SUMMER WILD MAILBAGJul 22, 2019
Who do you think comes down to Iowa from the crowded forward situation in Minnesota?
I should preface this with the fact that every player wants to be up in Minnesota. That’s the goal. And with 15-plus guys fighting for 13-ish spots, those roster spots are going to have to be earned. Expect a lot of great competition between the forward corps to decide who gets to stay in Minnesota.
With that said, I think the biggest factors for determining spots will be health and ability to adapt to the NHL. Mikko Koivu tore his ACL and MCL on Feb. 6. In 2017-18, Luke Kunin tore only his ACL on March 4, 2018. His first game back in the AHL was on Oct. 12 and didn’t return to Minnesota’s lineup until Dec. 11. Kunin is 15 years younger than Koivu too. Adding that up, will Koivu be ready for game action by Oct. 3? If not, that’s an additional opening for a player to take.
Secondly, can guys like Nico Sturm or Gerry Mayhew adapt to the NHL game? Sturm played in two games in Minnesota at the end of the 2018-19 season, playing 12:14 and 13:20 in those games. A very small sample size. Meanwhile, Mayhew has only played in the AHL but has consistently shown he can drive play and put up points, as evidenced by his career-high 27 goals and 60 points in 71 games and another nine goals and 11 points in 11 playoff games in 2018-19. If you can score goals, you’re going to get a good look. But can he make the jump to the bigger and faster NHL? And if so, are either of them better than the options Minnesota already has?
But you never know what roster moves may happen between now and the beginning of the season. Something could pop up and the situation becomes much clearer.
Just my opinion though.
Do you guys see the Iowa Wild ever wearing the original green Minnesota Wild jerseys as a throwback?
As of right now, there is no plan for Iowa to wear the original green Wild jersey as a throwback. However, in addition to the three specialty jerseys Iowa will wear this season, the team is also going to debut a new third jersey. Look for that as we get closer to the beginning of the season.
Will there ever be an outdoor game?
We would love to have an outdoor game in Iowa. In 2017-18 we hosted Hockey Days Iowa, a 3-on-3 outdoor tournament that saw more than 300 participants across four divisions. More than 50 teams competed. It was crazy, especially for the temperature being in the negatives. Bringing hockey back to its purest form, under the open sky, would be a dream for us.
What is the status of Dmitry Sokolov?
Sokolov made the most of limited minutes last season as a rookie. When he was in the lineup, there were nights where he only played 10 or so minutes. There were a lot of games where he didn’t see any power play ice time.
Yet, he finished the campaign with 16 goals, which was tied for the third-highest total on the team.
I know the coaching staff and Minnesota management has challenged him to be ready for his second season – urging him to make sure he’s in top condition and ready to take the next step in his career. If Sokolov proves he’s up to the task he’ll earn more minutes. Thus, his offensive production should increase. If he comes in unprepared (read: out of shape) then he’ll find himself fighting to stay in the lineup. I think it’s really that simple and Sokolov knows it.
In fairness, Sokolov turned 21 just before the regular season ended, so the organization knows it needs to show some patience. But the young Russian also needs to take it upon himself to be ready for September’s training camp.
Put it this way – anything less than 20 goals and a big role in Iowa (especially as the season moves on) would be a disappointment. He’s got the talent. He loves the game. Now he just has to prove it every night.
Will the Wild ever play teams from the Eastern Conference? I know in the past we had played the Marlies and it's fun seeing new teams.
We have tried in the past to play some teams outside of the Western Conference. It just takes two teams to make it work. It’s something on our radar because we know fans would love to play different teams. I think we’re getting close to hopefully having an Eastern road trip and then having those teams to Iowa. It’s great for the team and the fans to play opponents you don’t see very often. Hopefully soon we could have a couple of Eastern teams at Wells Fargo Arena.
Of the newbies playing for Iowa this season, who are you most looking forward to see: Ivan Lodnia, Brandon Duhaime, or Connor Dewar?
My answer is Connor Dewar.
I mean how can you not be pumped for this kid to make his debut?
Honestly, he probably could have slotted into Iowa’s lineup during the Calder Cup Playoffs based on his skill, compete level and pedigree.
A third-round pick by Minnesota in 2018, Dewar posted 149 points over his last two seasons with Everett in the WHL. Those gaudy numbers included a whopping 74 goals. He can score, he competes his tail off…talent-wise it’s all there.
I asked Mike Benton, Everett’s radio broadcaster, for his take on Dewar:
“Unlike any player I’ve ever seen. Absolute nails. Leader. Intensity when on ice is off the charts. Relentless. Raw skill, still a work in progress but never backs down from a battle at the net. Scored an Ovechkin off-his-back type goal while being tripped up on a shorthanded breakaway as a 16-year-old. Branded “pitbull” at that age for a reason.”
That’s coming from a guy who watched this kid play every night the last four years.
I also spoke with a former WHL assistant coach who coached against Dewar. Here’s what he added. I wanted to keep him anonymous.
“His motor is on 24/7. That kid does not stop working.”
The coach went on to compare him to the Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher. He said you have to account for Dewar every time he’s on the ice.
He added: “He’ll play NHL games for sure,” — most likely meaning in his career, not this season.
What is the most likely goaltending lineup in both IA and MN?
For as many hard decisions Minnesota will have at forward, it’s relatively straightforward for the goaltenders. Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock will be in Minnesota while Kaapo Kahkonen and Mat Robson will be down in Iowa. Both Kahkonen and Robson need development and aren’t ready to make that next step to the NHL. Last season, Kahkonen went on a tear in November and December, being named the AHL Goaltender of the Month for November. But you could tell the games started to catch up to him in March and April. Continuing to adjust to the North American game is going to be huge for him but he’s definitely got the skills to be a quality goaltender.
Really, the only decision Minnesota will have to make is with Dereck Baribeau, who’s played four seasons in the QMJHL. I’d imagine he’ll probably head back to juniors for a final season as well, but it really depends on how management views the Q compared to the ECHL in terms of what’s best for his development.
Are we getting another preseason NHL game this year?
There will not be an NHL preseason game this season. The NHL preseason schedules are already set. That being said, I know down here in Iowa, we are very are open to the idea of having another one at Wells Fargo Arena. Minnesota was impressed all around with the preseason game last season, especially the fans who turned out. Des Moines really made an impression on the big club.
Pat's or Geno's?
Pat’s. Not only are their cheesesteaks better, but Pat’s cheese fries are legendary. Now, to be honest, I haven’t been to either place in years (keep in mind I moved away from “home” back in 2005). When I’m back in Philly, I’ll get a cheesesteak from a number of different places in the suburbs or down the shore in South Jersey. If I’m in Philadelphia though, like the actual city, I’ll shoot over to Jim’s Steaks on South St. They’re my top choice.