Now that the sting of the Minnesota Wild’s playoff demise has worn off a little bit, it’s time to talk team awards. Every season the NHL hosts the NHL Awards where they give out trophies for the most valuable players, the best rookie, the best goaltender, etc. We’ll be doing the same but for just Wild players based on their season performances.
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While some of the award winners may be a given, others may catch you by surprise. With players like Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, Matt Boldy, Joel Eriksson Ek, Matt Dumba, and Marc-André Fleury, it’ll be fun to see who wins what. In total there will be 20 awards given out that will include a couple of fun ones at the end, but first up is the Conn Smythe.
Conn Smythe: Kirill Kaprizov
With this award going to the player who is most valuable to their team, this has to go to Kirill Kaprizov. He didn’t have a great playoff run but what he did during the regular season is one of the reasons they even made it to the postseason. Even after missing almost an entire month of hockey, he still maintained the team lead and ended the season with 75 points for his third straight season over 50 points.
Kaprizov scored 40 goals for his second straight season with 40 or more goals and he recorded 35 assists. He was nowhere near his 61 assists from the season prior but he also missed 15 games throughout the season. Regardless, his style of play and ability to elevate the level of play of those around him earned him this award. Hopefully next season he will be able to contribute at his expected level during the playoffs.
Hart Memorial: Kirill Kaprizov
It may seem odd to name Kaprizov a recipient of the most valuable player award twice but he truly earned them both. The first award was more about how his team couldn’t get by without him, especially his ability to make players around him better. The second focuses more on his direct scoring abilities and how he led the Wild in points again this season.
Kaprizov has led the Wild in scoring since he joined the team three seasons ago and he will likely continue to do so for seasons to come. He’s truly a scoring machine and deserves to be mentioned alongside names like Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Leon Draisital, Sidney Crosby, etc. He didn’t have as great of numbers as last season but as mentioned before, he missed games due to injury and that hurt his points total.
Calder Trophy: Brock Faber
This trophy goes to the best rookie on the team and while he wasn’t around the Wild very long, Brock Faber made a name for himself in that short time span. He only played two games in the NHL where he impressed the coaching staff enough to have him play in the postseason. He didn’t register any points in his eight total NHL games played but he showed what a great defenseman he is.
Faber played very composed and didn’t show any signs he was a rookie both during his short stint during the regular season and his entire six games in the playoffs. He showed he’s capable of making decisions with the puck and playing aggressively when the time is right but never forgetting his defensive responsibilities. The Wild have a very bright future where Faber is concerned and he’ll be fun to watch as his future unfolds.
Vezina Trophy: Filip Gustavsson
At the beginning of the season, most would’ve picked Fleury to win this award hands down, but Filip Gustavsson stormed onto the scene and surprised everyone. He earned this award through his hard work and the overall improvement he made throughout the season. Instead of dwelling on early mistakes and losses, he turned his focus on improving and doing what needed to be done.
Gustavsson finished the season with 39 games played and a record of 22-9-7 just two wins shy of Fleury’s 24. He had an impressive save percentage (SV%) of .931 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.10. His GAA can always improve but for his first full season in net, it wasn’t a bad season and he came up big in a lot of situations.
Gustavsson is young and has a lot of potential that could be honed even more if he’s able to stay with Fleury for another season. It’s unclear what the Wild plan to do in terms of their goaltending but hopefully he will get a chance to show even further improvement next season.
James Norris Memorial: Jared Spurgeon
It’s only fitting the best defenseman award goes to the Wild’s captain, Jared Spurgeon, who was the best in terms of points and blocked shots among Wild defensemen this season. He played in 79 games this season, only missing three, two due to being a healthy scratch in preparation for the postseason, and the other because of an illness earlier in the season.
In those 79 games, Spurgeon amassed 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points and just 14 minutes in penalties. While his offense was stronger this season his defense was even better as he blocked 179 shots in 79 games and threw 66 hits. He was the Wild’s best defenseman by far and while he struggled in the postseason, his regular season was strong.
Art Ross: Kirill Kaprizov
Kaprizov’s name will appear on a lot of lists throughout his career and this season alone he has earned his third award so far by having the most points on his team. While his 75 points don’t seem incredibly amazing after his 108-point record the season prior, he was still the only Wild player to reach 70 points this season.
