20 Games In: What We’ve Learned

By Wyatt Garin
Photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild are 20 games into the 2020-21 NHL season. Through the first 20 games of the season, we’ve learned a lot about the identity of this team, and Bill Guerin has learned a lot about how he will need to proceed to make this team even better going forward. Some of the most important things we’ve learned so far:

Kirill The Thrill Is For Real

Kirill Kaprizov has been nothing short of a godsend to this team since coming over from the KHL. Currently leading all rookies in the NHL with 19 points, Kaprizov is almost a lock for the Calder Trophy. Russian Jesus has been as good as advertised, and Bill Guerin has to start looking at how to lock him up to a long term contract as soon as possible.

Kaapo Kahkonen Is A Legit NHL Goalie

Drafted out of the Finnish league by the Wild in 2014, Kaapo Kahkonen has always been a bit of a polarizing prospect, as goaltenders usually tend to be. After winning the AHL’s Baz Bastien Award as the league’s top goalie last season, Kahkonen had virtually nothing left to prove at any level lower than the NHL. Finally getting his shot with the Wild this season, Kahkonen has been stellar, posting a 2.30 Goals Against Average and a .918 Save Percentage with a record of 8 wins and 4 losses through 13 starts. The Wild seem to have finally found a goalie of the future in the Finn. 

Ryan Suter’s Best Days Are Behind Him

I’ll preface this by saying that I, along with all Wild fans, should appreciate everything Ryan Suter has done for this team since signing here. He’s logged monster minutes for this club and been reliable as hell in the defensive zone. Unfortunately, we are starting to see regression in Suter’s game. He can no longer keep up with a lot of the speed the NHL has to offer, and that will start to become a problem for the team if he cannot find ways to keep up.

Dean Evason Was The Correct Hire For This Team

After taking over for Bruce Boudreau as interim head coach last season, many Wild fans were left to speculate on if Evason would be given the job, or if Bill Guerin would look elsewhere for a new bench boss. Luckily, Billy G decided to give Evason a shot at the head coaching job, and it’s paid dividends so far. Evason has found multiple line combinations that have given the Wild a lot of jump. He also runs a tight ship, as evidenced by Zach Parise getting health bombed for freelancing against the Vegas Golden Knights. Bottom line: giving Evason the head coaching gig was the right call.

Marcus Foligno Has Earned His Raise

Back in January, the Wild gave Marcus Foligno a substantial raise in the form of a 9.3 million dollar contract extension that runs through 2024. Foligno has done nothing but live up to the raise so far, potting 7 goals and 7 assists so far. Many fans worried about the implications of giving Foligno the contract extension. Let’s be honest, 9.3 million dollars is a lot of money to pay a middle six forward, especially for a team that already has the massive Ryan Suter and Zach Parise contracts counting against the salary cap. Foligno has so far crushed any doubts his contract may have created.

Jordan Greenway Cannot Be Lost To The Expansion Draft

After re-upping for 2 more years last season, many fans had pegged Greenway as potential Kraken bait for next year’s upcoming expansion draft. This season however, Greenway has come out flying, posting 18 points in 22 games so far. He also has looked way better overall and generally just more interested in actually playing hockey and using his size, something that fans wanted to see from him since becoming a regular member of the team. Bill Guerin will now be tasked with finding a way to keep Greenway and not lose him to Seattle or this could become another Alex Tuch situation.

The Wild Still Need Centermen

Coming into the season, the Wild lacked any true number 1 center, and it’s been painfully obvious that it’s still a major need for this team. Currently, Nick Bonino is the Wild’s best man in the dot, holding a 53.7 win percentage. Everyone else is below 50 percent. For some reference behind this stat, Mikko Koivu’s lowest faceoff win percentage in his Wild career was 50.9 in his second year in the NHL. Faceoff wins aren’t everything, but when the team is consistently starting without the puck on more than half the draws they take, that’s a problem.