Have the Minnesota Wild Found First Line of the Future?
by Joey Awaijane21 hours ago Follow @paladinolive
Within a year or two, Minnesota Wild fans may finally be witnessing the first legitimate top-line in franchise history.
Sure, the Wild have had a few top-line skaters over the years, but can we truly say they’ve ever had a number one center? Have they ever had three genuine top-line skaters on the ice together on a regular basis?
With the acquisition of Kevin Fiala from the much-maligned Paul Fenton, the long-awaited arrival of Kirill Kaprizov, thanks to Chuck Fletcher taking him in the 5th round of the 2015 draft and Bill Guerin getting his Signature on a contract, and the drafting of the highly touted Marco Rossi by future St. Paul Mayor and current Wild GM Bill Guerin.
Of course, I’m kidding about Bill Guerin being mayor of St. Paul (he may take a run for Governor of the State of Hockey though), but is there any doubt that he would win in a landslide if he ran? Alright, no more half-joking politics from me in this column.
One thing to think about is, how ironic it would be that if the Wild finally have assembled their first real top line, that it would have taken three different GMs to ultimately put it together!
Kevin Fiala, who is the senior member of this group in age and NHL experience at 24, though he shoots left, is very comfortable and played his breakout season last year on the right-wing.
Fiala, after a slow start last year looked like a franchise capable winger, not just a top 6 guy, and has the swagger, skating ability, shot, and stick handling of someone who many would consider the best player on the team, not only last year, but for many years down the line, not just on a talent depleted roster, but on an actual good team!
Kirill Kaprizov at 23 would man his natural position on the left-wing, and as we know, the sky is the limit for this young KHL star.
Kaprizov would likely have gone higher in the draft, if not for fears that he would remain in Russia for quite some time if he ever were to sign an NHL contract. Thankfully, after at least three years of nail-biting from all three Wild GMs and the entire fan base, Kaprizov would sign on July the 13th this past summer.
Kaprizov led the KHL in goals with 30 in 57 games in 2018-2019 and 33 goals in 57 games last season in 2019-2020, as you can see here on quanthockey.com.
The likelihood of Kaprizov translating to the NHL is pretty high, considering the KHL is considered to be the number two professional-level hockey league on the planet, second only to the NHL of course. Here’s a list of the top ten leagues according to hockeywriters.com.
With such great talent on the wing, this franchise has been clamoring for a legitimate top-line center since, well… 2000. With all due respect to Mikko Koivu of course, the Wild have never truly had a consensus game-changing First Line Center.
As the 2020 NHL Draft finally came on October 6th, fans were hoping and praying for Austrian Marco Rossi to somehow slip to where the Wild would pick at nine.
As luck would have it, the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres would both take talented wingers in Alexander Holtz and Jack Quinn respectively. What would follow, sent Wild fans on a frenzy into the night, when Marco Rossi to Minnesota became a reality.
Rossi, while not the fastest skater in the draft, still has enough speed and skill to center any line the Minnesota Wild have to offer him.
While very responsible defensively as the position demands, Rossi makes everything look easy with his incredible stick handling, scoring touch, and of course, playmaking abilities.
As a mere 18-year-old, Rossi dominated the OHL last year with the Ottawa 67’s, tallying 120 points, including 39 goals in only 56 games, leading the entire league in scoring, beating fellow draft prospect Cole Perfetti by nine points.
With Rossi as a 200-foot skater, who has no trouble in traffic because of his well-noted strength, and can score goals while setting up two other potential stars, the Wild have something here that could be quite special very soon.
At a bare minimum, this could make a very exciting top power-play unit, if you want to shuffle the top six skaters around to balance the lines. God knows none of these guys will be on the third line, if only for a single shift here and there.
"The eternal fate of the noble and enlightened: to be brutally crushed by the armed and dumb."