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Brent Burns (B) - Burns has had streaks of brilliance this season punctuated by streaks of inconsistency. He remains the Wild's D-man of the future; however he has struggled at times this season without Carney to guide him throughout the game. That being said, however, he is the Wild's most productive defenseman so far this season, as well as one of the top defensive goal scorers in the league. He finally looks as if he is comfortable with his slot in the line up and is beginning to produce on the blueline as well. Burns has a lot to live up to now, with his shiny new contract; however, if he keeps producing from the blueline like he is, he'll have no problem earning his money.

Kurtis Foster (C) - Kurtis Foster's season so far has gone much like his career is. Long stretches of inconsistency punctuated by flashes of extreme promise. Foster could easily be the Wild's Sheldon Souray if he could manage to get his shot on net. The hitting the net part, however, still remains elusive for the Wild's young blueliner. He's also shown a meanstreak at times, laying very solid hits on players, but has not managed to show that consistently yet either. Foster has the potential and the talent to be a top 4 blueliner in this league, but he needs to gain consistency to do so. Not having a solid defensive pairing so far this season may be hampering Foster's growth; however, the bottom line is he needs to play better to keep a regular role on the Wild's overstocked blueline.

Martin Skoula (C) - The bane of just about every single Wild fan's existence, somehow, some way, manages to keep getting large amounts of icetime. Skoula has, at times, looked like the best defenseman on our team and, at other times, looked like he doesn't even belong in the AHL. He has been playing with more of a physical edge this season, and looks to be improving in many of the areas that he was lacking last season (making accurate passes, defense in general); however, he still occasionally makes inexplicable errors both in our own zone and in the offensive zone. Skoula is having a decidedly average season; however is showing improvement over where he was at last season.

Kim Johnsson (B-) - Two summers ago, the Wild signed Johnsson in hopes that he would bring an offensive spark to the blueline. Johnsson has shown sporadic flashes of offense; however, seems to have turned into more of a stay-at-home defenseman. There are many times when Johnsson looks very comfortable in this role; as he is no longer looked to as a powerplay quarterback, especially with the likes of Burns, Foster and Petteri Nummelin on the blueline, but there are still times when Johnsson looks as if he can still score. With a very accurate shot, Johnsson needs to begin playing the way he played before his concussion problems in Philadelphia and begin burying the puck once more.

Nick Schultz (B) - If the Wild are smart, they will lock Schultz up long term this coming off season. Schultz has slowly but surely emerged as one of the Wild's top defensemen and one of the steadiest stay-at-home defensemen in the league. Schultz was awarded an A this season in the absense of Wes Walz for a reason, and despite his lack of production, he is proving that he can be counted on for quality minutes in any situation for the Wild. If Schultz continues to improve and rounds out his game, he can easily be a top two defenseman in this league for any team.

Keith Carney (C-) - The large veteran presence on the Wild's blueline; expectations were high for Carney coming into this season, after a fantastic season last year with the Wild. Carney disappointed early on, however, and was a healthy scratch for much of the first quarter of the season. It does seem as if Carney has begun to find his game, which can only help the Wild. At his best, Carney is one of the smartest, most solid defensemen in the league. When he's not at his best, however, Carney can be a bit of a liability because of his lack of speed. In order to remain in the lineup, he needs to begin showing the defensive brilliance that made him a staple on the Wild blueline last season.

Petteri Nummelin (B) - Nummelin has had an okay season on defense for the Wild, showing much more defensive responsibility than he did last season. It hasn't been until the Wild tried Nummelin at forward, however, that the little guy has really had his opportunity to shine. All of Nummelin's four points have come when the team has skated him at forward, and he has shown an offensive touch and a forechecking that most of the Wild's forwards lack. His creativity has shown through in a big way and he has began to work his way back into the Wild's lineup, albiet at a different position.

Niklas Backstrom (B) - By most teams' standards, Backstrom's season so far would have been pretty good. But given the standard that he gave himself to live up to, Backstrom has not performed to expectations. He has looked uncomfortable in net, at times, and it wasn't until the recent game against Nashville that he really looked like the Backstrom that picked the Wild on his shoulders and carried them into the playoffs last season. He is supremely calm in net and is a stabalizing presence for the Wild, who will go as far as his shoulders can carry them.

Josh Harding (C) - Harding has looked okay in net this season. He has proven, however, that he is not ready to carry the load as a number one goaltender. If anything good can come from the Wild's late October/November skid, it is that. He has shown that he has glaring holes in his game and, though he is suitable as a back up, Backstrom is the clear cut number one. Harding has a long way to go to reach his full potential, but he is the Wild's goalie of the future and will be a solid goalie in the future.

Incomplete: D - Sean Hill
Filed Under:   Wild   NHL  
November 28, 2007 1:13 PM ET | Delete
Great point about Nummy's forechecking. His "european" style of forechecking, which favors pressure and positioning over the North American style of forechecking which basically amounts to trying to crush the puck carrier into the end boards and force a turnover, is perfect for JL's system. It applies pressure but reduces the odds that he'll wind up behind the play if he doesn't create the turnover.
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