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  • Wild success hinges on 24 year olds being difference makers


    As the Minnesota Wild embarks on on the 2016-17 season, the franchise is looking to raise itself to the next level. However, Wild General Manager has made few moves to actually improve the team. Eric Staal was signed. Chris Stewart was brought aboard for the second time. The coaching staff changed. Even Teemu Pulkkinen was claimed off waivers. The team also had the benefit of some prospects turning pro this year with the likes of Alex Tuch and Joel Eriksson Ek looking to make the NHL roster. The NHL veterans on the squad like Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter are all getting another year older. However, there is another group of players that are capable of putting this team over the top.

    We know what we’re going to get out of the 10 year veteran players. They are who we think they are. It’s tough to rely on major production from rookies. Lest we not forget the crop of 24 year olds that this team has at its disposal. With many mired in inconsistency as they adjust to life in the NHL, it’s now time for this group of forwards to put it all together.

    Currently, there are five players on the Wild roster that are 24 years old; Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and newcomer Teemu Pulkkinen. These group has had varying success at the NHL level, but none of them have put it together for a full season, and we haven’t seen them all have success at the same time. The group of 24 year olds constitutes 42 percent of the roster, and yet, we are still waiting for them to take that next step.

    Each year we’ve seen improvement from each of those five players. Last season, three of the five surpassed the 40 point milestone. Coyle, Granlund, and Niederreiter all reached 40 points on the season. What we don’t have a clear idea of is their ceiling. All have provided flashes of brilliance.


    Mikael Granlund

    Nino Niederreiter

    Jason Zucker

    Teemu Pulkkinen

    Each has talent. Nino has his shot. Coyle has his size. Granlund has his vision. Zucker and Pulkkinen have speed. They all have the ability to create their shots without someone always having to feed them. It’s time for them to all emerge as a group.

    Last season, we heard Mike Yeo speak after he was fired and him explain a divide in the locker room between younger guys (these younger guys) and the team veterans. It’s no secret that there seem to be more leash given to veteran players over the youth of the team. Now that the bench boss has changed, it will be up to this group - this group of 24 year olds that represent the near future of the franchise - to show that they were deserving of more of that trust from the coaches.

    This team getting to the post-season and actually making it interesting in May and June has always hinged on the success of those players being difference makers. It’s up to them to show that they can move past any differences or slights they felt last year and take this team as their own. It’s up to them to execute, to produce, and to become the leaders in the locker room.

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