Excitement, anticipation among Wild ahead of Thursday’s season opener

Dean Evason, Wild players preview season opener at morning skate

Minnesota Wild head coach Dean Evason admitted even after years as a youth hockey player, an NHL pro and now a head coach, “There are butterflies” when opening night rolls around in a new season.

The puck drops on the new season Thursday night at the Xcel Energy Center as the Wild host the defending Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers.

Click the video box on this page to watch Dean Evason and Wild players Brock Faber, Freddy Gaudreau, Alex Goligoski and Marc-Andre Fleury discuss the Wild’s 2023 season opener against Florida

The Wild roster saw little turnover this offseason. Matt Dumba, Sam Steel and Ryan Reaves are the only full-season players from last year who left in the offseason. The Wild added free agent Pat Maroon, but re-signed or extended contracts for the majority of players who had contract questions – including Mats Zuccarello, Marcus Foligno, Filip Gustavsson and Ryan Hartman.

Several players who played part-time roles will be needed to step up this season if the Wild are to snap their playoff losing streak that’s reached seven consecutive departures over the past eight seasons.

Brock Faber played two regular season games last season after his final season as a Minnesota Gopher culminated in the NCAA Championship game. Faber is officially an NHL-rookie this season and will partner with Jonas Brodin in what may be the Wild’s “shut-down” defensive pairing.

Marco Rossi will also get a second chance to earn some permanence on the Wild roster. After going 19 games without a goal at the start of last season, he spent the remainder of the year thriving with the Wild’s AHL team in Iowa.

After breaking out last season, goalie Filip Gustavsson should carry more of the goaltending load in the Wild’s tandem that also includes future Hall-of-Famer Marc-Andre Fleury.

In the offseason, Gustavsson signed a 3-year, $11.2M contract that runs through the 2025-26 season.