Which players sit whenever the Wild finally get fully healthy?
“It’s a wonderful problem for coaches to have,” Wild coach Dean Evason said.
ST. PAUL -- Though he won’t make the upcoming road trip with the Minnesota Wild, it sounds like Kirill Kaprizov is close to getting back on his skates. Meanwhile, it seems like only a matter of time before Gustav Nyquist is ready to make his team debut as he has been cleared to practice.
In other words, the Wild are on the verge of being fully healthy, meaning it won’t be long before coach Dean Evason has some very tough decisions regarding his lineup.
Asked about potentially having to sit a player that doesn’t deserve to sit, Evason emphasized how the Wild have fostered a culture in the locker room where teammates support teammates regardless of playing time.
No player personifies that mentality more than Sam Steel. After serving as the No. 1 center for a good chunk of this season, Steel now spends most of his nights as a healthy scratch. He has fallen out of the lineup over the past month or so, slotting in only when other players are hurt.
To his credit, Steel has remained a good soldier through it all, never once making a fuss about his role. The same thing can be said about Calen Addison, who has taken a backseat to other players on the blue line as of late, yet has continued to perform anytime his number is called.
It raises the question: Which players sit whenever the Wild finally get fully healthy?
The top half of the lineup is mostly likely set in stone at this point. There’s no doubt Kaprizov will reclaim his spot on the top line alongside Ryan Hartman and opposite Mats Zuccarello, and Joel Eriksson Ek will continue to center the dynamic duo of Marcus Johansson and Matt Boldy.
The bottom half of the lineup features a lot more question marks. It might make sense to try Nyquist alongside Freddy Gaudreau and opposite Marcus Foligno as soon as he’s back to full strength, and have Connor Dewar center Brandon Duhaime and Ryan Reaves.
That would leave Mason Shaw and Oskar Sundqvist in the press box despite the fact both players have been extremely effective night in and night out.
This simple thought experiment effectively showcases how difficult life will be on the coaching staff in the coming weeks. Not that Evason is complaining about having the roster at 100%.
“It’s a wonderful problem for coaches to have,” Evason said. “It’s not easy for the individual. There are tough talks to the players that have to sit out. But it’s an absolutely fantastic thing to have so many players that can play the game at the NHL level.”
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