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  • How Does Brandon Duhaime Fit Back Into the Wild Lineup?

    Luke Sims

    Brandon Duhaime was one of the most impactful forwards for the Minnesota Wild at the start of the year. But since his injury, Minnesota has been terrific and has found much success with him out of the lineup. With young forwards Mason Shaw and Connor Dewar, the arrival of Ryan Reaves, and the Wild team becoming healthy, where will Duhaime find himself on a surging Wild team?


    Duhaime’s last game was on November 23rd against the Winnipeg Jets. He has played 14 games this year, recorded four points, and was on pace to break his career high of 17. Duhaime spent much of his time last year on Minnesota's fourth line and in a prime penalty-killing role.


    Reports about his injury have improved, and he should be back healthy and playing again soon.



    There have been changes to the Wild team since Duhaime was hurt. Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway are fully healthy. Ryan Hartman has returned to the lineup. Shaw has earned a full-time role and the coaching staff's trust. The Wild acquired bottom-six player Ryan Reaves. Before getting hurt, Duhaime spent some time with Dewar and Marco Rossi and also played the Jordan Greenway role on the GREEF line.


    So where could Duhaime slot in? He does not play center, so he is unlikely to threaten Sam Steel’s spot as the current center for Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello. Duhaime does not precisely fit the “scoring winger” role, so he does not threaten Hartman’s spot on a line with Freddy Gaudreau and Matt Boldy. When the GREEF line is fully healthy, it’s like an itch that Dean Evason has to scratch. He's not breaking that up.


    That only leaves the three grinders on the fourth line: Mason Shaw - Connor Dewar - Ryan Reaves


    I know I said Duhaime does not play center, but Mason Shaw has played center in the past and has won 53% of his draws this year. Dewar has struggled mightily on the dot so far this year. Mason Shaw could easily slide over to the center and be the center for Reaves and Duhaime. Shaw has played center for much of his young career.


    Dewar’s three short-handed goals have covered a lot of what he lacks. I know he is only a fourth-liner and is still young, but maybe Evason should give Dewar the Calen Addison treatment. Have him sit a few games to try and teach him a lesson. I get that he is a very valuable piece to have on the penalty kill, and it’s cool when you score goals on the kill, but the primary goal is to stop pucks from entering your net.


    Dewar finds himself near the bottom of almost every Corsi statistic. He’s been very good on the penalty kill. However, he's sitting just behind, guess who? Brandon Duhaime.


    Mason Shaw has been very effective at even strength and is driving play well for the fourth line (as much as you drive to play as a fourth liner). Shaw is in a similar spot as Dewar. Both are young players trying to prove themselves in the league and earn a bigger payday down the road. Shaw just gives a little more to the Wild at even strength, not just on the penalty kill.


    Ryan Reaves has been such a spark for this Wild team that it would be hard for the coaching staff to put him in the press box. Statistically, any of Shaw, Dewar, or Duhaime would be better than Reaves, but nothing gets the X rocking quite like a Ryan Reaves big hit nowadays. How can Dean Evason deprive the fans of that joy? He can’t.


    Duhaime’s veteran presence and familiarity with the coaching staff should give him a shot in the lineup. Whether it’s one Dewy in and another out, Brandon Duhaime should find himself in the lineup sooner than later.


    “Dewy 1” is a fan favorite for his rough and rowdy play style. Looking forward to the future, the Wild will probably not re-sign Reaves (look at Nic Deslauriers). But they have Rossi coming up, and Adam Beckman and Sammy Walker. The “Reinforcements” are closer than they appear. Duhaime will be 26 years old and a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the year.


    The Wild have to be conscious of the plethora of prospects they have coming up. For now, Duhaime is a perfectly effective player in the Wild’s bottom six. He plays hard, kills penalties, and is not afraid to get dirty. Even if Minnesota scratches Dewar, he’ll be back. Someone will challenge Duhaime’s spot on the fourth line. Duhaime is undoubtedly not going to sign a two-way deal, and while he has been an effective bottom-six player, he may find himself on the outside looking in on a younger and faster Wild team.

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