Our favorite holiday of the year, Hockey Day Minnesota, is right around the corner.
It is a holiday, right? It feels that way with festivities starting later this week, Jan. 26, and concluding Sunday. Of course, the main attraction – the Wild skating vs. Buffalo – is Saturday.
The buzz for the weekend in White Bear has got us thinking: Who are the HDM standouts? Specifically, what players have left a mark on the annual celebration with special performances?
In anticipation of the 17th anniversary – and 16th edition – of Hockey Day Minnesota, let’s talk about the individual leaders, starting with the netminders. (Note: We’re limiting our history lesson to Wild players.)
Out of eight goalies, two boast perfect resumes, although one left with an injury.
Alex Stalock, a native of St. Paul, Minn., was one of the stars of Hockey Day in 2020, stopping all 27 shots he faced during the Wild’s 7-0 beatdown of the Dallas Stars. Stalock made 89 appearances for the Wild in parts of four seasons from 2016-20, but played in one HDM game.
The other goaltender with a clean sheet is Manny Fernandez, granted he was on the ice for 6:59 in 2007, the first rendition of Hockey Day, a contest Minnesota lost 2-1 in overtime to the Stars. Fernandez had four saves before a knee sprain put Niklas Bäckström between the pipes.
Speaking of Bäckström, he’s seen the most work and made the most saves, with 127 against 135 shots. His .941 save percentage is fourth behind the aforementioned duo and Darcy Kuemper, who earned the start in the 2014 win over Dallas and blocked 33 of 35 shots (.943).
Other notable Wild netminders that protected the twine on Hockey Day include Devan Dubnyk and Kaapo Kähkönen. The former owns an impressive 4-1 record in spite of a so-so .914 SV%. Kähkönen, now guarding the net for the Sharks, got the nod in 2022 vs. the Blackhawks and finished with a .917 clip, blocking 33 of 36 shots. Minnesota, by the way, won 4-3 in overtime.
Onto the skaters. There's one guy who stands above the rest: Zach Parise.
Parise, a Minnesota-made man, paces 67 different point-getters with eight slashes (four goals, four assists). It makes sense that the top scorer on the day played 558 games in a Wild sweater.
As for goals, the leader is Jason Zucker (5), a 2010 second-round draft pick of the club who lit the lamp 132 times spanning parts of nine seasons in Minnesota. Parise is second at four while four players – Mikko Koivu, Jared Spurgeon, Dany Heatley and Eric Haula – have three apiece.
For what it’s worth, Haula’s the only one of those six who didn’t add any assists.
And on that note, here’s the top guys responsible for creating magic on Hockey Day, aka the players who’ve bobbed for – er tallied – the most apples: Ryan Suter (5), Charlie Coyle (4), Koivu (4), Parise (4), Spurgeon (4) and Eric Staal (4). Five others have logged three assists.
OK, let’s get into the real nitty-gritty now. Penalty minutes.
Four players have sat in the box for 10+ minutes. In ascending order, they are: Koivu (12), Marcus Foligno (16), Luke Kunin (16) and Clayton Stoner (17). Two random thoughts on that group … We love it when Moose gets loose! Also, Stoner is a fine last name for someone fond of delivering punishment.
Curious how active Wild players have fared on Hockey Day? Well, we’ve mentioned a couple. Spurgeon and Foligno are well-versed in making an impact at HDM. But they aren’t alone.
Defenseman Matt Dumba has done a little bit of everything, recording five points (2 + 3) and six penalty minutes. Forward Jordan Greenway, also known as “The Big Rig,” has four points (1 + 3) and two penalty minutes. Right wing Mats Zuccarello also has totaled four (2 + 2) and two.
There’s a handful of others who’ve compiled statistics of some kind on Hockey Day, but we’ll leave you with this – our two picks to bury the puck in the back of the net at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday: Minnesota’s young and handsomely paid superstars Matt Boldy and Kirill Kaprizov.
So you know, Boldy enters the weekend with an assist and a goal. Kaprizov has three helpers.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! We’re fine glossing over the opposition save for two people because they're both currently with the Wild: General manager Bill Guerin and Minnesota native Alex Goligoski. Guerin had a goal and an assist playing for the enemy. Goligoski had two of the latter for the other side, skating with Dallas in the 2012 and '14 games, but added two assists in last year's victory, as well.