When the NHL lockout ends and the Minnesota Wild are able to take the ice again, they will send out a much improved roster in hopes of returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If they are to do so, they will need production from their now deeper list of wingers.
After being traded from San Jose prior to the 2011-12 season, Heatley continued his statistical plunge–he posted only 53 points, the lowest in his career when he played a full season. In addition, his goals scored, assists, and shooting percentage have all declined each year for the last five years. Heatley has only missed two games in the last four seasons, but he has not been anything close to the elite goal scorer he was in his younger days. He is still just 31 years old, so he still has time to regain his form, but he comes with a hefty price tag for his low production. With a much improved roster this year, Heatley may be given more time in the offensive zone and used less as a two-way player (he has really only ever been known as a goal scorer) so there is a chance he could return to form, but Wild fans should temper their expectations for Heater going forward…before we can expect another 40-goal campaign, he has to show that he can still score even 30.
Bouchard’s once-promising career has been derailed by head injuries–he missed almost the entire 2009-10 season, then returned for 59 games in 10-11 but once again was sidelined by concussions last year and only skated 37 games. When healthy, he displays great skating, puck moving ability and hockey instincts, but unfortunately we can’t be sure whether he will be able to play a full season again. Bouchard will be 28 this year, so if he manages to stay healthy this year he could play an important role for the team. He has skated on the wing in recent seasons, but he is a natural centerman, so we will have to watch how Mike Yeo deploys his lines. If PMB can stay healthy, he could be a great asset to the team…but if not…his contract is up after this season and he carries over a $4 Million cap hit, so the club may have to part ways with the talented but oft-injured playmaker.
Powe will turn 27 this year, so it’s safe to assume we have seen what he is going to bring to the table on offense–he has never racked up more than 9 goals or 17 points in a season. However, in his first year with the Wild last year, he showed how valuable he can be as a penalty kill specialist. Powe has a great instinct on defense, and can still contribute to the team on the third or fourth line as a grinder who can move the puck out of the defensive zone to clear the way for the club’s more talented shooters.
While Kassian is widely regarded as the team’s enforcer, he has shown glimpses that he might have what it takes to be a more productive member of the team than just a fighter. Though it is a small sample size, Kassian scored two goals on just 13 shots last year, good for 15.4%, and he is not afraid to carry the puck into the zone or crash the net. At just 25 years old, it remains to be seen whether Kassian can step up his play now that Brad Staubitz is no longer with the team, but if he can improve on what he showed last year, the Wild may have found a valuable depth player.