The Minnesota Wild sit just behind the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division despite having been without starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom for most of the season. Backup goalie Josh Harding has been phenomenal and ranks near the top of the league in most statistical categories, while Jason Pominville and Zach Parise continue to justify their high price tags by delivering offensively. In addition to the performance of that trio, center Mikko Koivu is quietly putting together a season that could be one of his best yet.
Koivu has for years been a picture of consistency for the Wild, and his 20 points this season are tied for tops on the team. He’s averaging just under a point per game, which keeps him close to his career scoring pace. His 15 assists lead the Wild, and the fact that he contributes more helpers than goals keeps him out of the spotlight that Parise and Pominville enjoy. Koivu’s offensive production is made even more important by the fact that Dany Heatley is still struggling (four goals, seven points) and only three other forwards have 10 points or more (Matt Cooke, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund). Almost half of his points have come on the power play, a big reason why the Wild rank fifth in the league with the man-advantage. Only ten points separate the top team in the division from the one at the bottom, so the Wild can’t afford to let off the gas this season. If Koivu can continue producing and making everyone around him better, that shouldn’t be a problem.