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Season Preview

Wild season preview: Gustavsson added to help manage Fleury's workload

Repeat production from center position, healthy Rossi key to offense

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps opening soon, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Minnesota Wild.

Coach: Dean Evason (fourth season)

Last season: 53-22-7, second in Central Division; lost to St. Louis Blues in Western Conference First Round

3 KEYS

1. Encore for centers

Ryan Hartman, Joel Eriksson Ek and Frederick Gaudreau will be three of the four centers to start the season, but will they replicate last season's success? Hartman had 65 points (previous NHL high, 31), Eriksson Ek had 49 points (previous high, 30) and Gaudreau had 44 points (previous high, 10).

The Wild will give rookie Marco Rossi a chance to play and work his way up the lineup. But they don't have much depth beyond the top four, although Sam Steel was signed in free agency.

2. Fleury's workload

Marc-Andre Fleury signed a two-year contract July 7 after he was 9-2-0 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 11 regular-season games following being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on March 21. The 37-year-old enters his 19th NHL season and is third all-time in wins (520). He played 56 games last season, but what will his workload be this season?

Backup Filip Gustavsson, who was acquired from the Ottawa Senators for goalie Cam Talbot on July 12, was 5-12-1 with a 3.55 GAA and .892 save percentage in 18 games (16 starts) last season. The 24-year-old has played 27 NHL games but could push for more playing time.

3. Replacing Fiala

After the Wild were unable to agree to a contract with Kevin Fiala, they traded the forward to the Los Angeles Kings on June 29. Fiala was second on the Wild with an NHL career-high 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) in 82 games. The only other player with more points was Kirill Kaprizov (108; 47 goals, 61 assists).

Mats Zuccarello had 79 points, which was an NHL career high. His previous high in points was 61 in 2015-16 with the New York Rangers. But in order to be successful, the Wild likely will need the bottom six to step up offensively.

Video: Top 10 Kirill Kaprizov Plays from the 2021-22 Season

ROSTER RUNDOWN

Making the cut

Jordan Greenway had offseason surgery because of an upper-body injury, and the forward could miss the start of the season. If he does, Steel, who signed a one-year contract Aug. 30, likely will enter the lineup. Steel had 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 68 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season, and the 24-year-old has 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists) in 197 regular-season games.

At defenseman, Jon Merrill (arm surgery) could miss the start of the season, meaning Calen Addison (four points in 15 games with Wild last season) likely would start the season with the Wild. Minnesota also signed 31-year-old veteran Andrej Sustr (one-year, two-way contract) on July 13; he had six points (one goal, five assists) in 38 games with the Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning last season.

Most intriguing addition

The Wild didn't add many players this offseason but will have a new backup goalie in Gustavsson. Although he has limited NHL experience (10-13-3, 3.12 GAA, .905 save percentage), Gustavsson was 11-6-1 with a 2.50 GAA and .915 save percentage in 20 AHL games last season. He should see an increase in his numbers playing in front of a Wild defense which ranked 16th in goals-against per game (3.04) last season. The Senators ranked 22nd (3.22).

Biggest potential surprise

The time is now for Rossi, who played almost all of last season in the AHL, where he had 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in 63 games, leading Iowa in assists and tying for first in points. The 20-year-old played two games with the Wild but could be the answer to their center issues now that he is healthy. The No. 9 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Rossi missed most of the 2020-21 season after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-November and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) in January.

Ready to break through

Addison had two goals and two assists last season, averaging 13:47 of ice time per game, including 1:31 on the power play. But with more consistent playing time, he could be a key defenseman moving forward.

Fantasy sleeper

Rossi, C (undrafted on average in fantasy) -- After his solid season in the AHL, Rossi is a fantasy rookie sleeper with a chance to earn a more permanent role with the Wild this season -- potentially with exposure to a high-scoring wing in Kaprizov or Matt Boldy. -- Anna Dua

PROJECTED LINEUP

Kirill Kaprizov -- Ryan Hartman -- Mats Zuccarello

Jordan Greenway -- Joel Eriksson Ek -- Marcus Foligno

Matt Boldy -- Frederick Gaudreau -- Tyson Jost

Brandon Duhaime -- Marco Rossi -- Connor Dewar

Jacob Middleton -- Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin -- Matt Dumba

Alex Goligoski -- Calen Addison

Marc-Andre Fleury

Filip Gustavsson

Injured: Jon Merrill

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