Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Boldy, left, celebrates with left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) after scoring a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

At the 2023 NHL All-Star break, the Minnesota Wild are the No. 3 team in the Central Division. They edge defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado by a point and trail the Stars and the Jets by eight and seven. 

We should note Minnesota has played three and four fewer games than Dallas and Winnipeg, meaning it's better positioned than at first glance. If the NHL playoffs started today, the Wild would face the Jets. 

Minnesota, like much of the past two seasons, has been carried by superstar Kirill Kaprizov, its lone representative in Sunrise, Fla., this weekend where the Panthers are hosting the league’s 44 All-Stars.  

Before the Wild embark on their second-half schedule, let’s go to the podium to hand out awards.

Team MVP: Kirill Kaprizov

We’ll keep it short and sweet, just like Kaprizov any time he’s on camera. In his third NHL season, the 25-year-old Russian has cemented himself as one of the sport’s brightest stars. He has 59 points in 48 games (1.23 ppg) and leads the Wild in goals by a wide margin, with 27, and narrowly edges linemate Mats Zuccarello for the team lead in assists (32). Kaprizov isn’t just Minnesota’s MVP, he should vie for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the most valuable player in the NHL. Last year, while setting a franchise record for points (108), Kaprizov received two first-place votes and finished seventh on the Hart ballot overall. He needs to play catch up after the break to really challenge this year’s crop of megastars, which includes top point-getters Connor McDavid (92) and Leon Draisaitl (76) of the Oilers. We will note – because it’s gold – in six head-to-head matchups, Kaprizov has outscored McDavid 9-6.


Nov 27, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) celebrates his goal with teammates during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Top Rookie: Calen Addison

Addison skirts around the NHL rookie status rules. He’s still super young at 22 but didn’t debut this season. In 2020-21, about a year after being traded to Minnesota by the Penguins, he appeared in three contests. Last season, Addison donned a Wild sweater 15 times and recorded four points. Per the NHL, a player must not have 25 NHL games in any preceding seasons under his belt, nor can he appear in six or more NHL games in each of any two preceding seasons to be considered a rookie. Hence Addison’s label. The 2018 second-round draft choice has been a revelation for the Wild in 2022-23. He’s tied with captain Jared Spurgeon for fifth on the team with 24 points (3 goals, 21 assists) and leads with 17 apples via the power play. Addison paces rookie defensemen league-wide in points and assists and is T-4 with three goals. Addison compiled a three-assist game Oct. 17 and scored a game-winner Nov. 23. He’s played outstanding in spurts, generating six points across three games Oct. 15-20 and five in two skates Jan. 4-7. Here’s a nugget to watch: Addison needs seven points to surpass Filip Kuba (2000-01) for most in a campaign by a rookie d-man in franchise history. FYI, Kuba tallied 30 in 75 skates. Addison has 24 in 47.


Nov 25, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Calen Addison (2) in action against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Best Newcomer: Filip Gustavsson

We’ll be the first to admit we did not see this one coming. Acquired via Ottawa in a July goalie swap that sent a disgruntled Cam Talbot – unhappy that Minnesota decided to re-sign future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury – to the Senators, it seemed as though Gustavsson, a second-rounder in 2016 with limited NHL experience, was going to play the role of a true backup. Turns out, it’s wrong to assume and better to wait patiently for results. Gustavsson made his first start Oct. 15 and disappointed, yielding three goals to Los Angeles. He lost three straight before saving 31 of 32 shots in a 4-1 win at Anaheim on Nov. 9. His real success, rather his dominance, began 10 days later when he starred in a 2-1 triumph over Eastern Conference juggernaut Carolina. It marked the start of six straight wins for Gustavsson, sparking conversation he was better equipped to protect the twine for the Wild than Fleury, whose best stretch this season included five wins in six starts from Oct. 20-Nov. 1. Back to Gustavsson. The 24-year-old Swede isn’t only the better of the two options in Minnesota – he’s one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. Gustavsson ranks T-2 among qualifying netminders with a 2.26 goals-against average and is fifth with a .922 save rate. Fleury (2.87 GAA; .905 SV%) is 16-10-3 in 30 starts while Gustavsson is 11-7-1, by the way.


