Minnesota Wild need to improve their center depth

When the 2021-22 NHL season begins, Minnesota Wild continued to sit at the top of the Central Division with a record of 11-6-1 (23 points). With that said, it’s only the first five points away from sixth in the table, so Wild still needs to figure out how to distance the group. One way to do that is to add another top hub to the group.

The reality is that Wild’s centers have been playing below their potential. Correct, Rem Pitlickbreakthrough of very impressive and Joel Eriksson EkHis 12 points are more than respectable (albeit, too low by his standards). However, it is quite reasonable to say that no other player in this position really stands out. That’s why Minnesota should consider adding another top hub sometime between now and the March 21, 2022 trading deadline.

Wild .’s current hub group

As mentioned above, Wild’s current center team is led by Eriksson Ek, who signed an eight-year, $42 million contract extension in July. Expectations are high whenever a player signs such a contract, especially after he scored 19 goals and 11 assists in 56 games last year. While his current 0.42 goals per game (GPG) puts him on a career-high 34 in an 82-game season, his four assists leave plenty to be desired. expectation. It’s not like he can’t be a capable player. After all, he had 21 assists in 62 games just two seasons ago. Despite that, he still has more than enough talent that he should find more stability as the season goes on.

Pitlick was another Wild center that stood out positively in the first quarter of the 2021-22 season. Before Minnesota claim him from the Nashville Predator on October 6, he had only two points in NHL games of his career. Since joining Wild, he has had four goals and three assists in 10 games, including scoring his first hat trick against Seattle Kraken on November 14, however, Pitlick only 21 games of NHL experience under him. While there’s a chance he could be a part of the franchise for years to come, he’s still unproven (to some extent) and the team can’t expect him to perform as a nightly top six striker.

Administrators Rem Pitlick Milwaukee
Rem Pitlick during his time with the Milwaukee Admirals. (Jenae Anderson / Hockey writers)

The Wild also features Frederick Gaudreau and Nico Sturm However, on the list, neither of them stepped up like the number 2 in the midfield. Currently, Gaudreau is having the second-highest Time On Ice (TOI) of all Minnesota centers at over 17 minutes. Considering he has only eight points in 19 games, that’s not necessarily productive enough to justify his frosty time. While Sturm has done well to win head-to-head matches (59.1%), he has only seven points and doesn’t look like much more than the bottom of group six at the moment.

And then there’s Victor Rask and Nick Bjugstad. Rask’s tenure in Minnesota was nothing short of disappointing. After two seasons adding 40 points and averaging 0.48 points per game (PPG) with the Carolina Hurricanes, he’s averaging 0.34 with Wild and hasn’t finished with more than 23 points in a single campaign. On the other hand, Bjugstad is more likely to disappoint this year. Having secured double-digit totals earlier in his career, the former first-round international has two goals and no assists in 16 games this season. A history of injuries is preventing Bjugstad from becoming the player he once was, making him the man Wild should consider replacing to improve the team.

Center for wild goal

During the summer months and even into the beginning of the year, it seems the real possibility is Jack Eichel could have been traded to Minnesota. Apparently, that didn’t happen with the Buffalo Sabers transferring him to the Vegas Golden Knights. It’s still disappointing, though, as Wild looks like they’re ready to take home a legitimate #1 hub and now have to turn around other options on the market.

Related: Minnesota Wild – 2013 Draft Review

One hub that can make a real impact for Wild is Vancouver Canucks ‘JT Miller. ConsciousBen Kuzma’s reported that Minnesota has begun spinning around a potential sale for the 28-year-old center. He’s the type of attacking talent who can transform any team’s top nine strikers. His 137 points in 142 career games with the Canucks show how dangerous he can be and he has played at a game-by-game pace in the current campaign. Miller’s contract has an average annual salary (AAV) of $5.25 million per season through 2022-23, however, that’s more than a bargain for the production he brings.

JT Miller Vancouver Canucks
JT Miller, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / Hockey writers)

There are also an unlimited number of freelance agents pending, who will likely join the block before this year’s transaction deadline. It wasn’t the strongest round of UFAs, although someone like Tomas Hertl could be someone Wild considers. Since bursting into the limelight in the 2018-19 NHL season, Hertl has had 166 points in the last 194 games (0.86 PPG). The Czech midfielder’s most impressive performance came when he scored 74 points in 77 games just three seasons ago. If that’s the type of player Minnesota can make, there’s no doubt he can electric stimulation for offense and maybe even motivate Eriksson Ek to compete more strongly for the No. 1 role.

At the same time, management may not want to spend capital on a big-name player if they leave at the end of the year. Or, perhaps, they don’t want to use up the future salary cap space. Fortunately, there are affordable options out there. Philadelphia Flyers Center Derick Brassard is a veteran who played better than expected. After many poor seasons, the 34-year-old Canadian player has 11 points from 17 games this season. That’s good enough for a pace of 50 points in 82 games, which would also be his best total in six years. Brassard also had 117 games of playoff experience, including four Eastern Conference Finals and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals as a 2013-14 New York Ranger. He is currently dealing with a lower body injury, so it is a situation that needs to be monitored. In any case, his presence could benefit both Wild’s offense and dressing room even at this stage of his career.

Wild Have Options in Iowa

If the commercial market for centers isn’t interested in Wild, they can always turn to some viable options within the American Hockey League for help. The organization’s centers in Iowa have performed well this season, especially when it comes to Marco Rossi. NS former star of Ottawa 67 impressed in his first 11 AHL games, scoring three goals and providing 11 assists. Considering that Gaudreau leads all Minnesota players with five assists this season, it’s safe to say that Rossi could be the NHL club’s best midfield player if given the chance. festival.

Related: Wild’s 3 best value contracts for 2021-22

Mason Shaw is another striker in fine form, scoring four goals and adding seven assists in 13 games so far. He impressed last season with a rate of 0.73 PPG, but history of ACL injury has led some to wonder if he can reach his potential to the next level. There is also 29-year-old veteran Kyle Rau (12 points in 8 games), although he has never impressed in the NHL despite his steady AHL production. With that being said, even giving any of the extended looks above could light a fire under the centers already on Wild’s list.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned players are Minnesota’s best at finding solutions internally. Joseph Cramarossa is also starting to have an AHL campaign in his career, however, he is also not finding NHL success even though he was drafted over a decade ago. Wild gave Connor Dewar 4 major league games this season, but that resulted in 0 points and a plus/minus rating of -3. It doesn’t look like he’s ready for a long stint in the NHL and Minnesota is better off not burning any more games off his input contract.

Wild still has time

The Wild are lucky to have a position where they don’t need more centers overnight. As mentioned before, they’ve been near the top of their department all year, and the center team is now looking for ways to get the committee’s work done. That’s not guaranteed to work for the next 60+ games, though, and it won’t be long before the top hubs on the market start laying off. Minnesota lost to Eichel, and adding another player in the position could be the difference between an extended playoff and another post-season opener.

Regardless of whether Wild’s solution is internal or external, one thing is clear: life will be stressful if Minnesota solves the problem while it’s still small. Minnesota Wild need to improve their center depth

Subhankar Mondal

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