The Wild’s offseason is officially over, but preparations for puck drop are just heating up.
After another summer of turnover, the team will be back on the ice for the first of practices training camp on Thursday at Tria Rink in St. Paul and there’s still plenty to figure out.
From roster battles to lineup changes, the Wild have work to do to get ready for opening night Oct. 13 against the New York Rangers. What happens during their on-ice sessions and a seven-game preseason schedule, which begins Sunday vs. Stanley Cup champion Colorado at Xcel Energy Center, should answer these questions.
Can Rossi ramp it up?
Once again, prized prospect Marco Rossi will try to make the Wild and this could be the year he sticks with the squad.
For starters, the ninth overall draft pick from 2020 is coming off a strong season in the minors, racking up 18 goals and 35 assists for 53 points in 63 games in the American Hockey League. Rossi, who turns 21 on Friday, also now knows what it’s like to skate in the NHL after the center made his debut back in January when he appeared in two games with the Wild before returning to Iowa.
Plus, the Wild have room on their roster.
Who can step in for Greenway and Merrill?
Winger Jordan Greenway and defenseman Jon Merrill won’t be ready for the start of the season after each had offseason surgery on an upper-body injury, and their absences affect the Wild’s top shutdown line and third defensive pairing.
Tyson Jost is expected to get the first crack at filling Greenway’s seat alongside Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno after Jost stood in for the injured Greenway late last season and the Wild liked that look. Acquired in March in a trade with the Avalanche, Jost chipped in two goals and four assists in 21 games with the Wild.
As for the blue line, Merrill’s recovery coupled with Dmitry Kulikov’s trade to Anaheim certainly elevates Calen Addison up the depth chart, but the 22-year-old will still have to earn a spot in the lineup. He had two goals and two assists in 15 games with the Wild in 2021-22 and another seven goals and 27 assists in 43 games for Iowa. Addison also has power-play potential.
Who could fight for roster spots?
Rossi and Addison might be the most intriguing candidates, but they’re not the only possibilities.
Forward Nic Petan has more than 150 games of NHL experience, most recently with Vancouver, and defenseman Andrej Sustr split last season with Tampa Bay and Anaheim. Both players signed two-way contracts with the Wild in July.
Dakota Mermis, who’s already had spot duty with the Wild over the past two seasons, is another option for the back end.
Will the Brodin-Dumba breakup work?
The Wild plan to tweak their defense by pairing captain Jared Spurgeon with Jonas Brodin and placing Jake Middleton alongside Matt Dumba, but will these changes click?
Brodin and Dumba have been a longtime duo for the Wild, and chemistry like theirs can be tough to find. Middleton’s grit also seemed to complement Spurgeon’s smarts when the two teamed up last season after Middleton’s arrival at the trade deadline from San Jose.
Still, it makes sense why the Wild would want to experiment: Brodin and Spurgeon are the team’s best defenders while Middleton and Dumba play a physical style.
Can the power play be salvaged?
Both sides of special teams will receive a makeover at the camp.
Schemes will be adjusted, and the Wild will test out different personnel for the power play and penalty kill after costly displays last season. The power play finished middle of the pack (20.5%) but went 4-for-24 in the first-round playoff loss to St. Louis, while the penalty kill ranked 25th (76.1%) and gave up the third-most goals (63) in the NHL.