The Iowa Wild were a middling team in 2021-22, missing the playoffs under head coach Tim Army. Their 32-31-4 record put them above just four other teams in the AHL and saw them finish dead last in the Central Division.
That said, there were a handful of Wild players that made an impact during the course of the season. Which begs the question as to who was the best player for the Wild during the 2021-22 season.
Candidate #1: Kyle Rau
Rau has been a member of the organization dating back to the 2017-18 season and has consistently put up good numbers in the HAL while seeing spot action for the main club in Minnesota. He had previously hovered just below one point per game and that remained largely the same during 2021-22.
Rau just missed his career-high in goals with 25 and assists with 28, missing his career-highs by one each. That said, he did match his career-best mark with 53 points. He managed to do all of this in 53 games, turning in the best points-per-game ratio of his career.
It is clear that Rau is a talented guy even if he can’t put it all together at the NHL level. For the time being, Rau looks to remain a mainstay in Iowa, putting up very good point totals on a decidedly bad Iowa team.
KYLE RAU'S RECORD-BREAKING GOAL! pic.twitter.com/r5PLXGzvlr
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) April 25, 2022
Candidate #2: Marco Rossi
Rossi entered the 2021-22 season as, without a doubt, the biggest prospect in the Minnesota pool. The 9th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft came to the AHL after a dominant season with the Ottawa 67s of the OHL. During his 18-year-old season, he netted 39 goals and 81 assists for a whopping 120 points in just 56 games.
Carrying with him a big reputation for offensive prowess, it is safe to say that Rossi did not disappoint in his inaugural professional campaign. He saw 63 games of action with the Iowa Wild, netting 18 goals and tallying 53 points over that span.
His 53 points were good enough for 7th in the AHL with his 18 goals placing him just outside of the top 10. On the Wild, he tied with Rau for the scoring lead. If there were any criticisms of Rossi it is that he did disappear for stretches. Given that he is just 5’9” and 20 years old, that can be expected as he not only learns to play with bigger, stronger players but to accommodate his game to the pro level.
Still, there is no doubt that he flashed a lot of the offensive potential that made him such a high pick. There is the feeling that he will spend much, if not all, of the 2022-23 season with the parent club in Minnesota.
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) April 20, 2022
Candidate #3: Mason Shaw
Shaw’s career to date has been an interesting one. He was drafted 97th overall by the Minnesota Wild, a somewhat undersized prospect who showed flashes in junior, culminating in a 94-point season with Medicine Hat back in 2016-17.
He would make his pro debut with the Wild in 2018-19, having a decent showing with 33 points in 76 games. Since then, he has spent much of the time injured, leaving many to wonder if this was going to be his path going forward.
If 2021-22 was to be his last real shot, Shaw made the most of the opportunity. In 62 games, he tallied 19 goals (as many as his last 3 injury-riddled seasons combined) and a career-high in assists (33) and points (52).
Shaw showed off his ability as a skilled playmaker and, being healthy, it looks as though he has turned a corner in his career. At 23 years old, 2021-22 may be the make-or-break season that dictates what his path forward will be. He should play a major role for the Iowa Wild in the upcoming season.
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) February 6, 2020
Candidate #4: Mitchell Chaffee
Like Shaw, Chaffee has also had an interesting journey to becoming one of the better players for the Wild in 2021-22. He began his career as a force for UMass-Amherst of the NCAA, going undrafted before eventually signing with Minnesota.
In his first full season with the Wild – he played 28 games in 2020-21 – the 6’1” forward impressed. He scored 23 times in 49 games, second only to Shaw on the team in terms of lighting the lamp. He also put forward career-bests in assists (16) and points (39) as he made his way up the lineup.
It does help that he posted a 17.2 shooting percentage, nearly the best of his entire career so far (he had a 17.8 shooting percentage as a freshman with UMass-Amherst). Whether that will regress towards the mean remains to be seen but it can’t be argued that he was effective at lighting the lamp in his first full season.
