Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild goaltender (UP ⬆️)
Minnesota has taken the ice just three times in 2022 due to several postponements, but Kahkonen has been huge. The third-year netminder relieved Cam Talbot between the poles when the veteran suffered a lower-body injury against St. Louis in the Winter Classic. The Wild lost that game but Kahkonen rejected four shots – and didn’t allow a goal – in 12 minutes of action. Over the past two contests, he’s tapped into the cool, calm, collected confidence that made him such a lethal pairing with Talbot last season. In wins against Boston and Washington, Kahkonen saved 65 of 69 combined shots (.942%) and surrendered four total goals. He helped preserve a comeback against the Capitals by stifling their skaters in a shootout. Most impressive, though, has been Kahkonen’s poise playing behind a depleted roster.
Dean Evason, Wild coach (UP ⬆️)
Evason and his staff signed multiyear extensions on Dec. 30 – a belated, well-deserved Christmas present. Minnesota’s bench boss has compiled a 64-30 record over parts of three seasons at the helm. The Wild are currently positioned in fourth place in the NHL’s Central division with 44 points. We’re not highlighting Evason, however, for the totality of his achievements as Minnesota’s head coach – though the numbers suggest he’s been exceptional – rather, we’re blown away by his management in the past week. The Wild missed almost half its roster – Nick Bjugstad, Jonas Brodin, Brandon Duhaime, Joel Eriksson Ek, Alex Goligoski, Jordan Greenway, Kirill Kaprizov, Jared Spurgeon and Talbot were unavailable – in Saturday’s skate against the Capitals. Evason leaned on young pieces and constructed a winning formula.
Matt Boldy, Wild forward (UP ⬆️)
One of two rookies – 2020 first-round pick Marco Rossi being the other – to make their NHL debut with the Wild in Thursday’s meeting against Boston, Boldy’s first NHL skate featured a storybook ending. The 12th overall pick of the 2019 draft scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the second period against the Bruins. Boldy was well-represented in the crowd at TD Garden – he grew up 45 minutes away in Millis, Mass. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget to mention he starred at Boston College.
Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves guard (UP ⬆️)
Minnesota’s rising star is averaging 24 points over his last seven games – a stretch where he’s clipped four or more 3-pointers five times. Edwards has meshed extremely well with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell since returning from health and safety protocols Dec. 31 – the trio is one of three in the NBA featuring individual scoring averages of at least 18 points. During the Wolves’ four-game winning streak, which was snapped in Tuesday’s nailbiter against New Orleans, Edwards owned a combined box-score +/- of +96 and sank 52% of his field goals. In the loss to the Pelicans, he knocked down six of 12 looks outside the arc and led the Timberwolves with 28 points. Also, his alma mater, Georgia, defeated Alabama, 33-18, in the College Football Playoff National Championship earlier this week.
Jim Kaat, former Twins pitcher (UP ⬆️)
The three-time All-Star and 16-time Gold Glove winner, who played 3/5 of his 25-year MLB career for Minnesota, was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Era Committee in December, shortly after his 83rd birthday. The New Year rings in a comparable honor for the pitcher best remembered by his durability and elite fielding instincts – on Wednesday, the Twins announced they are retiring Kaat’s No. 36. He’s one of eight Twins greats to receive the distinction, joining Harmon Killebrew (No. 3), Tony Oliva (No. 6), Joe Mauer (No. 7), manager Tom Kelly (No. 10), Kent Hrbek (No. 14), Bert Blyleven (No. 28), Rod Carew (No. 29) and Kirby Puckett (No. 34) – of course, No. 42, famously donned by Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson also won’t be worn by any future Twins as it was retired throughout baseball.