The Current State of Wild Goaltending

Justin Goldman

2010-04-05

Niko Hovinen - courtesy of kuvat.fi

 

The current state of Minnesota Wild goaltending displays a promising and bright future, thanks in large part to their 2009 NHL Entry Draft picks making big waves this year in their respective junior leagues. Combined with solid experience and good youth at the AHL and ECHL levels, the Wild have bright stars illuminating the team's path and a classy depth chart worthy of that recognition.

 

Like we will come to discover with most NHL teams, their depth chart starts and ends with some European flair. The undrafted Niklas Backstrom continues to reigns supreme in Minnesota, while the tower of power prospect from Finland, Niko Hovinen, a lanky kid considered as another hidden gem, just re-signed with Lahti in SM-Liiga.

 

When Hovinen was drafted, he was considered a long shot. The term "work in progress" was a stretch and it was one of those picks that banked more on a trend than a guarantee. Lanky European goalies slowly started to become all the rage starting after the NHL Lockout. Even though it seemed like a shot in the dark at the time, you can't blame them for drafting a kid who already has such an intimidating presence.

 

"Good pick, Minnesota." I said that same thing twice last summer, as the Wild plucked Matt Hackett from the ranks in the third round (77th overall) and then Darcy Kuemper 161st overall in the 6th round. As you'll see from the questions below, which were left by fantasy managers in the School of Block forums, there are a lot of positives coming out of Minnesota. This team has good structure and coverage from top to bottom and only one small hole currently exists.

 

Also be sure to check out the Top-100 Fantasy Prospects Rankings updates for the month of March! I just uploaded them this morning. Kuemper moved up a few spots, as did Hackett and Khudobin.

 

Niklas Backstrom's save percentage is way down from most seasons and his salary is tough to justify. Given that his huge cap hit spans multiple seasons, do you see a trade, or do the Wild stick it out?


Even though Backstrom's statistics and fantasy value has declined this season, I don't think it's solely due to being any less talented or less capable of being a workhorse. There were a lot of changes in Minnesota to start the season – everything from coaching to playing style to their overall identity. And for as good as Backstrom has been in his career as an undrafted goalie, you have to expect a slight drop in value at some point. In fact, I'd say at least 75% of his games this year were quality starts and he easily stole at least five games.

 

Expect Minnesota to look at the season as nothing more than a small step back, but nothing worth panicking over. He will be fine. In a position where complacency kills, the fact his stats were not as good as last year will force him to work extra hard over the summer to improve his speed and conditioning and stay sharp.

 

If there's one thing he'll want to work on this summer, it's being a bit more active with his hands and feet. I notice that his traditional positional style has caused him to miss a lot of shots in tight or deflections. It's not that his