There’s not much going right for the Minnesota Wild three games into the season. All three games were at home, and they lost all of them. Goaltending has been awful, and the defense has been shaky and unpredictable. Dean Evason has already shaken up the forward lines and benched rookie Marco Rossi in favor of Mason Shaw. So what are some of the things that have been working for the Wild? Answer: Calen Addison and the power play.
Addison played the best game of his career on Monday night against the Colorado Avalance. He assisted in Kirill Kaprizov’s first goal of the game on a delayed penalty. Then he slid Joel Eriksson Ek a pass for a breakaway that Eriksson Ek couldn’t put away. On a power play later in the second period, Eriksson Ek redirected a shot that Addison blasted from the blue line. Addison recorded his third assist of the night and second on the power play in the third period. His three assists in one game are a career-high.
It’s clear that Addison is gaining increasing confidence with these bigger opportunities. “Every game you keep playing, I think you get better; you get more confidence,” he said. “They’re putting me in positions to have good opportunities, and good things happen. My job is to go out there and make the other players better.”
Addison is making it easier for Kaprizov and Co. to score on the power play. He is clearly very gifted on the man advantage. One can only imagine how last year’s playoffs could’ve gone had Addison been rostered and part of the power play.
The 22-year-old defenseman had only played 18 games for the Wild in the last two seasons. But the trade that sent Dmitry Kulikov to the Anaheim Ducks over the summer cemented Addison’s spot in the big leagues this season. And if he keeps producing on the power play, he won’t be going back to Des Moines any time soon.
Using Addison on the first power play unit seems to be working very well three games into the season. Three of four of Addison's points this year are primary assists on the power play. His power play percentage is sitting at 42.9 percent, which is good for third in the league. Special teams was a big point of interest during training camp, and inserting Addison into the first power play unit highlights his strengths.
“I think right from Day 1, we focused on quick puck movement, pucks to the net, go to the net, and good things will happen from there,” Addison said. “I think that’s what we’ve been doing.”
If the Wild continue at the pace they’re at, they’ll be a top-five power play unit all season. The way Addison has quarterbacked the new-look power play for the Wild is one of the only positives of the season so far, unfortunately.
Addison’s offense has been on fire so far, and that will most likely keep him in the lineup whenever Jon Merrill is ready to come back. But as a defenseman, Addison needs to be better on the back end, but so does everyone else. The Wild have given up a league-leading 20 goals in three games.
As a smaller defenseman who's trying to figure out his game, Addison has the opportunity to learn the more defensive side of the game from his captain and another smaller player, Jared Spurgeon. This new full-time NHL will allow that to happen, and hopefully, Addison’s defensive game will improve.
Addison fits seamlessly into the defensive core, and his offensive abilities are some of the best on the back end. It might even be fair to say that he’s been the Wild’s best defenseman this season. His vision and confidence with the puck were displayed in the first three games.
While defense clearly needs work, it’s still great to see such a skilled puck-moving defenseman on the power play. Sure it’s a small sample size, but the Wild have not seen a power play that has jelled this well in quite some time. It’s fun to watch a specialist like Addison quarterback the power play. It’s one thing that has been working so early in the season, and one thing fans can be excited about with such a disappointing start to the campaign.
In a dreadful start to the season, Calen Addison has been one of the few bright spots for the Wild. He’s been crucial to the power play success that the Wild have longed for. He appears to have a great future ahead of him. Now, if the Wild can just figure pretty much everything else out, like goaltending and overall defense, fans can hopefully stop panicking and enjoy the season.