some more! With CK ratings 83, 82, 85 respectively this trio will play a crucial role in separating the opposing team from the puck and banging in the odd goal!
There is little to no untapped potential here and that suits GM Rafuse just fine. He had this to say about his 4th line “All three guys are decent skaters and are good in the defensive zone and with their physical component and I’d argue there isn’t a better 4th line in the league” Time will tell if this is in fact the case!
Noah Hanifan-Ryan Pulock
The unofficial top pair in Minnesota, Hanifan and Pulock should provide the Wild with steady defensive play, good breakout passes, and be a good compliment to the forward group.
Hanifan was selected based on his ability to take care of his own end first, but also his ability as a passer and skater. Pulock was selected as a compliment to Hanifan and should provide the Wild with steady hockey throughout the duration of his contract. At 27 there is still time for him to improve his game further and give the Wild an added boost over the coming years.
Vladislav Gavrikov- Rasmus Dahlin
The unofficial second pair in Minnesota, Gavrikov and Dahlin are like ying (Defensive first mindset) and yang (Offensive first mindset) Both were chosen to compliment each other's weaknesses.
Dahlin, who was the Wild’s 2nd round pick, was chosen as a building block for the future. With so much untapped potential GM Rafuse couldn’t believe he was still there in the late 50’s and had this to say about his selection “He is not overrated, that is all!” Dahlin should start tapping into his offensive potential as early as this year and should be a top 2 defenseman in Minnesota for many years.
Once GM Rafuse knew he had Dahlin, the Gavrikov selection became an easy one. Although he is a potential UFA, his DF awareness and ability to compliment Dahlin for this upcoming season will be crucial to the Wild’s success. Although signing him to an extension is anything but guaranteed, GM Rafuse believes he will leave everything out on the ice and provide the Wild with a stable presence on the back end.
Matt Grzelcyk- Chris Tanev
The unofficial 3rd pair in Minnesota or “new kids on the block” are both assets that were traded for post dispersal draft. Grzelcyk was identified for his ability to create offense and play a solid 15-16 sheltered minutes per game. At 28 there is still a chance he could play a larger role before his contract expires but for now, he slots in as a perfect 3rd pairing guy.
The other new kid is Chris Tavev. He was acquired for one reason, and that was to babysit Grzelcyk and keep him out of trouble on the ice. As an elite defender the Wild expect him to improve their PK stats and to provide them with a steady presence on defense, while also being an underrated skater and passer.
In all, GM Rafuse believes that this defensive group is one of the tops in the league and although there may not be many flashy names, each player on the top 3 pairs compliments the other and the hope is this cohesion will benefit the team throughout the season.
John Gibson was a target for GM Rafuse as soon as he decided that this team was going to contend right out of the gate. Although Gibson’s numbers were down last season, he still possesses quality ratings and his contract status and potential for improvement was something that just couldn’t be passed up.
Gibson justified his selection in the preseason by going 3-1 and GM Rafuse is confident that the defense he assembled will provide Gibson with added support needed for him to have a quality year in Minnesota.
Not sure what to say about DeSmith other than he was basically the best back-up that the Wild could afford during the dispersal draft. He possesses back-up ratings, and the hope is he sees as little of the net as possible throughout the season
Head Coach- Gerard Gallant
The opportunity to select fellow maritimer and all-around good guy Gerard Gallant was just too hard to pass up. Gallant is a seasoned coach who makes every team he coaches a better, more cohesive unit. The expectations are sky high in Minnesota and GM Rafuse believes Gallant is the right man to lead the team to glory.
“Gerard is a fantastic coach and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have him lead our team” said an ecstatic Rafuse when asked about his team’s coaching situation, “now I am just looking forward to seeing what he will do with the team moving forward and how the team will respond to his systems, concepts, and motivational techniques.”
If the pre-season was any indication it looks like the Wild will be just fine.
GM- David Rafuse
Hailing from small town Nova Scotia, GM Rafuse jumped at the opportunity to run the Wild, packed up his family, and headed to the bright lights of Minnesota. Rafuse has been plying his GM trade in various leagues for the last 15 years and is looking forward to the challenge that awaits him moving forward.
“I feel like we assembled a true contender,” said Rafuse, “we have made a few moves so far and our expectation is to not only be competitive now, but in the future as well.”
Considering that the Wild still have all their upcoming draft picks and some high-end prospects the present and future look very bright!
This season ultimately hinges on how the top players in Minnesota perform and GM Rafuse couldn’t be more excited to drop the puck and start the 2022-2023 BEARD Hockey season!