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Friday Five: Top Assists of 2016-17

Some of the Wild's best goals this season set up by fantastic passes

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

In today's Friday Five, takes a look back at the top five assists from this past season:

Video: MIN@DET: Staal rips a wrister top-shelf on a breakway

5. Brodin, Parise set up Staal in Detroit (March 26, 2017)

Scoreless through 10 minutes in its final trip to Joe Louis Arena, Eric Staal scored a breakaway goal to put the Wild on the board first.

Of course, the goal wouldn't have been possible without not just one, but a pair of nice set-up feeds.

The first was a bank pass by Jonas Brodin that allowed Minnesota to cleanly exit its defensive zone. The puck bounced high in the air and came back to the ice in the neutral zone, bouncing off Charlie Coyle and to Zach Parise, who quickly shuffled it forward to Staal cruising toward the net. 

The veteran centerman finished the pretty play with a snipe that beat Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard under the crossbar blocker side.

Video: MIN@WPG: Zucker puts Wild on top with a late goal

4. Haula finds Zucker for Winnipeg winner (Feb. 28, 2017)

We broke down this beauty in the Friday Five: Top Goals edition a few weeks back, but the pass is so pretty, it deserves another shout out.

To review: Minnesota jumped out to a 4-1 lead against the Winnipeg Jets only to see its division rival storm back with three straight goals to tie the game in the third period.

With momentum slipping away and time running down, the Wild was able to kill a critical late-game penalty. As the power play ticked away, Erik Haula gained control of the puck and sucked a pair of Winnipeg defenders with him to the right corner.

Enter Jason Zucker, fresh off the bench. The speedy winger flew down the ice uncovered, slamming his stick on the ice to alert Haula of his presence. The former Golden Gopher obliged, somehow steering a pass between a pair of Jets and right to the tape of Zucker, who finished the play by putting the game-winning goal past goaltender Michael Hutchinson.

Video: MIN@TOR: Stewart beats the defense and goes five-hole

3. Spurgeon feeds hometown hero (Dec. 7, 2016)

If there was such a thing as a hockey dictionary, a video of Jared Spurgeon's feed to Chris Stewart would work perfectly under the definition of "outlet pass."

You won't find them much prettier than Spurgeon's fine pass to Stewart, who was playing in front of friends and family in his hometown of Toronto.

The play started near the Wild bench on a nice pass by Kurtis Gabriel, who centered a pass to Spurgeon charging out of the defensive zone with speed. Spurgeon took three strides, then headmanned a pass to Stewart, who split a pair of Maple Leafs defensemen on his way to the net. 

Though he's not primarily known as a wizard around the net, Stewart made a pretty play with the puck to clear a defender, worked the puck to his forehand and slipped it five-hole past Frederik Andersen to give Minnesota a two-goal, first-period advantage. 

Video: MIN@VAN: Koivu taps in Granlund's feed at side of net

2. Granlund finds Koivu with sweet no-look dish (Feb. 4, 2017)

Mikael Granlund has earned a reputation as one of the NHL's premier playmakers. Perhaps it's fitting that the top two spots on this list are reserved for him.

In this game against Vancouver, Granlund would finish off his first career hat trick. But it was his lone assist that was the talk of the night.

With the Wild clinging to a 4-2 lead nearing the end of the second period, Granlund flew out of the defensive zone and through neutral, carrying the puck along the right-wing boards. After entering the offensive zone, Granlund changed directions, working to the middle of the ice and dropping a pretty no-look pass back to his right to the waiting captain, who smashed a one-timer past Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller into an open net. 

Video: MIN@SJS: Koivu buries second goal off Granlund's feed

1. Granlund connects with Koivu to sink the Sharks (Jan. 5, 2017)

We've seen this finish (no pun intended) make multiple appearances, as well, because you simply can't say enough about Granlund's pass to Koivu that helped cap a furious third-period rally in San Jose. 

Down by two with 15 minutes to play, Staal and Koivu pulled the Wild even with goals three minutes apart. Less than two minutes after that, it was Koivu again, hammering a shot past Sharks goaltender Martin Jones for the eventual game winner.

As great as the shot was, how in the world did Granlund even see Koivu? And how good was the puck possession by the Wild before the pass? Every player in a white jersey touched the puck in the moments leading up to the goal, with the Wild seemingly moving the puck at will. 

First, it was Koivu in the right circle, passing to Ryan Suter at the left point. He passed to Granlund in the slot, who backhanded the puck to Jason Zucker near the top of the crease. When that chance was broken up by a Sharks defenseman, Suter pinched down low and scooped up the puck, carrying it behind the net, dropping a pass back to Zucker near the left post.

Zucker dropped it back to Granlund, who fed a no-look, cross-zone pass between two San Jose defenders to Koivu, who set up camp, built a fire and roasted half a bag of marshmallows at the right circle. The captain one-timed a shot past Jones, lifting the Wild to a win in arguably the most entertaining game of the season.

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