As the 2021-22 NHL season continues, the Minnesota Wild are poised to qualify for a playoff berth. Several players have really taken their game to another level this season to help the Wild get to where they are, from Kirill Kaprizov living up to his massive contract, to Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala having career seasons. That being said, general manager Bill Guerin is unlikely to bring back some players next season, regardless of how the campaign ends, due to salary cap challenges.
The good news is that the Wild won’t have to look for replacements. Although the team doesn’t have the deepest closet at the moment, several players play for Iowa in the American Hockey League (AHL) who should be ready to compete for a spot on the NHL roster. next season.
Here’s a look at three Iowa players expected to play for the Wild in the 2022-23 NHL season.
Marco Rossi, Center
The ninth pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, expectations were high for Marco Rossi as soon as the Wild announced they were selecting him. Although his size was a concern for some during his draft year, he more than made up for it with his sheer skill alone, proven by his 185 points in 109 games for the Ottawa 67’s of the Hockey League. Ontario (OHL).
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The real challenge came at the start of the 2021-22 AHL season when fans wanted to see how Rossi could perform against grown men. As it turns out, the 20-year-old didn’t need much time to feel comfortable in the minors, racking up 14 points in his first 10 games for Iowa. Even though he didn’t maintain the same level of production throughout the campaign, he still leads all of his teammates with 50 points in 57 games.
What’s even more impressive about Rossi’s 2021-22 AHL campaign is the fact that he missed the majority of last hockey season. fight the lingering effects of COVID-19. Not only does this show his dedication to bouncing back, but the fact that he is playing at full strength bodes well for his long-term career. The Wild rewarded him with a pair of NHL games midway through the current season, and while he didn’t score a point, it was a preview of what lay ahead this fall.
The Wild will have an open center spot for Rossi next season as Nick Bjugstad is set to become a free agent in a few months. The team could also leave Fiala as he is likely to see a pay rise which could open up a place if head coach Dean Evason wants to experiment with Rossi on the wing. Anyway, the place of the latter will be lost once the training camp is over. Thanks to the skill he has shown this season, fans probably don’t have to worry about losing Rossi.
Mason Shaw, Left Wing/Center
With the exciting young tracks the Wild have added in recent years, some people have forgotten that Mason Shaw is still in their system. The 97th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft left much to be desired in his first four AHL seasons, recording just 61 points in 124 games due to knee injuries.
Suddenly, something clicked for Shaw in the 2021-22 season. After playing at a rate of 0.49 points per game (PPG) in previous seasons, the 23-year-old is at a rate of 0.90 PPG after collecting 45 points in 50 games so far. He rediscovered this ability as a playmaker which makes him a treat to watch in the Western Hockey League (WHL), trailing Rossi among Iowa players with 30 assists. Beyond that, Shaw also recorded career highs in game-winning goals (five) and power-play goals (seven).
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Ultimately, the next campaign could be Shaw’s last to crack the Wild’s roster. He will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2022-23 season, and if he doesn’t make it in the NHL by then, Guerin could decide he’s already peaked and walk away. Fortunately, the latter is more than talented and seems to have put his injury problems behind him. If so, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be in a Wild shirt next season.
Calen Addison, defender
Calen Addison is a player many Wild fans believe should be on the NHL roster already this season. Acquired during the transaction which sent Jason Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins in February 2020, Addison made an immediate impact in the 2020-21 hockey season. The Brandon, Manitoba product proved his offensive flair at the WHL level was no fluke after recording 22 points in 31 AHL games.
While some may have thought his production was a fluke, Addison proved that was not the case. He played a total of 36 games during the 2021-22 AHL season, scoring seven goals while adding 22 assists. His production has been consistent, whether at even strength or on the power play, exemplified by his trio of power-play goals.
Addison’s impressive display this season has not gone unnoticed by the top brass. He’s had significant call-up time throughout the NHL season, playing 15 games as of April 15. While he made his fair share of mistakes, he also seemed comfortable a good deal of the time. He averaged 13:47 of ice time and had two goals and two assists. His 0.56 goals per 60 minute rate is the highest among any Wild defenseman this season, as is his66.1% percentage of adjusted goals on the ice.
Addison could certainly use the remainder of the 2021-22 AHL season to further improve various aspects of his game, however, he is expected to be part of the NHL’s opening roster in 2022-23. Assuming the Wild let Jordie Benn walk in free agency, re-sign RFA Jacob Middleton and trade Mathew Dumba for salary cap reasons, they will have six defenders under contract. Addison deserves more than sixth/seventh place in the rotation and could provide a much-needed offensive spark at the back.
The Wild are fortunate to have a trio of quality AHL prospects. Rossi, Shaw and Addison are all capable of being NHL players based on skill alone. However, their cheap deals should also be an incentive for a call-up, as Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts kick off next season. With management looking to save money while staying competitive, it only makes sense that Addison, Rossi and Shaw wear Minnesota Wild jerseys next season.
As a lifelong hockey fan and recent graduate of a Masters in Journalism, it has always been my dream to write about the sport. That’s why you can find me here on THW covering the Minnesota Wild! You can also see my work on FanDuel, the Ottawa Citizen and various sports betting sites. Follow me on Twitter @devplat!