Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taking Stock of the Wild Lines

By Joey Cavalier

There is still a lot of offseason left, but as we sit right now, here's what the Wild’s depth chart looks like.

Line 1: Pierre-Marc Bouchard (LW), Mikko Koivu (C), Dany Heatley (RW)

Notes: Don’t be surprised if the Wild give Setoguchi a shot at LW, and play him on alongside of his best friend, Dany Heatley.

Analysis: Whether Bouchard or Setoguchi plays LW, you can expect this line to put up big numbers. Having a sniper (Heatley and/or Setoguchi) on the same line as Koivu will only help either of the rising star’s causes. Koivu has the chance to put up career numbers with top talent joining him on the first line.

Line 2: Guillaume Latendresse (LW), Matt Cullen (C), Devin Setoguchi (RW)

Notes: Bouchard may be moved to the second line, but Setoguchi will likely play on the second unit in the name of balancing talent.

Analysis: Setoguchi and a healthy Latendresse will add a much-needed scoring punch to the Wild’s second line. Latendresse has shown that, when healthy, he can be a top-six forward and contribute regularly. Cullen will need to prove his worth with solid, steady play to remain on the second line. This line has the talent to be effective on both sides of the puck.

Line 3: Darroll Powe (LW), Kyle Brodziak (C), Cal Clutterbuck (RW)

Notes: Powe can play center or left wing; watch for the Wild to use him on the wing more often than center. Brodziak may move up to the second line if Cullen struggles, but will likely stay on the third line to provide a scoring punch.

Analysis: This line will be the Wild’s “checking line,” and will get significant minutes on the penalty kill. However, Clutterbuck and Brodziak have proven they can score. Look for this line to be a very important part of what the Wild does this year. This line has the ability to hit you in the mouth, and then put the puck in the net.

Line 4: Eric Nystrom (LW), Colton Gillies (C), Brad Staubitz (RW)

Notes: Colton Gillies was signed to a one-way contract; which means he will be on the Wild’s roster next year. Expect him to center the fourth line.

Analysis: This going to be a big-bodied, blue-collared type of line that does the dirty work. Expect a physical, defensive style of play from this gritty line. However, this group will not contribute much offensively.

Pair 1: Marek Zidlicky (OD)* Nick Schultz (DD)*

Notes: The proven veterans will undoubtedly bolster the Wild’s first defensive pairing.

Analysis: Zidlicky is an offensive defenseman and Schultz is the quintessential positional defenseman. Combining these two will be a very effective combination that will be on the ice against the opposition’s top scoring lines.

Pair 2: Jared Spurgeon (OD) Greg Zanon (DD)

Notes: I believe that the Wild will pair one of their many youngsters with Zanon. Stylistically, Spurgeon seems like the most logical defenseman to pair with Zanon.

Analysis: With Zanon blocking every shot taken on net, and Spurgeon contributing offensively, this pairing has the chance to be good. The main question with this pairing is Spurgeon’s size (5-9, 175 lbs). Will he be able to keep up with the grind of the NHL for a full season? However, Spurgeon and Zanon did well when paired up last year.

Pair 3: Clayton Stoner (DD) Mike Lundin (DD)

Notes: Look for Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella, Drew Bagnall, and Justin Falk to step in and get some play.

Analysis: Lundin is an underappreciated defenseman who blocks a ton of shots. Stoner is a bruiser. The concern is that this pairing won’t produce much offensively. The youngsters mentioned above will get a chance to play meaningful minutes throughout the season, likely at the expense of Stoner and/or Lundin.

*(OD) refers to “offensive” defensemen; while (DD) refers to “defensive” defensemen.

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