Marian Gaborik (B+) - I'm giving Gaborik a B+ and honestly, if he's played every game up to this point, he gets an A+. He seems as if he's finally figured out what it takes to be a top tier forward in this league, and he's having a tremendous season so far. He's had multi-point games in 3 of his last 4 and he's beginning to buy into playing on both sides of the puck (beginning...let's not get carried away here). On top of that, the Wild are 10-3-2 with him in the line up and 1-4 without him. He proved in the loss against Vancouver that he is a true difference maker and that he is, without a doubt, the Wild's franchise player.
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Pavol Demitra (D) - In all fairness, the only reason Demitra is getting this low of a grade is injuries. He had a good start to the season. But when you have a star player that never plays, it's hard to give a good rating to him. Big things were expected from Demitra, what with it being his contract year and all. When he's played, he hasn't disappointed. It's just a matter of him playing. Like Gaborik, he can be a difference maker on the ice. But he's played so little this season, he hasn't made one bit of difference to the team.
Brian Rolston (A) - The only player in the history of the Wild that has truly deserved to have a permenant 'C' on his jersey has not disappointed this season. His stellar play on offense coupled with his solid defesive play has made Rolston a staple to the Wild once again. A player who is always working hard is a premium in Lemaire's system, but Rolston is not only always working hard, but is producing on both ends of the ice as well. This is one player in his contract year that I know many Wild fans desparately want back in the Red, Green and White next season and desparately want to finish his career with the team.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard (B+) - Bouchard has had a very good start to the season (leading the Wild in points thus far) and is showing why he was one of the highly touted RFA's last off-season. Butch has done this season what he does best; make plays. With 14 assists, Bouchard has once again demonstrated his tremendous passing touch. One thing that many people would like to see more of, however, is Butch's scoring touch. With a 16% shooting percentage, but only 31 shots, Bouchard knows how to score. It seems that he would much rather get the first assist than a goal, however. In order for him to be more effective, he simply needs to shoot the puck. Until he does that, he won't fully realize his potential.
Mark Parrish (B) - At the beginning of last season, Parrish was brought in to do two things: cause chaos in front of the net and score goals. This season, he's showing why he was brought in to do the latter. With 7 goals, Parrish is tied for the team lead amongst the Wild and is proving to be a force in front of the net again as well. Not only is he scoring goals, but he's earning his keep on the defensive end of things, amongst the Wild leaders in plus/minus rating.
Stephane Vellieux (A) - In the absence of Wes Walz, Vellieux has stepped up in a big way for the Wild in a checking role. Often paired with the likes of Matt Foy, Aaron Voros, Derek Boogaard and Branko Radiovoijevic, Vellieux has often earned his keep as an energy player for the Wild. This season, he has not contributed much offensively, but it is his intangibles that keep him as an invaluable member of the Wild organization. His heart and toughness cannot be denied (begging his way back into the line up with a full cage on, the game after breaking his cheekbone) and he is beginning to become a more complete player as well, becoming a Wes Walz-esque checker that the Wild can count on to kill off penalties for them.
Mikko Koivu (B) - Much is expected of Koivu in this, his third season in the NHL, and he has not disappointed so far. He is proving this season that he can be every bit the player as his brother, Saku, is and he is also displaying a toughness that the Wild team desparately need from their forwards, His ability to see the ice and to stick handle is also coming into play this season, as he has a fuller awareness of the ice and of where players are on it. Overall, he is quickly becoming a complete player and is looking like he will develop into the Wild's true franchise player over the next couple seasons.
James Sheppard (C) - The rookie of the team is making a good case for Lemaire keeping him on the roster, as he is getting a substantial amount of ice time in every situation. He is still prone to rookie mistakes, however he is playing with the confidence of a veteran, and he, Foy and Voros have combined to make one of the Wild's most complete lines in the last few games. He will continue to get ice time and continue to get pushed by Lemaire, who wants him to develop into the team's true number one center. Sheppard has not only shown his offensive ability, but has also shown the ability to check and play on the defensive end in any situation.
Derek Boogaard (F) - Really, how do you rate a player that gets 3 minutes of ice time a night and has no skills to speak of, other than fighting and hitting? The only way I can rate "The Boogyman" is as an F. He has no appreciable skills other than fighting and hitting, draws unnecessary attention from the referees everytime he is on the ice and is a liability on both ends everytime he is on the ice. One of the most feared enforcers in the game, Boogaard is nothing more than a waste of space on the Wild bench, as the only reason he is there is to fight and offers nothing more than a tough guy with no talent.
Eric Belanger (A) - Belanger could turn into more of a difference maker for this Wild team than Brian Rolston did when they signed him a few short years ago. Belanger is a player cut from the same cloth as Rolston. A good talent that skates hard every night and is defensively sound. He also seems to be an upgrade from Todd White, as he has not only a good grasp defensively, but has fit in seamlessly with the Wild's line up and is on pace of one of his best (if not his best) seasons yet.
Branko Radiovoijevic (D) - Branko (as I will call him for brevity's sake) has had a very rough season and, at times, has appeared that he may be on his way out of Minnesota. Last week, he was a healthy scratch for the first game since he arrived in Minnesota as a free agent, and he has struggled offensively. As he struggles to search for answers, he may be pushed out of a Minnesota line up that has quite a few young players that can do the same as Branko pushing their way into the line up. It will be interesting to see if he can retain his roster spot by the end of the season, or if he gets dangled for trade bait as Pascal Dupuis was last year.
Matt Foy (C) - Foy started out struggling this year, as he was playing hard but not drawing much attention to himself as anything but yet another energy grinder that the Wild have. As the season has continued, however, he has began to show why Lemaire thinks so highly of his energy and his talent, as he has gotten big goals in the last two games he has played. Foy can be a solid contributer to the Wild, but it's just a matter of keeping his confidence up. As we have seen in his last couple games, his confidence certainly has not taken a hit and he has been producing and earning more responsibility with the team.
Aaron Voros (B) - Sure, he's only played a handful of games with the Wild, but Voros has been a player that has made the most of his short tenure with the team and is making it more and more difficult to demote him back to Houston with each passing game. Not only has the big man showed toughness and grit (not to mention a willingness to fight) but he has also demonstrated a goal scorer's touch and another presence in front of the net. If injuries keep playing a part of the Wild's season (which it seems like they will), it will be very difficult for other Houston Aeros to get playing time with the Wild with Voros playing as well as he has.
Incomplete: Wes Walz, Todd Fedoruk
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