Now that 2022 has ended and 2023 is here to stay, it is time to do a little looking back. After all, the 2022 calendar year was a pretty good one for the Minnesota Wild. Maybe there was no Stanley Cup for the State of Hockey, but a lot of good things still happened.
The 12 months that was 2022 saw a few franchise records being broken, a couple of players cementing their place in franchise history, and so much more.
Sure, the fan base is still waiting for that elusive first-round playoff series win in the new era but there is time for that. Let’s take a look back at the biggest and best highlights from the 2022 calendar year.
Move Over Gabby, The Thrill Has Arrived
The Minnesota Wild brand of hockey had never really been known as one of excitement and offensive skill. As a matter of fact, there had only been one 80+ point scorer in the history of the franchise and just three other seasons of 70 or more points.
Marian Gaborik, coincidentally the first-ever Wild draft pick, also held the franchise record for points in a season for the better part of 15 years. His 83 points from 2007-08 were the banner mark and his 42 goals that year would stand for a decade before being tied back in 2017-18 by Eric Staal. But oh, how things change.
The 2021-22 campaign was one of unmatched offensive output not from just one player, but a whopping three. Let’s take a look at each player and what they managed to do that few (or none) have done before in Minnesota.
You don’t earn the nickname “the Thrill” without doing some crazy things. The 24-year-old Russian winger had made a good impression in just 55 games over the course of his rookie year, scoring 27 goals and 51 points. But that was scratching the surface.
Kaprizov shot into superstardom over the course of the 2021-22 campaign. Name a franchise record from the season and he either broke it or came close. He set the new standard for goals with 47. Oh, he also set the new mark for assists with 61. His 108 points are not only the best in the history of the franchise but the best by a whopping 23 points.
He even managed to come close to the franchise record in power-play goals and +/-. Kaprizov exploded into prominence for a franchise that has never really had a superstar. Gaborik came close a few times before ultimately leaving town. But it is clear that the Thrill is the superstar that the Wild have always hoped for.
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) May 5, 2022
While Kaprizov’s season is a historical one, Kevin Fiala may have the forgotten great season in Wild history. Remember that 83 points Gaborik scored nearly 15 years ago? Fiala also beat it with his 2021-22 output.
Fiala had a monster season, tallying 33 goals, 52 assists, and 85 points over the course of the year. That’s right, a pair of linemates had set the franchise mark for points simultaneously. There is an offense in Minnesota? Who knew?
If there is a downside to Fiala’s 2022 finish, it is that he would not end the year as a member of the Wild.
His contract was up and the Wild were not in a position to pay him what he was asking. So, in a move to get something for him, he was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings gave him a brand-new long-term deal and a new home for the foreseeable future.
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) June 29, 2022
As much as Fiala’s season was overshadowed by Kaprizov, Zuccarello’s season was overshadowed by both. Zuccarello has long been a guy that flies under the radar despite producing every single season. His chemistry with Kaprizov has become a staple for the Wild as well.
Zuccarello tied Brian Rolston for the fourth-most points in a single season in Wild history. His 55 assists would have been a record had Kaprizov not ended with 61 himself. The undersized Norwegian continues to produce and helps elevate his linemates. Hopefully, when 2023 has concluded, he can look back on a playoff series win or two.
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) October 25, 2022
The Best Games
Now that we’ve seen the bright spots of 2022 for the Wild roster, what about the most epic games? There were more than a handful of games that Wild fans wish they could re-live again and again.
This is an exciting brand of hockey that has never been played before in the Twin Cities, after all. Here are a few of the best games from 2022.
February 14, 2022 – 7-4 win over the Red Wings
Love was in the air on this particular Valentine’s Day and there was a lot to love watching the Wild that day. It isn’t the kind of game that may jump to mind immediately because the Red Wings are in the midst of a rebuild and maybe not be the most devastating opponent.
That said, it is memorable for one reason: Matt Boldy. Boldy, who is a critical part of the roster this season, was just getting himself started. As a matter of fact, the Red Wings game was just his 13th as an NHLer. But he made it a memorable game and cemented his spot on the team for the foreseeable future.
Boldy tallied his first career hat trick and an assist to boot.
If that weren’t enough, the goals were of the highlight reel quality, firmly creating the opening scene of his career highlight reel. The game itself might not be the most memorable but it saw the elevation of a young center who will no doubt be a huge fixture for the Wild in the years to come.
HAT TRICK! MATT BOLDY!! 🎩🎩🎩 pic.twitter.com/D0VxvuUws1
— NHL (@NHL) February 15, 2022
April 2, 2022 – 3-1 road win over the Hurricanes
Another game where the results were maybe not the most consequential but it really was important. Why was it important? Because this was the night where a franchise record was broken, making the 2021-22 season perhaps the most significant in the history of the franchise.
This would be the 67th game of the season and in it, Kaprizov would shatter the most important record in the franchise’s short history. He would tally an assist on Zuccarello’s game-opening goal, giving him 84 points for the season. That is one more than previous franchise record-holder Marian Gaborik.
This was the game that really cemented Kaprizov’s place as not only the best in the history of the Wild but a bonafide superstar in the NHL. He even capped off breaking the record by scoring in the third period. He is simply the best and most talented player who has ever worn the green and red, this game underscoring that point for good.
May 6, 2022 – 5-1 road win over the Blues
The first-round matchup between the Wild and Blues is something that, in hindsight, is best forgotten. But heading into the matchup, it was a chance for the record-breaking Wild to elevate themselves and take the next step forward.
After two games in St. Paul, the series was tied at one. The Blues had stolen Game 1, the wild winning Game 2, and the series shifted back to St. Louis for an important Game 3 matchup. For Wild fans, the excitement was palpable. This was a chance to take hold of the series and continue the historic season.
The Wild came out to play, especially in the wake of a decisive 6-2 Game 2 victory. The Wild dominated once again, picking up the 5-1 victory on the road with an impressive team effort that saw Kaprizov, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, and Joel Eriksson Ek all collect two points apiece.
It was one of those team performances where Wild fans could not help but think that things were different. Though the Blues would counter and ultimately take the series away from the Wild, it was a glimpse into what could be for a Wild team that has more talent than ever before.
What About 2023?
Though were are just a few weeks into 2023, there is a lot to look forward to from the perspective of the Wild faithful. Though the team had a rough start to the 2022-23 season, it has rebounded and the team is now firmly in third place in the Central Division with 52 points.
They are in one of the toughest divisions in the league as Winnipeg and Dallas are in the race for the President’s Trophy, Stanley Cup champion Colorado is working through injuries in fourth place and they face stiff competition in the Pacific Division from strong teams like Vegas, Seattle, a young upstart Los Angeles, and Edmonton.
The competition will be fierce in the Central Division throughout the remainder of the season. The Wild are looking to not just make the playoffs, but finally, get over the hump and take out one of their divisional opponents when that happens.
The 2022 calendar year showed that records could be broken and that this is a new time for the Minnesota Wild.