More and more plans are coming together for the NHL’s return to play, and now there are specifics on the bubbles for the Eastern and Western Conferences.
The two hub cities — Toronto and Edmonton — will exist in a highly regulated bubble. The Athletic reported that players and personnel will go through rigorous testing while abiding by the strict secure zones of the hotels and team facilities.
Also outlined in this report is the decree for each team’s personnel limits. Each team can have up to 52 members of the traveling party to the hub cities. Within that group of 52, 31 will be players.
What could that group of 31 look like for the Minnesota Wild when they head to Edmonton to face the Vancouver Canucks?
This group will largely consist of the current NHL roster, but a few players are being considered who would be on the fringe in a regular playing scenario.
With 13 NHL forwards, Minnesota can bring up roughly five additional forwards. That situation also could be different depending on the decision Luke Kunin has ahead of him. Kunin has Type-1 diabetes and could be more at-risk in a return to play scenario with COVID-19 looming. He has the choice to opt out of returning to play this season for his own health, which would thin the Wild’s forward corps and their depth at the center position.
Minnesota would likely consider the usual suspects, some of the players who have already made an appearance in a Wild uniform this season, to bring up and be part of the play-in roster. While many of these players are listed as centers at the AHL level, it is likely they could slot to the wing when brought up to be more effective.
This could be a likely look for the forwards group of 17:
Minnesota has a bigger log jam on defense, which could work to its benefit here, especially in the event of players becoming sidelined for COVID-19 throughout the training camp or play-in portions of this return to play schedule.
As with the forwards, much of the top of this roster will be set in stone, with the top NHL talent getting the time and the consideration. While that is true, injuries or illness could cause players sit out.
For breadth of experience, Minnesota could bring up three to four defensemen from Iowa to complement the current group and provide an experienced bench roster, in case they are needed.
Goaltending could be the real wild card for Minnesota. Alex Stalock got the majority of time in net this season with Devan Dubnyk sidelined for much of the season. While Stalock played more games in an NHL season than he ever had before, he maintained nearly his career numbers to hold the starting spot for Minnesota.
Even though he won 20 games, his goals against average and save percentage both rank in the bottom third of the NHL. Dubnyk hadn’t been better early in the season either, keeping Stalock with more games played.
Depending on the results of the training camp, Minnesota has at least one legitimate challenger in net, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team carry up to four goaltenders.