FOX Sports North hands out honors for breakout star, best moment, top players and more from the Minnesota Wild's 2016-17 season.
Marilyn IndahlMarilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Best Forward: Eric Staal
Staal joined the Wild over the summer after a humbling stint with the New York Rangers. A disastrous 39-point season seemed to be evidence of a perennial All-Star in decline. Not so fast. Staal bounced back after signing with the Wild for a fraction of his former asking price, finishing second on his new team with 65 points. It was his highest point total since the 2011-12 season.
USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
Best Defenseman: Ryan Suter
Suter was once again the cornerstone of the Wild’s defensive corps, finishing as one of just five players in the NHL to average more than 26 minutes of ice time per game. He led the league in plus/minus with a plus-34 rating, tied with teammate Jason Zucker. Suter was a big factor in goaltender Devan Dubnyk’s 2.25 goals against average, which ranked eighth in the NHL.
Isaiah J. DowningIsaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Breakout Star: Mikael Granlund
A solid playmaker during his first four seasons in the league, Granlund exploded for 26 goals and 69 points after catching fire in early December. The crafty Finnish forward moved to the wing after spending most of his Wild career as a center, hooking up with captain Mikko Koivu and speedster Jason Zucker to form a lethal scoring unit.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jason Zucker
A popular candidate for the expansion draft (he was raised in Las Vegas), Zucker may have made the Wild think twice about dangling him in front of the Golden Knights. Zucker set career highs in points (47), assists (25) and goals (22) this season, which doubled his disappointing 23-point campaign last year.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportBrace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
Playoff MVP: Zach Parise
Parise was sidelined with a back injury last postseason and was forced to watch his team lose to the Dallas Stars in six games. Despite a couple of face-related injury scares that closed out his regular season, Parise was healthy enough to be the Wild’s best offensive threat in the postseason while some of his teammates went quiet. His last-minute goal to send Game 1 into overtime was the best highlight from the Wild’s short postseason run, and Parise added another goal and assist in the series to lead the team with three points. He could have had another one, too, had his stick not betrayed him in the crease during Game 1.
USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
High Point: 12-game winning streak
After a 3-2 shootout loss in Calgary on Dec. 2, the Wild dropped to 11-8-4 on the year. They rebounded two days later with a 2-1 win in overtime over Edmonton, which launched a franchise-best 12 game winning streak. They didn’t lose again until Dec. 31 when the Columbus Blue Jackets, riding a 14-game streak themselves at the time, beat the Wild 4-2 at the Xcel Energy Center. The 12-game stretch was arguably the best a Wild team has ever played in franchise history.
Low Point: Losing in playoffs to Mike Yeo, Blues
This one stung. Mike Yeo, who coached the Wild to three playoff appearances in four full years at the helm, won all three postseason matchups at the Xcel Energy Center with his new St. Louis Blues team. Unfortunately for Yeo, his team is on the verge of losing to the Nashville Predators in the second round. Regardless, it was a tough pill to swallow for Wild fans. The magical season ended too soon.
Brad RempelBrad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Feel-good Story of the Year: Alex Stalock makes his Wild debut
A native of St. Paul and a Minnesota Duluth alum, Stalock got his start with the San Jose Sharks, intermittently finding work with the NHL club. He spent a few years shuttling back and forth between the NHL and the club’s minor-league affiliates -- suffering a major leg injury along the way -- before making his way back to Minnesota in free agency. After a strong season with the AHL’s Iowa Wild he finally got a chance, spelling Devan Dubnyk for two games late in the season. Stalock performed, stopping 51 of the 54 shots he faced in front of his hometown crowd.