Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks: Top 3 players to watch

Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Which players in the play-in round series between the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks should fans be keeping an eye on?

With the play-in round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs set to get underway next week, let’s take a look at the players to watch on the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks.

Let’s start with age before beauty in the Wild. With 17 players over the age of 25 and 12 players over the age of 30, the Wild are not lacking veteran presence, but will they need to rely on players like Staal, Parise, and Suter to advance?

Top Players To Watch On The Minnesota Wild

Kevin Fiala

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Remember when everyone laughed at now-former Wild general manager Paul Fenton for trading Mikael Granlund for Kevin Fiala at last year’s trade deadline? Fiala quietly led the Wild this season in points with 54 in 64 games and finished second on the team in goals with 23, just two behind Zach Parise.

He also tied for the team lead in even-strength goals and once again finished second to only Parise in power-play goals with 9. If you were to look up and down the stat sheet for the Minnesota Wild you’d find Fiala’s name around the top in every single category and at 23 years old he’s just getting started.

Ryan Suter

One of the aforementioned 12 players over the age of 30, Ryan Suter will be crucial to Minnesota’s success in this series as he led all Wild players in average ice time this season by over two minutes a game and remained a stalwart on their power play, racking up a team-high 16 PP assists.

The Wild will need their power play to click, as it failed to produce against Vancouver during the regular season, having gone just 2 for 11 with the man advantage.

At 35 years old, one could imagine the break would help players like Suter as the physical grind of a playoff series could take a toll. It’s worth noting that his ice time has gone up significantly in the past when the Wild have reached the playoffs, logging 29+ minutes in four of the last five seasons the Wild have made the postseason.

Zach Parise

Zach Parise is the forward who I expect to step up most for the Wild in this series. He led the team in goals this season with 25 and power play goals with 12. The Wild, in my estimation, are a surprisingly balanced team offensively but Parise needs to carry the load if the Wild are to advance.

Since 2013-14, Parise has almost averaged a point per game in the playoffs for the Wild, recording 30 points in 31 games and I expect much of the same for the well-rested 35-year-old.

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Vancouver Canucks

Now let’s turn our attention to the Canucks. Vancouver is a team with loads of sneaky veteran presence along with a ton of exciting young talent on the roster. Let’s take a look at the three key players I’ll be looking for.

J.T. Miller

J.T. Miller had a proper breakout season in 2019-20 as he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks during the offseason and went on to lead the team in points with 72 and tie for the lead in assists. Playing alongside talented offensive players like Elias Petterson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Quinn Hughes doesn’t hurt, but Miller was outstanding in his own right.

During the regular season against Minnesota, he registered three goals and two assists. The success of the Canucks has a lot to do with whether he can play up to the high standard he set for himself this season.

Brock Boeser

Perhaps no one in Vancouver benefitted more from a break than Brock Boeser. The kid can flat out snipe but has struggled to play a full season since entering the league. Personally, I love Boeser and I think this is a series that could be decided by special teams.

The Canucks certainly have the offensive firepower and if Boeser can return to his goal-scoring form, the Canucks will be dangerous.

Quinn Hughes

This was a tougher pick for me as it was between Elias Petterson and the Calder Trophy candidate, Quinn Hughes. What an electric first year it was for “the other” Hughes as Quinn cemented himself in Calder Trophy talk early in the season, racking up a whopping 45 assists and a total of 53 points in just 68 games as a rookie.

I believe the stoppage in play also could help a first-year player like Hughes, as the physical toll of an 82 game regular season may have reared its ugly head heading into postseason play. Now having had the “benefit” of a four-month layoff, a fresh and healthy Hughes has the opportunity to pick up where he left off in the regular season for a hungry Canucks squad.

During the regular season, Hughes racked up four assists in the three games played against Minnesota, but failed to really get the power play working as the team went 3/14 overall against the Wild.

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What to watch for

For me this series is between an older, experienced, more defensively sound Minnesota Wild squad vs a young and offensively exciting Vancouver Canucks squad. Who will come out the victor? We’ll have to tune in to find out!