Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Minnesota Wild
For the last 13 years (12 with The Hockey News) I have reviewed each team from a fantasy hockey standpoint, and graded them. My 14th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – The biggest change in the offseason is the coach. Bruce Boudreau is one of the best and his teams always make the postseason. He has also had more of a defensive slant over the past few years, which could act as a drag on production. Then again, the highest scoring player on the team last year was Mikko Koivu, who had just 56 points. Can it get worse than that?
Perhaps the high end won’t be very high, but I think you can look for several more 45-point players as this team scores by committee. Last year three players topped that mark and it’s entirely feasible that seven or even eight players reach that target in 2016-17.
The other big change was the big-name disappointing star leaving (Vanek) and the big-name disappointing star arriving (Staal). The difference here is that expectations for Staal are set properly: he’s a 2A center, possibly third line, depending on how often they use Charlie Coyle and depending on how well Erik Haula handles more responsibility. Nobody expects Staal to get to 55 points (and he’s paid accordingly).
Ready for full-time – Christian Folin has limited upside as a puck-moving NHL defenseman, given the other options already in the Minnesota lineup. But he’s probably 50-50 to make the team as their No.6.
Mike Reilly was last summer’s big NCAA prospect that made the news for deciding not to sign with the team that drafted him (Columbus). Instead, he signed with the Wild and went minus-27 in 45 AHL games with Iowa. With the big club he had seven points in 29 games and wasn’t used at all in the postseason. So far, the Mike Reilly experiment is following the same script as Edmonton’s Justin Schultz experiment. (Read more on Reilly here)
Alex Tuch, one of Minnesota’s top forward prospects, could also sneak in there with a huge camp. But the former college star will likely need a full AHL season first. (Read more on Tuch here)
Fantasy Outlook – Minnesota kind of stalled last year when they slipped from 12th in goals-for down to 19th. And I project them to finish 21st in 2016-17 so it won’t get any better. Mikael Granlund showed some nice flashes of offense that gives us hope, and Boudreau said that he’d like to see Granlund on the wing with Mikko Koivu. And Nino Niederreiter improved in leaps and bounds last season, so if he can build on that then there is hope. In the pipeline, the Wild are hoping that Alex Tuch will eventually become a solid second-liner and Joel Eriksson Ek will be top-line guy in a couple of years. But other than that, the farm system is slim for fantasy owners.
Fantasy Grade: C (last year was C+)