Chaffee was also strong on the power play, netting 9 tallies with the extra attacker. His role only stands to increase in 2022-23, especially given where the team finished in the standings last year. It may also be his best opportunity to show that he deserves time with the parent club at some point, more than the pair of games he got last season.
MITCHELL CHAFFEE! AN EPIC OVERTIME WIN!
WITH THE BUILDING SHAKING! pic.twitter.com/VhviP9zqjy
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) March 26, 2022
Candidate #5: Calen Addison
The former second-round pick came over in the trade that sent long-time Minnesota forward Jason Zucker to Pittsburgh. In that time, Addison has continued to impress in Iowa with 18 games of spot duty up in Minnesota.
He posted 16 assists and 22 points in just 31 games after the trade and built upon that during the 2021-22 season. In 43 games with the Iowa club, he posted an impressive 27 assists and 34 points. It shows that, despite being 5’11” and 180lbs, he has the ability to not only fit in but to stand out.
His extended stint in Minnesota last year may have cost him Wild MVP honors, but his name has to be mentioned. It is believed that he may at least start the 2022-23 campaign with Minnesota, though he may be back for a little further seasoning.
In a season where there wasn’t much to be happy about in terms of the standings, Addison stood out for all the right reasons. It looks like he will continue to stand out no matter where he ends up in the future.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) March 20, 2022
Candidate #6: Zane McIntyre
While goaltending was not necessarily a strength for the Wild, there was one standout in McIntyre. Because of the nature of the AHL, the Wild saw five goaltenders in action throughout the course of the 2021-22 season.
Among those who received more than 10 starts – Dereck Baribeau, Andrew Hammond, and McIntyre – McIntyre was the clear standout. He is clearly an AHL lifer at this point in his career (he is 29 years old) but it didn’t stop him from having a solid season.
He posted a 19-14-2 record over 37 games, with a very solid .920 save percentage and 2.45 goals against average. He doesn’t wow with his skill set, simply being his best with sound positioning and a ton of experience.
With Jesper Wallstedt coming for the 2022-23 season, it remains to be seen if McIntyre will get so much time or whether he will be used to help bring along the prized Minnesota goaltending prospect.
NEWS: The @mnwild today signed goaltender Zane McIntyre to a two-way contract for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
Additionally, the club has traded Doyle Somerby to the Tucson Roadrunners in exchange for future considerations.
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) January 4, 2022
Who Was the Best Player for the Iowa Wild Last Season?
Choosing a clear-cut winner is difficult. There were four players in particular – Rau, Rossi, Shaw, and Addison – that stood above the rest for different reasons. That said, the entire point here is to choose the best player from last season.
That honor goes to Rossi simply because of the electric playmaking that he displayed as a 20-year-old. Rau led the team in goals with 25 and tied for the team lead with 53 points, but he is about to hit 30 years old and has been around for a long time.
That is not to diminish his production, especially given that he put up his points total in 8 fewer games than Rossi. But Rossi was just too impressive to ignore, even if he wasn’t the most consistent player on the ice for the Wild last season.
His 53 points placed him ahead of notable prospects like Alexander Holtz, finishing among the 10 best rookies in the league. His 35 assists tied him for 6th in the league among rookies, which is an even more impressive feat.
At 20 years old, Rossi displayed the kind of skill that sets him apart from much of the talent in the AHL. That talent will be on full display for the Minnesota Wild in 2022-23 and with good reason. It was a tough selection, especially given the stand-out years that Rau and Addison had, as well as the breakthrough season that Shaw experienced.
With Rossi likely gone for the NHL, it opens the door to wonder who will be the best player for the Wild in 2022-23.
Just some hockey photos to brighten your Monday ☺️ pic.twitter.com/7HVjccuWAv
— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) August 22, 2022
Credits: Flickr/San Diego Gulls