Kaprizov is an amazing goal scorer but he’s also a gifted playmaker and that’s where he registers a lot of his points, in assists. The plays he sets up are some of the best Wild fans have ever seen and his ability to see the ice makes those happen. He knows other teams try to shut him down and that creates open ice for his teammates who he tries to set up as often as possible. Hopefully, Kaprizov will take the offseason to fully heal and come back rejuvenated for next season to try to set a new point record.
Frank J. Selke: Joel Eriksson Ek
There isn’t another player on the Wild’s roster that would be worthy of this award other than Joel Eriksson Ek. This became more apparent when he was injured prior to the playoffs and they really missed his play. He is continuously talked about in the same conversation as the Selke Trophy but has yet to be nominated.
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Eriksson Ek had 61 points in 78 games played but he led all Wild forwards in blocked shots with 55. Not quite the 179 that Spurgeon had but forwards aren’t known for recording a lot of blocks. He’s always on the penalty kill and almost always puts his defensive skills first before trying to score goals. His blocked shots were great but he also contributed to 44 takeaways that led to some goals. Hopefully, he’s able to recover from his offseason surgery and come back stronger than ever next season.
Lady Byng Memorial: Jared Spurgeon/Frédérick Gaudreau
Spurgeon has been nominated but never won the Lady Byng but he’s earned the right to share it this season. While he is known for his few penalty minutes and gentlemanly conduct both on and off the ice, there’s another player who deserves the same recognition and that’s Frédérick Gaudreau. They both took minimal penalties and kept their composure both in front of the cameras on the ice as well as off the ice.
They stay out of the limelight and focus on their team instead. Both players took slight increases in their penalty minutes this season compared to seasons past but they both stayed under 15 minutes the entire season, something even Kaprizov couldn’t do. Out of their penalties, they also avoided taking any major or misconduct penalties, something their teammates definitely need to take note of for next season’s playoffs. Hopefully, the rest of their team can learn from their performances and stay out of the penalty box next season.
Jack Adams: Frédéric Chabot
Normally this would go to head coach Dean Evason and while he coached them to a great regular season, the postseason left a lot to be desired. However, one coach, in particular, did great with his players all season and that would be the goaltending coach, Frédéric Chabot. He worked wonders with both Fleury and Gustavsson this season.
While both goaltenders bring their own talent, it’s Chabot’s job to help them improve and control that talent. Fleury is strong and experienced but always willing to learn and Gustavsson was the perfect sponge this season. Clearly, Gustavsson listened to what he was being told as he improved drastically and kept his composure at the same time. Hopefully, they’ll be able to show off even more work courtesy of Chabot next season.
Maurice Richard: Kirill Kaprizov
Once again, no other player could win this award besides Kaprizov. He’s the Wild’s leading scorer and the only one to reach 40 goals. Had he not been injured he may have finally made it to that elusive 50 he’s been chasing the last two seasons. He’s bound to hit that number next season if he can stay healthy but can he surpass it as well is the question.
With Kaprizov it’s not if he can break the record it’s by how much. He’s already re-written most of the Wild’s scoring records and he’s likely to set a lot more if he can continue to score at the rate he does. One thing the Wild have to be careful of is not pushing his injury and letting him heal 100 percent. He may have said he was fine but it was clear he wasn’t playing to his full potential in the postseason and the Wild need him to be healthy next season.
King Clancy Memorial: Matt Dumba/Jon Merrill
The Wild are lucky enough to have two players worthy of this award and they’re Matt Dumba and Jon Merrill. Both players work extremely hard to make sure hockey is open to everyone and that diversity is an important part of the game. Dumba has done a lot of work in helping start the Diversity Alliance that has done a lot of great things in the NHL so far and looks to do a lot more to make the game more inclusive.
Merrill has done the same with the LGBTQ+ community and making everyone feel welcome to the game of hockey. He and his wife have helped LGBTQ+ families feel welcome at Wild games and in the NHL itself. Both of these players have done everything in their power as professional athletes to grow the game throughout the community and they deserve recognition for it. Hopefully, they can inspire more people to learn the game of hockey and enjoy it.
Ted Lindsay: Kirill Kaprizov
It’s obvious by now that any type of scoring award will have Kaprizov’s name on it. He’s a scoring machine and has proven that for three straight seasons only stopping slightly due to an injury that sidelined him for nearly a month. However, he returned as if almost nothing happened although he did struggle to find his scoring drive.
