Dean Evans has been back home in Montreal for the past month and a half. He doesn’t plan to return to Minnesota until after Labor Day.
But the 56-year-old Wilde coach is already looking forward to next season.
He has been tinkering with his lineup since last week when Wilde began the process of filling up his roster for the 2020-21 season. He likes the signing of veteran defenseman Alex Goligosky as well as grit fellow defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and John Merrill. He is also a big fan of Kendra Frederic Goudreau, whom he coached during their time together at the Nashville Predators organization.
Although the lineup itself is far from complete, the possibilities are endless for Wilde with training camp coming up next month.
“We had a Zoom meeting last week and it’s fun to get our depth chart and start putting the lines together,” Evans said. “We talked about this in the training camp last year. We’ll see who fits where.”
The most interesting position is the center, but isn’t it always there? A few weeks ago general manager Bill Guerin teased that Wilde might once again take a subcommittee approach in that situation, and based on the way it transpired this offseason, it seems likely. .
As of Tuesday afternoon, Wilde had the following players at his disposal at the center: Joel Eriksson Eck, Viktor Rask, Ryan Hartmann, Nick Bjugstadt, Nico Sturm and Goudreau. There’s also the possibility that top prospect Marco Rossi competes for a spot at training camp. Same goes for Connor Dewar.
“There’s always this talk of, ‘Our center ice is this, our center ice is that,'” Evans said. “We have a lot of (players) who can go to those places, as we did last year. We’ve had people in our so-called top center positions (last year) at different times, and we’ll have to do it again (this year).
Perhaps the best aspect of the current wild roster is the flexibility of positioning multiple players. In a pinch, Rask can play center and/or wing, as can Hartmann, Bjugstad, Sturm and Goudreau. This gives the coaching staff some options while doing the lineup.
“We’ve talked about this before, no matter who you’re playing with, as long as you’re playing with a Minnesota Wild player, then you should be excited about it,” Evans said. “Our people committed to that last year. We don’t expect them not to do it this year.”
There are definitely line combinations from last year that seem like a natural fit. Centering Jordan Greenaway and Marcus Foligno, The Wild Ericsson won’t shy away from one, will it? That trio was so impressive in almost every situation.
Before taking a step back and realizing it was time to tinker with training camp, Evans’ thoughts were initially the same. There is thought that Ericsson one might thrive in an advanced role. Or maybe someone between Greenway and Foligno is equally effective.
“We’re definitely going to try some stuff and see how it works,” Evans said. “It’s good now that we know what’s worked in the past, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work in the future. We’ll definitely play with some of the things in training camp, as a coach It will be fun for us.”