The Minnesota Wild’s training camp is still going on, even if they are slowly shedding the prospects and AHL players, trying to find a final form to head into the season with. But with just three exhibition games remaining and the regular season getting its actual start next week, we are starting to see the signs of the final lineup — and head coach Dean Evason straight up told us what some lines are going to be.
Some of these are more certain than others, but we’re pretty good at guessing what combinations the coach likes, and we know he likes his existing chemistry.
Line 1: Kirill Kaprizov — Ryan Hartman — Mats Zuccarello
Duh, the top line from last year is returning. And even if Hartman’s job down the middle is going to be under more pressure due to some hot prospect making the team, it’s an obvious choice to start the season with after the success they had last season.
Line 2: Jordan Greenway/Tyson Jost — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Greenway will make his return a couple weeks into the season, and unless Jost leads the entire NHL in scoring during that time, we have to assume that he will reunite the “GREEF” line and Jost will go somewhere else.
Line 3: Matt Boldy — Sam Steel — Frederick Gaudreau
It was reported on Tuesday that this will be a line heading into the Wild’s season opener. While some will be crying and pleading for a different young center to be on this line, Steel has certainly looked damn good in the preseason and has earned this opportunity to start with one top-tier winger and the other one that can cover any defensive hole he creates.
Line 4: Connor Dewar — Marco Rossi — Brandon Duhaime
Ah, well he has to play somewhere. The downside of having two cemented forward lines (for now) is that some top prospect like Marco Rossi will be sent further down the lineup than he really deserves to be. He will feature prominently on special teams, possibly on both the power play and penalty kill, so opportunity is not an issue. We do know that this is probably temporary, and things will get interesting a couple games into the season.
Pairing 1: Jonas Brodin — Jared Spurgeon
We have grown so accustomed to Jonas Brodin being with Matt Dumba, and Jared Spurgeon being with either Alex Goligoski or Jake Middleton in this post-Suter era, that we didn’t even really think of this possibility. Well, Evason has decided to play his two best defensemen together on the top pairing. What a concept!
Pairing 2: Jake Middleton — Matt Dumba
This is one pairing that will have a lot of doubtful eyes on them. I love Matt Dumba, but without having Brodin by his side, I am concerned with how the defensive side of the ice ends up being. Middleton is an adequate replacement, but no one is like Brodin.
Pairing 3: Jon Merrill/Alex Goligoski — Calen Addison
Jon Merrill, the other regular member out with an injury to start the season, will most likely take over from Alex Goligoski after he comes back. Considering what he looked like last season, Goligoski serves perfectly fine as a seventh defenseman and someone that can play anywhere in case of injury, but he just doesn’t have the legs to keep up with the intense blue line activity Evason wants right now.
Overall, there’s not a whole lot you can argue with, but we at least know that there will be current depth players banging hard on the door to get more opportunity. A couple consecutive poor performances from some people and those deserving youngsters will most likely be on the move up.
Minnesota starts its season on Oct. 13 against the New York Rangers, most likely playing with this lineup.