Dec 10, 2022; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Minnesota Wild goalie Filip Gustavsson (32) reacts during a stop in play in the third period against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The Wild won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Unsung Hero: Matt Boldy

If there’s a skater other than Kaprizov on the Wild with genuine star power it’s Boldy. That’s reflected in the $49 million, seven-year extension he signed a couple weeks ago as well as what he’s done on the ice. No, Boldy, Minnesota’s first-round selection in the 2019 NHL draft, hasn’t eclipsed his 0.83 ppg pace that placed him eighth on the Calder Trophy ballot as a rookie – despite not being with the Wild until Jan. 6 – but he’s practically replicated it. In 48 skates, the 21-year-old Boldy has 16 goals and 20 assists (0.75 ppg). He’s reminiscent of a former scorer on Minnesota, current Kings All-Star Kevin Fiala, in that he’s streaky. And when Boldy is on, he’s electric. The Boston College product started the season with a two-goal performance and a three-game point streak. His most consistent stretch probably was Nov. 23-Dec. 3 when he totaled seven points across five dates. His run shortly before the All-Star break also was impressive – Boldy had four goals and three assists in four games from Jan. 19-26. That tear included his third game of three points. Boldy’s not talked about enough; his feats are overshadowed by Kirill.


Jan 26, 2023; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Boldy (12) celebrates after scoring on the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

Mr. Improved: Joel Eriksson Ek

The statistics pop off the page. Eriksson Ek is amidst a career season less than two years after inking an eight-year, $42 million contract. Through 48 appearances, the 26-year-old former first-round draft pick has 18 goals, good for third on the Wild, and 22 assists which is one off his personal best set last season. The strong-based center is recording 0.83 points per contest. His highwater mark was 0.64 (2021-22) entering Year 7 in the NHL. Improvements aren’t limited to scoring, however. Eriksson Ek is flashing in other areas. He has 32 blocks and needs 15 more for a new PR. He also has 30 takeaways, already tied for his most in a single season during his run with the Wild – only Boldy (32) and Kaprizov (35) boast more, but there’s a colossal difference amongst the three: Boldy has turned the puck over 19 times, Kaprizov 29. … Eriksson Ek has only seven giveaways on his ledger. Eriksson Ek’s faceoff percentage of 48.6%, although not very great, represents a career high as well. Yeah, he’s Minnesota’s Mr. Improved.


Dec 7, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek (14) and Calgary Flames defenseman Michael Stone (26) battle for the puck in front of Calgary Flames goaltender Dan Vladar (80) during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Most Memorable Win: Wild 3, Sabres 2 (SO)

Call it recency bias if you’re so inclined, but we think Minnesota’s shootout win on Hockey Day 2023 takes the cake. The Wild finished off a day’s worth of competitive high school games in White Bear by beating the Sabres at Xcel Energy Center. Naturally – as any good thing – the 3-2 win didn’t come easy. The Wild trailed Buffalo by a goal twice, in the first and second periods, and fought the rest of regulation. After a scoreless overtime, the teams traded successful shootout attempts. Then Kaprizov wowed with a filthy flick to the upper-right corner of the net that had fans drooling on the internet. The ensuing Sabres shot was saved by Fleury, who submitted one of his greatest games to date, posting a .935 save percentage in nearly 65 minutes between the pipes. The stop by Flower set the stage for the newest Hockey Day hero, Freddy Gaudreau. The right-handed forward took a wide right approach then careened back toward center ice before cutting sharply to his left and fooling Buffalo’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen with a nasty backhand. This game had it all. A solid Sabres squad. Drama. And Wild heroics.

Most Memorable Goal: Zuccy slaps shot from his knees

A quick honorable-mention nod to Gaudreau’s decisive shootout goal as well as Gophers product Sammy Walker’s first time lighting the lamp (on an empty net) in an NHL sweater. Both evoked our emotions but were passed up for the gem Zuccarello provided us Dec. 14 vs. Detroit. In a special act of individual effort, Zuccarello offset a Detroit goal by extending Minnesota’s lead to 3-1. The play was dope. Zuccy was contacted by a Red Wings skater and fell to the ice in front of the right pipe. Crawling on his knees, the 35-year-old right wing flew the puck at the net and nutmegged Red Wings goalie Magnus Hellberg. It was the type of point that reminds you goalscoring is an art requiring skill – and sometimes innovation.

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