He may not have caught the likes of McDavid or Draisital yet but with more hard work and a full season of games, he has a chance to get there. He was only 15 points behind McDavid in the 2021-22 season and it’s likely he can do that again. He just needs to find a way to stay away from the injury bug and he’ll be on the way to the top five in points once again.
William M. Jennings: Filip Gustavsson
Gustavsson already won the Veznia and he’ll make it a perfect sweep with this award given to the goaltender who’s played at least 25 games and has the lowest GAA against him. His 2.10 GAA was better than Fleury’s 2.85 GAA and therefore the award belongs to Gustavsson. He worked hard all season and was rewarded with more starts and some strong stats.
Gustavsson still has a long way to go in terms of being a starting goaltender but he’s on the right path. He needs to keep working hard in the offseason and come back stronger than ever for next season. Both goaltenders have to improve their GAA if they want to win next season.
Mark Messier NHL Leadership: Ryan Reaves
This choice may seem a little odd but during the postseason Ryan Reaves seemed to be the only player who knew what needed to be done in terms of penalties. Normally he’s one of the highest penalized players as he’s the player who protects his teammates but in the postseason he knew that had to change or it could cost their team.
Reaves spoke about “playing smart” against players like Jamie Benn, and not losing composure. However, the entire team had to buy into this logic and they didn’t, which cost them. Had they followed Reaves’ plan they may not have won but they would’ve made it a closer fight. Hopefully, the Wild find a way to hang on to Reaves because they will need his leadership with Dumba on his way out.
Jim Gregory GM of the Year: Bill Guerin
This postseason may have gone up in flames but that doesn’t mean Wild general manager Bill Guerin didn’t do everything in his power to make this team competitive. He brought in crucial pieces the team needed and things just didn’t fall completely into place. Guerin is very smart with working the cap space and he’s done some important things to get this team ready.
The other thing to remember is he’s also trying to build the team for the future with draft picks. It may be hard to wait on those players to be ready but it’ll be worth it. He did what he could with the pieces available to him and that’s why he’s earned this award. It’ll be fun to see how strong this team is in the seasons to come.
Bill Masterton Memorial: Mason Shaw
Another Wild player who was nominated but didn’t win was Mason Shaw. He’d already overcome so much to get to the NHL that included three ACL tears and then he had a fourth one that ended his stellar first NHL season short. He’s worked very hard to make it to the NHL and it was crushing to see it all go down the way it did.
Knowing Shaw, he will not stop working hard to recover and come back next season ready to compete and pick up where he left off. Everyone is rooting for him and he’s definitely won the crowd over with his work ethic and gritty play. Hopefully, he’s able to come through this surgery and recover better than ever as he deserves to play regular minutes in the NHL.
NHL Foundation Award: Matt Dumba/ Jon Merrill
Kaprizov has won a number of awards this season and now this will be the second one for Dumba and Merrill. The work they do throughout the community to make hockey more inclusive for everyone is amazing and they continue to find new ways to include more people. They’re both great people who are focused on growing the game and making it accessible for everyone.
They’ve earned this award and will continue to do great things for their communities. Knowing Dumba, even though he’s likely on his way out of the Wild organization, he’ll continue to do things for the surrounding community even after he moves on. Merrill is still under contract but will continue doing all he can to make hockey home for everyone who wants it to be.
Most Improved: Filip Gustavsson
It’s hard to argue with a rookie goaltender who becomes a strong veteran in just one season. Yes, he has a lot to improve on but he’s shown he’s able to adjust his game for the better and learn as he goes. Goaltending is a difficult position but Gustavsson showed he’s going to do everything he can to be a great goaltender and he improved the most this season.
Best Hair: Marcus Foligno/Oskar Sundqvist
Marcus Foligno has some of the best hockey hair around and that continued this season but he had a new player join him in those ranks. Oskar Sundqvist has quite the head of hair and he’s not afraid to show it off. It caused quite a stir when he first joined the team and Wild fans loved it. He likely won’t be back next season but no one will forget that hair no matter who he plays for.
Best Style: Minnesota Wild
Finally, the last award on this list is the best style which ultimately leads to best suit and I couldn’t pick just one player. The entire Wild roster has a unique style all its own that works with the chemistry of the team. They all pick out great suits for each game and take looking professional seriously but they also aren’t afraid to add a little fun and flair to it as well. So to end this article, the entire team earned the best style award and hopefully they’ll continue this next season as well as make a deep postseason run.