As an expansion team in the 2000-2001 season, the Minnesota Wild would replace the departed North Stars who relocated to Dallas in 1993. In their two decades in the NHL, the Wild have reached the playoffs just twelve times, and the Western Conference Finals once.
Fans are already anticipating the next season and the odds of the team making the finals once again. Nonetheless, while they haven’t had much team success, there have been some great individual stories and award recipients in franchise history.
10. Jason Zucker
It may have taken Jason Zucker a few years to get going, but once he found his way, the left winger out of Newport Beach, California became one of the best players in the Wild’s franchise history. Equipped with lightning-fast speed, Zucker, the Wild’s second-round draft pick in 2010, finished with twenty-plus goals in four of his final five seasons in Minnesota.
But it wasn’t just his ability to fill the net that helped Zucker make this list as he finished his nine-year tenure with the team among the top fifteen in the Wild’s all-time games played (13th), points (9th), goals (4th), and game-winning goals (5th). Zucker’s impact in Minnesota wasn’t just felt on the ice as he also received the 2018-19 King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his charitable work in the community. Unfortunately for Wild fans, a 2020 trade with Pittsburgh did not net the Wild a favorable return for the fan favorite.
Jason Zucker (@Jason_Zucker16) in black and gold?
This will take some time to get used to. pic.twitter.com/OSGp6JJhQs
— NHL (@NHL) February 12, 2020
9. Brian Rolston
While he may have only played three seasons and 141 games for the Minnesota Wild, Brian Rolston made an impact, recording 202 points. Of those 202 points, 96 of them are by means of filling the net, which ranks Rolston ninth all-time in Wild goal scoring.
Signing with the Wild as a free agent after playing for the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, and Boston Bruins for the first three stops in his lengthy NHL career, Rolston provided the team with a blistering slapshot that helped net three straight 30+ goal seasons, the best run of his seventeen-year career. A solid two-way player that could fill in multiple roles, Rolston helped the Wild to two playoff appearances in his three-year run with the team.
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) April 20, 2015
8. Jared Spurgeon
12 years, 772 games, and 345 points. Just longevity with one team alone should be enough to place someone like Spurgeon in the top ten. Arguably the best defenseman in club history, Spurgeon was originally selected by the New York Islanders in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft but would eventually sign with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent in 2010.
With a high hockey IQ, Spurgeon would become one of the best and most underrated defensemen in the NHL. Whether it be even strength, the power play, or the penalty kill, Spurgeon would usually find himself on the Wild’s top line. While his offensive numbers are not overwhelming compared to some of the elite defenders, one of the most impressive numbers is his 130 penalty minutes in his 17,178 minutes of ice time. After a pair of three-year deals and a four-year deal, Spurgeon would be handsomely rewarded with a 7-year, $53 million extension that carries him until the end of the 2026-27 season.
This shot-pass Jared Spurgeon pulled off last season was picture perfect. 📸 pic.twitter.com/N2QJedvcs6
— NHL (@NHL) September 19, 2022
7. Andrew Brunette
Andrew Brunette would serve two three-year stints with the Minnesota Wild on the team’s left wing. Originally acquired as a free agent in 2001, Brunette would usually find himself playing alongside Marian Gaborik, which resulted in easy point opportunities. Speaking of points, Brunette might be best known in Wild history books for his overtime goal against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 of the 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals that completed one of the most improbable three-to-one series comebacks in NHL history.
Ironically, Brunette would leave Minnesota to join the Avalanche as a free agent in 2005, before returning to the Wild in 2008 for his second tour of duty. A true workhorse for the Wild, Brunette missed three games during his six-year run with the team, making him a favorite of teammates and fans for his blue-collar effort.
Brunette became an NHL coach, serving currently as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils. Before he was part of the Florida Panthers coaching staff and he already expressed his willingness to return to the team based in Miami.
Andrew Brunette said he wants to return as Panthers coach next season, but GM Bill Zito said Florida would make a 'thorough and rational call' before that decision is made.https://t.co/EXySKN4R5i
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) May 25, 2022
6. Devan Dubnyk
Cast off for a third-round draft pick midway through the 2014-2015 season by the Arizona Coyotes, Devin Dubnyk made a great first impression with his new Minnesota Wild teammates finishing the year with a 27-9-2 record. After being let go for essential pennies on the dollar, Dubnyk backstopped the team to a first-round playoff victory over the St. Louis Blues and despite being swept by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, was still one of the best Wild players on the ice.
Dubnyk would finish his tenure with the Wild as the team’s second all-time winningest goalie with 177 victories in 328 games. The Saskatchewan native would also finish tied for second in save percentage behind Dwayne Roloson with .918%. Dubynk’s final season with the Wild would be split with Kaapo Kahkonen before being traded to San Jose for a 2022 fifth-round pick.
