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  • Can Calen Addison Accomplish Something No Wild Defenseman Has In Over A Decade?

    Tony Abbott

    Throughout Opening Week, 10K Rinks staff will be going on the record with the boldest predictions they can muster. Will they be proven right? Will their picks go down in flames? We'll start finding out Thursday.


    Pop Quiz: Who was the last Minnesota Wild player to lead defensemen in scoring... that wasn't named "Jared Spurgeon" or "Ryan Suter"?


    You have to go back over a decade to find the answer. You might think it was whoever led team defensemen in scoring in 2011-12, the season before Suter signed. Wrong. Spurgeon topped Wild defensemen that season. You have to go back a year when Brent Burns put up 46 points for the 2010-11 Wild.


    We're talking about an 11-year chain of dominance that Suter's departure couldn't even break. Spurgeon held down the fort without Suter, scoring 40 points in just 65 games last season. He was on pace for a 13-goal season with a career-high 51 points had he played 82 games.


    That's a lot, and history suggests Spurgeon will do it again, even at 33. After all, if Suter could do this deep into his 30s, why not the Wild's new captain?


    But you've read the headline already. How is a 22-year-old rookie going to put an end to the 11-year Spurgeon/Suter streak?


    He'll do it by being Calen Addison, who the 10K Rinks staff ranked as Minnesota's No. 5 prospect in a loaded pool this summer. Frankly, that might even sell the youngster short.


    Hockey Prospecting, which uses NHL equivalency (NHLe) year-by-year to predict NHL prospects' careers, loves Addison's profile. Their model gives Addison a 63% chance of becoming a star NHL defenseman (scoring 0.45-plus points per game over their career). There aren't many defenseman prospects that can match Addison's potential.


    Among defense prospects with fewer than 50 NHL games, there are two. There's Addison's 2018 classmate Ryan Merkley and Brandt Clarke, the No. 8 overall pick in 2021. Everyone else is in the NHL or is presently less likely for stardom than Addison. That includes heralded prospects like Owen Power, Luke Hughes, Jake Sanderson, and many more.



    Over the long run, his Top-5 comparables include stars Lubomir Visnovsky and Morgan Rielly, and borderline stars like Oleg Tverdovsky and Ivan Provorov.


    These projections were all true last season when Addison played just 15 games. It's not like he was facing incredible competition, either. Addison got into fewer games than the Pythonesque Jordie Benn. So why should we expect him to lead the Minnesota blueliners in scoring after that?


    It all boils down to one word: Opportunity. The Wild didn't see fit to give him opportunities last season, clinging to Benn, and not their star prospect, as their primary injury replacement. This year, Addison isn't just on the team. He's not even merely in the Opening Night lineup. He's in line to get the best scoring opportunities on the team.


    We're talking about the power play, of course. It's no secret Minnesota's made changing up the power play a priority. One of those changes appears to be moving Spurgeon from the point on the first unit and installing Addison as the power play quarterback.


    Addison had his best AHL season, with seven goals and 34 points in 43 games. 18 of those points, more than half, came on the man advantage. Watching his highlights, it's easy to see why.



    Look, Wild defensemen aren't strangers to getting points on the power play. But historically, watching it in action makes you wonder how. Minnesota's blueliners are very slow and methodical with moving the puck at the point. They look almost stationary, waiting to move it to the next person at the perimeter.


    That isn't Addison, though. He moves the puck quickly and decisively. On the occasions when he holds onto the puck, he rarely does nothing with it. He's moving, trying to find openings. Addison is faking shots, trying to create more space or probe for weaknesses. And when he does shoot, it gets through for rebounds.


    Or, you know, actual goals.



    It's the perfect change for a power play that has been below average for two years despite Kirill Kaprizov's presence. 79 defensemen have played 100 or more 5-on-4 minutes over the past two seasons. Spurgeon ranks just 48th in on-ice shooting percentage, at just 12.1%. Former power play weapon Matt Dumba fares worse, coming in at 62nd with an 11.3 on-ice shooting percentage.


    With Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Fiala, and Matt Boldy at forward, it's hard to blame the shooting talent. But that methodical style gives penalty kills time to set up and block shooting and passing lanes. Addison's game is about disrupting that. All it should take for Addison to keep that spot is a hot start to the power play.


    That's just one path to opportunity. Dean Evason's proclivity to deploy his defensive pairs evenly is also great news for Addison. Many teams will play their top two defensive pairs at the expense of their third. Evason used Dumba and Jonas Brodin heavily at 5-on-5 but played the Spurgeon-Alex Goligoski and Dmitry Kulikov-Jon Merrill pairings about equally.


    The ability to rack up points on the power play will be big. But getting equal 5-on-5 time to Spurgeon will also give Addison equal footing to keep up with the captain's production.


    Then, there's the injury factor. Spurgeon was pretty durable throughout his late-20s and early-30s. In the five seasons before last year, he missed 2, 7, 21, 6, and 5 games, respectively. There was only one year where he missed significant time.


    But last season, he was out for 17 games with an injury that lingered and nagged at him. At 33, his skills probably aren't declining, but he may be more susceptible to injuries like these. If so, that's more opportunities for Addison to step up into the Spurgeon spot. And if not Spurgeon, Dumba is also an injury risk, missing significant time in two of the past four seasons.


    The skill was always there with Addison, and now the opportunity is. If he can grab onto it and not let go, he has a great shot at shocking us all and leading the team's blueliners in scoring.

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