The Minnesota Wild may have fallen well short of expectations in the playoffs, struggling to a 4-1 series loss at the hands of goaltender Jake Allen and the St. Louis Blues, but there's still plenty of reason for optimism in the State of Hockey. With the offseason upon us, check out our top five reasons for optimism heading into the 2017-18 season.
USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
The supporting cast is taking center stage
Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle took on larger roles this season and exceeded expectations, posting career highs across the board. Coyle rebounded after a tough start, notching a career-high 38 assists and 56 points. Niederreiter reached 20 goals for the third straight season and finished with 57 points. However, Granlund's breakout was one of the season's biggest storylines. The fifth-year Finn blew past his previous career bests, scoring 26 goals and leading the Wild with 69 points after moving from center to the wing.
Devan Dubnyk took another step forward
The former journeyman was outstanding in his second full season with the Wild, posting a .923 save percentage and five shutouts while setting a franchise record with 40 wins. The leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy for much of the season, Dubnyk faltered towards the end of the year, but remains a significant bright spot for the Wild moving forward.
Bruce Boudreau lives up to the hype
The NHL's winningest coach by points percentage, Boudreau brought his division-winning pedigree to Minnesota, guiding the Wild to a franchise-record 106 points during the regular season and their fifth consecutive playoff berth. Assistants John Anderson and Scott Stevens reformed the Wild at both ends of the ice, leading to one of the league's best goal differentials. Whatever personnel changes the Wild opt for this summer, the coaching staff seems to be locked in.
USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
Eric Staal's resurgence
There were legitimate fears that Staal's days as a top-6 forward were over after his disastrous stint with the New York Rangers, but a change of scenery has the eldest Staal brother playing like an All-Star once again. Staal turned back the clock in Minnesota, registering his best season since 2012 with 65 points and 28 goals.
The next generation is almost here
College star Luke Kunin had another successful season at Wisconsin, leaving the Badgers two years early after racking up 38 points in 35 games as a sophomore. He posted a hat trick in his third game as a pro. Kirill Kaprizov had a milestone season over in Russia, becoming the highest-scoring U20 player in the league's history, while the Wild's other Russian -- Dmitry Sokolov -- wrapped up a 48-goal season in the OHL before signing with Iowa. Joel Eriksson Ek returned to North America after a solid season with his Swedish club, while Alex Tuch performed in the AHL despite some injury troubles early in the season.