Devan Dubnyk made the most of his postseason debut. pic.twitter.com/PGALQdFXxv
— NHL (@NHL) April 17, 2015
5. Ryan Suter
Unlike his uncle Gary, who was a defenceman for the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, and San Jose Sharks and still managed to be a lethal offensive talent, Ryan played a more stay-at-home defensive style. However, that still proved to be valuable to the Minnesota Wild during his nine-year run with the team. Known for his ability to stay on the ice for lengthy periods of time, Suter amassed a +53 plus/minus rating, which placed him third all-time among Wild players.
After playing seven years with the Nashville Predators, Suter would ink the biggest deal in Wild history, signing a 13-year, $98 million contract in 2012. As a strong but silent leader on the ice, Suter was an assistant captain with the club from day one, becoming a face of the franchise and a fan favorite thanks to his consistent play on both ends of the ice. While his uncle was busy filling the net, Gary was doing his best to stop pucks entering his team’s, blocking 985 shots and laying out 557 hits over the course of 656 games.
Ryan Suter, bought out by MIN, is still a very strong offence driver but he's been carried defensively by his partners in recent years. Plays big tough minutes and should be a heavily-desired UFA. #mnwild pic.twitter.com/Eb3kKM4SRs
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 13, 2021
4. Zach Parise
Zach wasn’t the first member of the Parise family to play professional hockey in Minnesota as his father Jean-Paul played for the Minnesota North Stars for nine seasons. After being selected by New Jersey in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Parise would play seven seasons with the Devils, before signing a free agent deal to return to his hometown and suit up with the Wild in 2012. Over the course of his nine years with the Wild, Parise would tally 400 points in 558 games, which included an impressive 192 goals, good enough for third best in Wild history.
While Parise would have regular season success in Minnesota, the team would only make two significant playoff runs during the seven trips that he was a part of, despite the left winger more than holding his own with 37 points in 44 playoff games. As a member of the Wild, Parise also had the opportunity to represent the franchise on the international stage as part of Team USA in the 2014 Olympics and the 2016 World Cup.
Zach Parise is now on a three-game scoring streak after this 3-on-0. 😏 pic.twitter.com/UU8zwueWa1
— NHL (@NHL) April 16, 2022
3. Niklas Backstrom
Undrafted out of Helsinki, Finland, Backstrom recorded his first victory during his NHL debut on October 7, 2006, with a 6-5 defeat of the Nashville Predators. It wouldn’t be long after that that Backstrom would become the Wild’s starting netminder. An NHL All-Star, Vezina Trophy finalist, and Williams M. Jennings award winner, Backstrom would leave the Wild after ten years with the most games played for a goalie (409), wins (194), and shutouts (28), and finish his tenure top five in save percentage (.915) and goals-against average (2.48).
While those numbers are impressive, it’s Backstrom’s stat line from the 2008-09 season that is mindboggling. Playing in seventy-one games, Backstrom finished the season with a 37-24-8 record with eight shut-outs. Despite his regular season success, which included winning at least twenty games in six of his first seven years with the team, the Wild could not carry that over to the playoffs, losing in the first round in the two years that Backstrom played with the team. Unfortunately for Backstrom, injuries would impact his final two years with the club, before the team traded him to the Calgary Flames for his final NHL season.
Nicklas Backstrom (1-1—2) recorded his 1,000th career point (263-737—1,000 in 1,037 GP) and became the first player from the 2006 #NHLDraft class to reach the mark.#NHLStats: https://t.co/Thujee4krf pic.twitter.com/uDL9jcm2rS
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 10, 2022
2. Marian Gaborik
If Gaborik had spent more than eight years with the Wild, then he could have taken over the top spot on the list of the Minnesota Wild’s all-time greats. However, with that being said, what he did during those eight years was certainly enough to place him second on the podium. Drafted third overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, by the Wild, Gaborik at the time was not only the franchise’s inaugural draft pick, but he was also at the time the highest drafted Slovakian player.
In just 502 games with the Wild, before signing with the New York Rangers as a free agent in 2009, Gaborik recorded a franchise-high 219 goals, including a career-best 42 during the 2007-08 season. Gaborik would hold the title for many of the Wild’s “first to” as he scored the first goal in franchise history and became the first participant at the NHL All-Star Game (appearing twice) and helped the team to their first playoff appearance in 2003. Gaborik also holds the honor of being among just forty-seven players in NHL history to score five or more goals in a single game.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) November 4, 2021
1. Mikko Koivu
When you are sitting first in franchise stats for the most points (709), assists (504) and games played (1028) and only one more player has more goals (205, compared to Marian Gaborik’s 219), it is easy to see how Koivu is the best player in the history of the team.
Selected sixth overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Koivu, who is the younger brother of former Montreal Canadians and Anaheim Ducks great Saku, spent all but one year of his sixteen years of his NHL career with the Wild. Although he was never named to an All-Star team, the franchise’s first permanent captain did break the fifty-point mark seven times as a member of the Wild with a career-best 71 points in 80 games during the 2009-10 season.
Plus, Koivu is the only player in the franchise’s history so far whose jersey number was retired. Quite an honor!
What an honor for Mikko Koivu! 👏
— NHL (@NHL) November 29, 2021