Wild veteran Eric Staal thriving at 33

As he approaches the homestretch of his 14-year NHL career, 33-year-old Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal is playing like a man nearly 10 years his junior.

Staal has 12 goals and 14 assists in 29 games this season, numbers that put him on pace for 33 goals and 73 points. Those would be his best regular-season numbers since the 2010-11 season, when Staal was solidly in his prime at 26.

He leads all NHL players 33 and older in scoring, and at a cap hit of $3.5 million through the 2018-19 season, is much more affordable than his peers.

Like Patrick Marleau, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs over the summer. He’ll cost $6.25 million against the cap until 2020. Or Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown, who will likely remain on the books through 2022 at $5.875 million per season.

Player (33+) Team Goals
Eric Staal Wild 12
Dustin Brown Kings 12
Patrick Marleau Maple Leafs 10
Frans Nielsen Red Wings 8
Jason Pominville Sabres 8

Staal leads a group of Wild veterans who’ve chipped in offensively this season. Matt Cullen (41), Mikko Koivu (34), Ryan Suter (33) and Daniel Winnik (32) are the NHL’s highest-scoring group of 32-plus players.

Team Points (Players 32+)
Minnesota Wild 75
Detroit Red Wings 68
Vancouver Canucks 65
San Jose Sharks 63
Anaheim Ducks 53

And while the Wild are getting goals from their vets, the Calgary Flames — who visit Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night — are relying on their youth. Led by 24-year-old Johnny Gaudreau and 23-year-old Sean Monahan, the Flames rank sixth in the NHL in goals by players under age 25.

Players Team Goals
Nikita Kucherov from Steven Stamkos Lightning 14
Sean Monahan from Johnny Gaudreau Flames 13
Mark Scheifele from Blake Wheeler Jets 12
Sean Couturier from Claude Giroux Flyers 10
Sean Couturier from Jakub Voracek Flyers 10

Shutting down the Gaudreau-Monahan connection will be key for the Wild. Gaudreau has assisted on 13 of Monahan’s 17 goals this year. Only Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov connection with center Steven Stamkos — Kucherov has 14 goals on assists from Stamkos — has been more productive.

Statistics courtesy of STATS