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Parise, Granlund expected to bolster Wild's lines

Tuesday, 08.21.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Parise, Granlund expected to bolster Wild's lines
NHL.com takes a look at what the Wild's lineup should look like this season.

The Minnesota Wild made some big acquisitions last summer, but Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi weren't able to propel the club back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Those additions were augmented in a big way during this offseason, and the expectations in the Twin Cities have been elevated. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were the top free agent at their positions, and general manager Chuck Fletcher swooped in and collected both on 13-year contracts.

There are some tantalizing young talents on the way as well, but the big club is crowded with guaranteed contracts at this point. Mikael Granlund is expected to earn a spot in the opening-night lineup, but if others prove they belong, Fletcher might have to make a deal(s) to open roster spaces.

2012-13 Wild Fantasy Team Preview



Under-valued: Niklas Backstrom – Despite appearing in just 46 games last season because of injury, his 2.43 GAA and .919 SV% were right in line with career numbers (2.42 and .918 respectively). With a new-look team and clean bill of health, Backstrom could have a big bounce-back year.

Over-valued: Ryan Suter – 46 points last season were a career-best, but leaving the side of Shea Weber will certainly hurt fantasy value. Suter is now the No. 1 d-man in Minnesota, but low shot and PIMs totals makes him a top-20 fantasy blueliner, not a top-10 guy.

Sleeper: Mikael Granlund – Led the Finnish elite league with 51 points in 45 games last season -- likely the No. 2 center at the age of 20 behind Mikko Koivu and is expected to blossom into an elite player in the coming years.

-- Follow Matt Cubeta on Twitter: @NHLQubes

The Wild also bolstered their forward depth by adding Torrey Mitchell and Zenon Konopka as free agents. Suter will anchor a young defense, while Josh Harding was re-signed to pair with Niklas Backstrom.

Forwards

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley

Devin Setoguchi - Mikael Granlund - Kyle Brodziak

Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Matt Cullen - Torrey Mitchell

Darroll Powe - Zenon Konopka - Cal Clutterbuck

Jake Dowell - Matt Kassian

Defensemen

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Tom Gilbert - Marco Scandella

Justin Falk - Nate Prosser

Clayton Stoner

Goaltenders

Niklas Backstrom

Josh Harding

NOTES: This look has the Wild loading up the top line, but Heatley could be placed on the second line to balance them out. Brodziak had a strong 2011-12, but a healthy Bouchard could push him to the third line.

There are several kids to watch in camp besides Granlund, who could end up on the wing if the Wild think he's not ready for full-time center duty. Brett Bulmer and Charlie Coyle are the best bets, but Johan Larsson and Jason Zucker could force their way into the present plans.

The situation on defense is similar. There are seven guys who look set, but Jonas Brodin and maybe even 2012 draft pick Mathew Dumba are lurking. Minnesota's defense is already quite young, so a lot will be asked of Suter and Gilbert.

Backstrom and Harding could again be a dynamic tandem, and Matthew Hackett is one of the top No. 3 guys on an NHL goaltending depth chart. There are lots of options everywhere, so the Wild's lineup could be a fluid situation.

Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter: @cmasisak22

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He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers