LA Kings: Three players to watch on the Minnesota Wild

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings will officially open the 2021 season against the Minnesota Wild. Here are three players who could pose a threat.

The NHL released the schedule for all 31 teams on Wednesday, and the LA Kings will officially kick off the shortened 2021 season hosting the Minnesota Wild. To limit the amount of traveling for each team, the league organized the schedules much like what you would see from Major League Baseball — many back-to-backs and in the LA Kings’ case, a four-game home and home set against the Ducks at the end of April, spilling over into May.

Here’s the full schedule.

The Wild, of course, were one of the three teams to replace the Canadian teams in the hybrid Pacific Division this year. In 19-20, Dean Evason took over for Bruce Boudreau in mid-February, and the Wild limped to a 77-point season.

They lost to the young, upstart Vancouver Canucks in the qualifying round of the playoffs, potentially leaving the door open for a rebuild. Evason was named the full-time head coach in July, but much like the LA Kings, there are a lot of questions surrounding the Minnesota hockey club. They made defenseman Matt Dumba available in a trade, but no team took the bait.

They had one of the better 2020 draft classes despite taking only five players. The organization landed projected top-five pick Marco Rossi with the ninth overall pick, who was one of the most dynamic forwards heading into the draft. They reloaded the back end with defensemen Ryan O’Rourke and Daemon Hunt in the second and third rounds, respectively.

Perhaps one of the steals of the draft, the Wild grabbed Pavel Novak in the fifth round, who tallied 25 goals and 58 points in 55 games for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL last season. Similar to LA Kings’ Martin Chromiak, had he made the transition to the North American rink sooner, he likely gets selected much higher.

While they aren’t projected to finish in the top three of the modified West Division, the Wild still have a few players that the LA Kings will need to be aware of.

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Jonas Brodin, D

Re-signed to a seven-year contract extension, Jonas Brodin statistically had his best year in 19-20. The 27-year-old scored just two goals but had 26 assists in 69 games. He split time between the Wild’s first and second pairing. While his 48.7 Corsi percentage was one of the lowest of his career, Brodin logged a 53.1 expected-goals-for percentage.

The Karlstad, Sweden native has never scored more than eight goals in a season, but he’s such an excellent distributor of the puck, that he makes everyone around him better. And that’s what makes him so dangerous.

Kevin Fiala, LW

At just 23 years of age, Kevin Fiala led the Minnesota Wild with 54 points. The 11th overall pick of the 2014 NHL Draft spent his first four and a half seasons with the Nashville Predators, although he missed their Stanley Cup Finals run due to a fractured femur sustained in the second round of the playoffs. At the 18-19 trade deadline, he was traded to the Wild where his game took a giant leap in the right direction.

In the COVID-19 shortened season, Fiala scored 23 goals with 54 points in 64 games. He’s dynamic on the team’s power play, logging nine goals and nine assists last year. Fiala did a lot with very little, logging just over 15 minutes a game in 19-20.

Zach Parise, LW

Zach Parise is part of a top-heavy veteran group on the Wild’s roster. Outside of Fiala, the top three point producers are all at least 35 years old. The former 17th overall pick in 2003 is still going strong at age 36, with five years remaining on his contract.

In 18-19, Parise scored 28 goals with 61 points in 74 games. Last year, he scored 25 goals with 46 points in 69 games. He’s definitely trending towards a decline, but he is a problem on the man advantage. In 19-20, Parise scored 12 goals with six assists on the power play.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of 20-21 season he has, given he logged a -11 rating last year and a -2 rating the year prior. For now, he remains a considerable threat. Parise has seven goals with 19 points in 29 games against the LA Kings in his career.