The Starting Six series comes to you to dive into the best player at each position all-time for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the Minnesota Wild all-time lineup.
Starting Six: Minnesota Wild All-Time Lineup
The Minnesota Wild entered the league as an expansion team in the 2000-01 season. They will begin their 17th campaign as a franchise this year and have made the playoffs in exactly half of their existence. Today, they have the pieces to be a playoff contender in the Western Conference yet again, but will look for a deeper run than their disappointing first round exit this past season.
Being a relatively young franchise in a league of 31 teams, it is not challenging to pin point the top six influential players for this team. Some have put up Hall of Fame-worthy careers already, and one player in particular is still showcasing what a draft steal can truly become.
Center – Mikko Koivu (2005-Present)
This should come as no surprise to any Wild fan or hockey fan alike. The 34-year-old captain of Minnesota has spent his entire NHL career with this franchise. Spanning over 843 games, he holds the team record for games played and has the stats to back up his status as a sixth overall pick. He leads the team in assists (435) and points (614) and has also tallied 31 game winning goals.
The Finnish star has also seen his fair share of playoff games, having suited up for fifty of them. He’s registered eleven goals and thirteen assists in that span, and will look to steer his team to another playoff berth in the 2017-18 season.
His best season came back in 2009-10 where he registered 71 points with 22 goals. He has scored 20 or more goals only three times in his career, and not since that 09-10 season, but has cracked the 50 point mark in all but two of his NHL seasons (lock out year excepted). Last year Koivu tallied 58 points, his highest total since the 2010-11 season, and will look to reach the 200 goal milestone this season, only needing 21 to do so.
He is entering the final year of a seven year, $47.25 million deal, before becoming a UFA. It is unlikely that Minnesota would move their longest tenured player at the deadline, so expect him to ink a new short term deal at some point next off season, if not before. Koivu has been the face of this franchise for over a decade and when his playing days are over his #9 will likely be the first retired by the team.
Left Wing – Andrew Brunette (2001-04/2008-11)
Brunette played in over 1100 games before retiring in 2013. During his career, he had two stints with the Wild: first in 2001-04 and again between 2008-11. He currently ranks fifth in games played as a member of the Wild at 489 and his 119 goals and 202 assists are both fourth on the team’s all-time record lists.
His contract for his second stint with the team was one of the more team-friendly deals in franchise history. His willingness to accept a 3 year, $7 million deal to a top-six forward further demonstrated his desire to return to the team. Drafted 174th by the Washington Capitals in 1993, his path to the NHL required a lot of determination and opportunity.
Brunette tallied 733 points over his career, 321 as a member of the Minnesota Wild. He may not have the numbers to make it into the Hall of Fame, but his knowledge for the game can never be questioned, a fact which lead to his promotion to an Assistant Coach role with the Wild in the 2015-16 season.
Right Wing – Marian Gaborik (2000-09)
Another obvious choice at this position. Gaborik spent the first nine years of his career with the Wild and his name is found atop numerous offensive categories in team history, including goals (219), power play goals (59), and game-winning goals (43). He also ranks third in assists (218) and second in points (437). He suited up in 502 games as a member of this franchise and he may go down as the best winger to ever play for the team.
After being drafted 3rd overall by the Wild in 2000, he made his NHL debut that same year, registering 36 points in 71 games. His best season with Minnesota came back in 2007-08 where he tallied a career high 42 goals and his first of two eighty point seasons; the second coming as a member of the New York Rangers in 2009-10.
He has reached the thirty goal mark seven times in his career and has 794 points over 989 games played. He is mere games away from career milestones in goals (396) and assists (398). Few players manage to play in 1000 NHL games while also registering 400 goals and 400 assists, but Gaborik will. His best seasons are behind him and the injury bug has crept up on him in recent seasons. He will likely retire within the next four years and when he does will almost certainly end up in the Hall of Fame.
Left-Handed Defenseman – Nick Schultz (2001-12)
After selecting Gaborik with the third overall pick in 2000, Minnesota selected Nick Schultz 33rd that same year and found a cornerstone defenseman for their franchise for a decade. His 743 games played in Minnesota rank second to only Mikko Koivu and his tenure with the franchise was key to the success it found. He did not light up the stat sheet with only 128 points in his span with the team, but his 322 penalty minutes certainly stand out. Not all NHL teams will be privy to a blue line like we saw with the Nashville Predators this past season, but a defenseman’s key role is not to put points on the board, but rather to keep the other teams off it.
In 2008 the Wild inked Schultz to a 6 year, $21 million deal further solidifying him as their top line blue liner. However, with the trade deadline moving and him now in his thirties the Wild pulled the trigger on a deal with the Edmonton Oilers for Tom Gilbert and shipped him out.
Right-Handed Defenseman – Jared Spurgeon (2010-Present)
The 27-year-old defenseman has become a key piece to the Wild blue line and continues to have a larger role with each passing season. He was drafted in the sixth round (156th) by the New York Islanders, but made his NHL debut with Minnesota in the 2010-11 season. In 55 games he will pass Gaborik for fourth all time played as a member of the Wild and he will certainly garner consideration for the captaincy should Koivu sign elsewhere next season, or when he retires.
Spurgeon has played in 448 NHL games, all with Minnesota, and tallied 168 points in the process. His most impressive stat however is his ability to stay out of the penalty box, having a mere 68 penalty in that span. That averages out to one two-minute minor every thirteen games. He posted a career high 38 points last year and will look to crack 40 in the 2017-18 season.
Goalie – Niklas Backstrom (2006-15)
From the 2006-07 season through the 2014-15 season, Backstrom was the man between the pipes for the Wild. He was signed as a free agent and for the better part of six seasons was an integral part to this team’s success. Despite only reaching the playoffs once as a member of the Wild, he played in 409 games and recorded 194 wins. His .915 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average are certainly respectable numbers and his 28 shutouts jump off the page. After signing a 3 year, $10.25 million deal in 2013, he became the backup goalie that same season. When Devan Dubnyk entered the equation, the writing was on the wall and in the 2015-16 season he was traded to the Calgary Flames. Currently, Backstrom is the winningest goalie in franchise history and continues to play today in the KIHL.
Defenseman – Brent Burns (2003-11)
Burns played in 453 games for the Wild registering 183 points and 325 PIM in that span. It was not until his final year with the team that he became a point producing threat where he tallied 46 points in 80 games. It has only been as a member of the San Jose Sharks, and over the past three seasons, where we have witnessed him become a top point producer on the blue line, leading to a Norris Trophy this past season.
Left Wing – Zach Parise (2012-Present)
Since joining the Wild, he now ranks third in franchise goals (124) and will look to build on the 251 points he has tallied as a member of the club. He will look to reach the 700 career point plateau this season, and is currently sitting on 661.
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